By Jim. C. Arness

Not long after I started fishing, a buddy of mine suggested that I try a lure he called Love’s.  I thought odd name for a lure, but that was okay, because at the time I thought the lure looked odd.  Now given others I’ve seen on the market, I see that they are comparatively normal.  So I ventured off to some grassflats at Ft. DeSoto, waded out and caught my first trout, which measured 16”.  Ever since then I have been “hooked” with the lure of artificials.  (Sorry couldn’t resist.)

I now own a lure collection that rivals smaller tackle shops.  (In the end, I just went ahead and bought the president of Love’s a new car, to make things simple.) 

To me, there is nothing like the challenge and thrill of trying to coax a fish into biting something that isn’t a real fish.  I also hate what I refer to as the “Bait wait.”  This is where the angler spends time and money before he goes fishing buying, catching and storing bait, then races out to the fishing hole (I wave as they go by) to arrive at the spot, carefully places the bait onto the hook, and tossing it out into the water, WAITS.   It’s just in my nature; I feel that I have to be DOING something.  With a lure I’m fishing, with bait, I’m praying.  

Now, I know there’s a lot of bait fisherman out there going “Yeah, yeah another lure lover, I know my bait is better.”  And that is fine, because I’m also a firm believer in using what works for you.  And thus the lines are drawn.  It has been this way since the dawn of time.  The lure lovers and the bait busters.  Oil and water.  Black and white.  Regular and decaf.  Beer and…and… well you get the idea.  

As I got more and more into fishing, I saw that even though I liked fishing with a lure, and I liked catching fish on a lure, I really really liked catching fish.  This is where my struggle began.  In spring and fall, I noticed that lures worked very well, while in the summer (I’m a native Floridian, thus have problems about fishing in the winter, it’s cold and that’s the problem) they didn’t produce as much.  Talking with fishing buddies they said “You need to use bait.”  The only problem is when they said “You need to use bait.”  I heard “You need to go out and spend your lunch money on shrimp so that you can be frustrated all afternoon by pinfish picking the shrimp apart.”  So they said “You really should use bait.”  And I heard “You really need to waste money on a cast net so that every single greenback you catch can immediately die and then fall off the hook.”

Well, as they say, “necessity is a mother.”

I was out fishing this last summer and wasn’t getting any bites on my lures and noticed that there were hundreds of greenbacks swimming right along the shore I was standing on.  So, I gave in and picked up my cast net (Birthday present) gave it a cast, and caught a bunch of greenbacks, which immediately upon entering my bait bucket, died.  Determined to press on, and not to waste all that supposedly good bait, I hooked one on and cast out.  Unfortunately, unlike the single “sploosh” I am used too when I cast a lure, I got the “sploosh” of my hook, and a few seconds later the “sploosh” of the bait.  As luck and repetition would have it, the third guy stayed on long enough to make it to the bottom and get STOLEN. Now, oddly enough, I wasn’t frustrated by the thief but encouraged. 

Because the thief alerted me to the fact that there were fish down there. So I decided that I have nothing to lose (except more bait) and since the greenbacks were now all in an advanced state of post mortitude, I no longer had to worry about killing them.  This instantaneous death just-add-bait-bucket experience was one of the main reasons why I was so adverse to bait.  I had heard greenbacks explained to me like this. 

“Greenbacks?  Oh yeah, best bait out there, snook love them.  LOVE them.  Everything does.  Best thing in the world.  They must be alive though.  Yeah nothing will eat them if they are dead.  Nothing.  Yeah you can catch them easy with a net.  They die quickly though.  Unless you have connections with Sea World, or Mote Marine, or omnipotent powers.  Yeah that occasionally works.  Then you have to hook them through the nose, barely.  (I never heard why).  Yep, that’s THE way to catch snook.”

“So let me get this straight,” I ask them, “you’re telling me to go out and catch this fish for bait. Yep.  And it must be kept alive or they won’t eat it.  Yep. They will die the second you put them into the bait bucket. Yep.  And you barely hook them through the nose so that they fall off if you breathe heavily on them. Yep .  And that’s how you catch snook?”  “Yep.” “OK.”

It no longer was a deal of seeing if I could put a fish on the hook to catch another fish but to see if I can put a !@##$#@! baitfish on the #@%#@% hook to keep the !@#$#@! Thing on the  #@%$#  $#@! %$ #! $%%$#%$#@.     It steeled my resolve.  So I thought if only I could keep him on the hook better than the traditional way of hooking him through the nose. So since I didn’t have to worry about killing them, I decided to put them on the hook in such a manner that Poseidon himself would have trouble getting it off.  I took a 3/8-oz.  TerrorEyz jighead and rigged the greenback on as if it was a DOA Baitbuster, inserting the hook into its mouth with the point of the hook coming out over the top and back of its head.  

Tossing the guinea pig out into Bunces Pass, I hooked up on a decent sized trout, and the thief was caught, literally.  A few more casts yielded a few more strikes and trout scattered with catfish.  Moving down the shore a bit I tried another dead greenback.  Slowly working him across the bottom I suddenly had a tremendous hit.  After screaming off 50 feet of line, my adversary raced up to stop just feet from shore in knee deep water.  My first snook sat there stock still for a moment sizing me up, as if it had a need to see the one who had the nerve to hook it.  The next two sounds were my jaw dropping and the splash from its second explosive run.  Moments into that run, he cut my line.

Returning to the same location a couple of weeks later, armed with a heavier leader, using the same method, I landed a 33” snook.  Since then, I have caught numerous snook, trout, ladyfish, and Redfish using this method.

To review the findings, the method didn’t kill the greenbacks (especially those that were already dead), they stay on very well, gets them to the bottom, and can be worked like a lure. (I like scooting it with little tugs across the bottom).  It should be noted that if the greenbacks are alive they don’t last more that a couple of casts which really doesn’t matter because you can impart your own action to them.  It is actually a little bit better when they have stiffened up a bit from being dead especially if they are curved, because it imparts them a bit more action. They are like the ultimate lure. So, we have a successful merging of bait and lures, like peanut butter and chocolate.  Bread and butter.  Rum and coke.  Chamomile tea and… and… never mind.   

PS I still like lures more.

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