Neil Taylor on “Live” versus “Artificial.”
Neil is the owner of Strike Three Kayak Fishing and

So, January:  I put bait on a hook.   First time in over five years.    Dismal weather.     It would have been tough to do things the way I normally do them.    We sent shrimp down on rockpiles.   Under docks.     It worked.     I would say generally:  I didn’t like it.

Are some people fishing snobs?   This was a point of contention not long ago, a point raised by someone who felt that the artificial lure people look down at the live bait users of the fishing world.   I didn’t say it but I thought to myself “You would probably be really upset if you heard how the fly anglers feel about all of us.”   What I’m not particularly sure of is why anyone really worries so much about what other people think.   Really, if you enjoy the way you do it, what does it matter how other people do it or what they think about you?

The topic of live versus artificial is not a new debate.    What it really comes down to: It is a choice.   There are some variables that are all over this topic.   Method of fishing.    Experience fishing.   Guide or “regular guy”.    There are multiple situations where I will have my clients use a live or natural bait.   That is in a minority of the business that I do.   I teach technique from using the kayaks to using the lures, which is a skill; one that most of the people serious about kayak fishing would like to have.    I think that by kayak, most people want to rely on artificial lures rather than “do the work” associated with using live or other natural baits.

I’m simply limited on time or I would gauge the interest in another tournament that allows live bait.    What do I do then, exclude the lure users?   While I know that a lot of the lure users would do very well in this kind of event, like I’ve seen in other tournaments that don’t have any stipulation on scents or natural baits, after it’s over people always seem to say, “I could have stuck a piece of cutbait on the bottom and waited for something to eat it.”      Scent?   There are people who equate fishing with scent to the same as using a natural bait.     I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again (before this article is over)   “Do it however you want to do it.”      Scented lures work with a success rate that increases with the knowledge:  The more you let it sit there the more the scent works for you.

As the host of a tournament coming up on it’s ninth year, we opted for an all lure format.   Do I criticize someone for doing it?   No.   Is it my way I like to do it?  Also no.   My own ideals had little to do with the event format.   I put it to “committee”, the setup of the format, discussed some things, made the decisions and went with it.   Anyone on the inside would tell you:  I’m a rules guy.   11 years umpiring, I was always placed in mediator position to try to make the best decisions in some odd circumstances.    The input I sought inside committee was from people not participating to eliminate any of their potential bias toward affecting the format of a tournament they would be in.   No question: Ours is a legit “contest.”    No one has an advantage.

My colleagues who use live baits, guys that I see regularly, many who use mostly artificials when they are fishing themselves- they know that I am not criticizing their methods.   I’m running my own business and if I did it differently than I am, I’d be using my Finance degree by now instead of guiding. I can tell you:  More of them would being doing it the way I do it if it was safer.   They can ‘t have people tossing lures 200 times with other people proximate.     That would mean trouble.

Note from 8 years ago:  “I have clients arriving in three weeks: It’s their fourth year taking trips.  Out-of-towners, I got instructions from the father/husband “they want to enjoy the scenery but try to make it as easy as possible”.  That instruction for their first outing.   So, they sank live pinfish to a school of redfish I was on all week before that.

The following year, that method was “the backup”.    They watched my reports and articles all year and wanted to do something more interactive.  And did, successfully with the instruction.   The “backup” plan was never utilized.     They caught the fish on lures.   And it won’t be this year either.  That was their order.   And they’re trained: They’ll do great.


The debate.  You think that using live baits has the same skill levels as taking something that’s manmade and getting a fish to eat it?       I’m honestly not sure if this is what you’re saying.  If it is then I’m not saying I’m biased, I’m going to say, “you’re wrong.”      I’m entitled to say so.  I’ve done both.   In both cases, I must find the fish.    From there, it’s easy for one scenario and it’s showtime for the other.       That’s how I see it.

Live bait versus lures, the eternal debate by anglers wide and far.   A misconception is that there is a widespread hatred of live bait users by the lure and fly anglers.   The reality is that most anglers go through a natural progression in their fishing, starting with natural baits and then moving on to other options.   The sensitivity of the live bait angler is often as curious as the haughtiness of some of the artificial lure users.   You will see “live bait only” folks lash out at the lure throwers as if they are peasants revolting against overlords at the mere suggestion that lures are an option.

As I answered questions from people after the tournament format was announced, many of the people said that this forced them to try something new.    After year one it was feedback of “I can’t wait until next year’s event. “

If anyone would like to set up such a tournament, I would support it if it holds to the ideals of the man who created this site regardless of the format you choose.   But for me: I’m going to sit back and relax a while until it’s time to set up the 2019 Captain Mel Classic.

It could be broken down ever more but I might as well just publish my book transcripts instead?

Where I’m not sure where your argument lies:  You think that using live baits has the same skill levels as taking something that’s manmade and getting a fish to eat it?       I’m honestly not sure if this is what you’re saying.  If it is then I’m not saying I’m biased, I’m going to say “you’re wrong.”      I’m entitled to say so.  I’ve done both.   And I continue to do both.    In both cases, I have to find the fish.    From there, it’s pretty easy for one scenario and it’s showtime for the other.       That’s how I see it.

The bias isn’t something I will say doesn’t exist 100% but it had nothing to do with the event or how I perceive or treat anyone else.    It was a contest.   While we did limit the lures to certain brands, our contributing sponsors were incredibly generous.  However, we also declared that specific other choices than the provided lures were approved within the same sponsor companies.    In 2012 while the overall format, which was very popular, will be the same- different lures will be on the list of approved lures.

Do it however you want to do it.   Some of you only want to use lures.   Some have even graduated past lures to fly fishing.     Just enjoy yourself however you do it.    There is no shame in baiting a hook.   There is satisfaction in not baiting a hook and catching a fish.    When you are doing it on your own:  Make your own choices.   Don’t worry about what anyone thinks.    

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