Artificial Verses Live Bait

By Ronnie Parris

Whether it’s trout fishing in a mountain trout stream or fishing your favorite bass lake, if you survey anglers you will undoubtedly find a wide range of baits and tactics that will probably catch fish at certain times of the year. And I’m sure each angler will be adamant that his way is the best, or the only moral way to boat a fish; this really seams to ring true with fly fishing for trout. I’ve had guys get really upset if they saw someone using live bait in a trout stream. And I’ll admit, during the warmer months, if I’m in a trout stream, I’m going to be casting a fly and if it’s wild fish, it’s probably going to be a dry fly. If I’m getting a hankering for a pan full of wild rainbows in February, you’re probably going to catch me pitching a red worm or a baby night crawler under those overhanging laurel bushes.

This time of year, a trout’s metabolism slows and so does his need to feed, so he’s gonna want something he can taste and a juicy crawler fits the bill pretty good. Now you may say if you can’t fool him with artificial then he shouldn’t be caught, but in my opinion, if the wild life biologist classifies a stream legal for using live bait, I don’t have a problem with it. The same goes for the lake- I know tournament guys that would look at you casting a live minnow like you were dropping a stick of dynamite in the water but truth is that sometimes artificial works better. I think it’s up to the state to make the rules and us, as sportsmen, to abide by them.

Wintertime can be wide open bites, or dead, and a lot of this depends on the weather. I’ve had weeks where I was doing great on Repalas and Flucks to hang fish after a cold spell, or a 3 day rain, but if you didn’t put some live bait that the fish can smell and take its time to get, you were probably going home empty handed. Another scenario where I would suggest live bait is when getting kids started fishing. Nothing can turn a young person off of fishing more than taking multiple trips where they don’t have any success. I like to at least have some crickets for a backup so if the bass or walleye aren’t hitting, I can usually find a bluegill hole so they can get some confidence and get used to getting bites and knowing when to set the hook. Always be sure to check local laws for the stretch of water you intend to fish but don’t let someone make you feel bad if your fishing technique doesn’t go along with theirs. What’s important is spending time on the water and having fun in the outdoors. Have fun and as always, take a kid fishing.

Ronnie Parris is the Owner and Head Guide of Smoky Mountain Outdoors Unlimited-Fontana Lake Fishing Guides, headquartered in Bryson City, North Carolina, heart of the Great Smoky Mountains. (