As I watch the sun slowly starting to illuminate my immediate surroundings, all I can think of is we are missing the morning bite while we search for white bait. The thought to forego bait in Tampa Bay and fish with artificials seems to be a crazy, forgotten idea for many that fish this area. Many would rather chase white bait all morning vs. using an artificial. Just some of my thoughts below:
Bait catches more fish
There is no question bait will produce more bites, whether it be your target species or the other not so wanted fish passing by. I thoroughly enjoy the act of fishing independent of catching a fish. There is something fun and relaxing about retrieving a lure/fly and tricking a fish into biting. This is even regardless of whether the fish are actually biting. It’s the practicing of new retrieve patterns, adapting to the weather and water conditions, matching the hatch, and not being afraid to try new things. At the end of the day though, if your trying to take home dinner, live bait cannot be beaten.
Bait vs. Skill
Something else that has always intrigued me with bait fishing, is the bite is often random luck. Yes, you can increase your luck with closer casts to structure such as mangroves or docks, but whether the fish hits your bait or the person fishing for the first time next to you is often just plain, dumb luck. It’s extremely fortunate for new anglers as all that’s needed is a decent cast and waiting. For many, this is the only way to fish as you can drink a beer at the same time, which is just as integral to fishing for many! I have always enjoyed learning from watching tv shows, classes, YouTube videos, and from guided trips to improve my ability. The bait seems to equal the playing field between beginners and professionals with some exceptions including oversized terminal tackle which can decease someone’s luck. If you ever notice your friend is fishing with much smaller gear than you, you should wonder why!
I have never had a pristine boat that I wasn’t afraid to use and abuse, but let’s face it castnetting bait is not a great way to keep your boat clean. And if you are buying bait instead, that’s a whole other blog with a few exceptions.
For many of us, we are often have other responsibilities that don’t always coincide with fishing all day. We fish when we can! If castnetting white bait is part of the plan, you better be able to get it done quickly and early. For me, I would rather be fishing quickly instead of spending my precious time trying to get bait. Some would say, "yeah, that’s why I buy bait." This is true for bait that is not easily available to catch yourself such as shrimp or blue crab. If you’re buying bait that’s readily available, it’s "lose your man card" embarrassing and it can be expensive at times. See the price of pass crabs during tarpon season!
Just a Little Patience
Fishing with live bait often requires patience. The longer a bait soaks and puts out its odor and vibrations, the more time larger fish have to find it. I am a busy body and have never liked the idea of dropping anchor, and just casting out a line and waiting. In some situations, you can gauge the bite before you even fish by hurling out some live bait and seeing if the desired fish are gobbling them up. I have realized many guides won't even fish an area unless the bait gets busted.
The Wrap Up
All in all, this may seem like elitist, fishing behavior to some but it’s really that fishing in some areas of Florida differ from others. Say Mosquito Lagoon vs. Tampa Bay. Different fishing styles are used based on the abundance or limited abundance of bait, so you go with what you know. The most important thing is you enjoy fishing, no matter your style of fishing. My grandfather told me a while back an important lesson, which is to not to measure your enjoyment by your catch, but rather by your time on the water, in nature, and with your company. This even holds more true today as many people are wrapped up with social media, video games, and life goes by quickly. If you have never considered using artificials or a fly, give it a chance and try to enjoy the act of fishing, which is often not catching.