By Fred Garth

Call me a snob but I stopped using live bait a long time ago. I know a lot of folks still swear by live bait but I’ve tried to swear it off. Well, that’s not totally accurate. My buddy and I used live croakers two years ago in Venice, Louisiana to catch some truly giant redfish. Come to think of it, lots of my fisher buds in Louisiana still use live bait often and we’re still friends – at least until they read this article.

There are several reasons why I’m lure dude. First, and probably the biggest reason is that I’m lazy…certainly too lazy to go the bait store and buy live shrimp. Because then I have to be diligent about keeping them alive. I have to acclimate them from the cold water in the bait shop tank to the summer-time, bathtub-like bay water with the delicacy a chemist making nitroglycerin. Too much warm water, they die. If the salinity is out of whack, they die. Then they need to be aerated or… they die. I learned that even with the care of a hospice worker, the shrimp will eventually die anyway. Even when I would occasionally do everything right and I could keep a few of the hardy shrimp alive for days.

But most of the time, their lifespan was about six hours after they left the bait shop – just enough time for one good fishing trip. Once, I put them in the live well of my boat and a sneaky damn heron, that had probably learned my habits, snuck up and ate every friggin’ shrimp just in the short time I was back at the house filling my cooler with cold beverages. Admittedly, I do pack a lot of liquids. As all fishermen know, proper hydration is critical to a successful fishing trip.

My hard core buddies catch their own shrimp. If I’m too lazy to drive two miles to buy them you won’t find me dragging up a muddy shrimp trawl. Oh, I’ve done it many times. But that was back when I jogged four times a week, ate lots of salads and didn’t coach youth soccer and have middle school swim meets to attend. So not only am I lazy but my free time has pushed me away from live bait and into fishing with lures. Give me a three-pack of DOA shrimp and I can jump in my boat in between dinner and helping my 12-year-old with math lessons. And, guess what? DOA shrimp don’t die. Neither do grub baits, Top-Dawgs, or Super Spooks.

Another reason for my bait-fishing snobbery is that I can catch as much on rubber and plastic as my buddies can on live bait. Sure, there are times when they win but it’s rarely a blowout and, as I’ve explained in great detail already, I’m happier dragging along my tacklebox full of choices than a cooler full of live critters.

Looking back on my evolution as a fisherman, I started out at three or four-years-old catching catfish and pinfish with raw bacon on a hook. It’s not live bait but once that pig did breathe and wallow in mud. As a teenager I caught many a Spanish mackerel, bluefish, king mackerel, bonita and dolphin using only silver spoons and dusters.
Sometimes a dead cigar minnow added to the catch. But it wasn’t until the speckled trout, redfish, red snapper, grouper phase of my life that I started using live shrimp, croakers and pinfish.

My days of pounding out ten miles into the gulf to yank snapper and grouper off the bottom are few and far between. Give me calm seas and a big boat with a wet bar and Big Green Egg on the back deck and I’m a candidate. Otherwise, I’m a trout hunter toting a box full of lures.

To further my plunge into being an outright anti-live bait jerk, I got into fly fishing about ten years ago. Fly fishermen are kind of like people who drive by my pickup truck in a Toyota Prius. They look at me like I’m some kind of lower primate ignorantly killing the planet with each 16-mile gallon I travel.

As a fly fisherman, I relate to this attitude so I’m careful to ask if I can bring my fly rod when I get invited on fishing trips, especially on a small boat. Without plenty of space for all the line to zip around, a fly can end up in the back of someone’s head. It’s happened a few times. I can honestly say that most of my fishing buddies don’t like hooks embedded near their skull. Add a little wind and you can forget it. Bottom line: fly fishing goes with live bait like sugar goes with grits. It’s just not an option, even for Paula Deen.

So call me a snobbish fly fisherman if you want to because, well, it’s true. I also cast DOAs with my spinning rod and top-water lures with my bait caster but you’ll rarely find anything live on the end of my line unless it just hit my red and white Clouser minnow or Top Dawg or if I’m in Venice, Louisiana pulling in my buddy’s shrimp trawl.

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