Making The Most Of Your Saltwater Baits

Bait is extremely popular with salt water anglers, especially surf or pier fishermen. Not only does it allow you to present a natural food source, rather than trying to trick fish with a lure, but a single bait can appeal to almost anything the swims in the nearby waters. But every bait has its pros and cons.

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Over the years I have learned an assortment of tricks to make the most of my favorite baits that not only extend the life of the bait but make it just a bit more productive. Let me share some of those tips for three of my favorite baits.

General Considerations

  1. Local bait is always best. If you can catch it yourself, right from the beach you will be fishing that is a plus. Otherwise, pick it up at a local bait shop rather than bringing it from another area.
  2. Fresh bait works better than anything else. Make sure you have the ability to keep your bait fresh as long as possible so the last piece you toss is as good as the first was. If you are collecting bait ahead of time and are unable to keep it alive freeze it right away and only thaw as needed.
  3. Change your bait frequently. As bait sits in the water it dies or started to deteriorate. Once is happens it becomes less attractive to passing fish. Change it throughout the day not just after you catch something.


Clams are one of my favorite baits for striped bass and they work equally well for many other species too. But they can be hard to use. They die quickly and once this happens they become mushy, falling off the hook to easily. Even a fresh clam can fly the other way on a hard cast. For the best performance use fresh clams, dig them yourself of possible, and only open when needed. Next, make sure you hook thru the thickest portion of the meat. For even more security add a small rubber band, like those used for braces, around the clam and hook.


Almost anything you wish to catch will look at a juicy piece of squid with hunger in its eye. Because of this I use squid a lot! But this is the one bait I never use fresh- it’s too hard to manage. Instead I buy frozen squid and thaw it as I need, cut it into strips sized appropriately to what I am targeting. It can then be fish alone, on a buck tail or as a tasty teaser on another lure.

Sand Fleas

Pompano anglers love sand fleas and apparently so do the pompano they are targeting. But they are equally successful for a variety of species such as striped bass, black drum, croaker, blackfish and even flounder. Keep fleas fresh by placing them in a small bucket of damp sand, but do not cover them with water as they will drown. A simple pyramid bottom rig fished just outside the surf zone, or near sand bars, is the most productive sand flea rig available.

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