South Shore Tampa Bay By: Capt. Joel Brandenburg

Dead Sticking in July

In most months of the year we fish with live baitfish or live crabs, we’re so particular about keeping our live bait looking lively on the hook, that we even tell our anglers to rest their baits in the water.

We enforce the fact that most gamefish like dead and gimpy baits, they just don’t like dead and gimpy baits with hooks in them. We let our anglers know that live bait can be kept out of the water almost as long as our heads can be kept under the water. So, to sum it up, we take great measures to make sure that when our anglers present a bait to the fish it looks as lively and natural as possible.

However, the entire game changes in July, we mostly use fresh dead and cut bait in July. As the water temperatures increase, the gamefish tend to become lethargic. They are not as hungry as usual because they don’t exert as much energy.

In July, fish lie around and try to stay in the shade under docks, mangroves and weed beds. They lose their desire to chase bait in the heat. They are much more likely to smell dead bait and suck it down than they are to chase live bait down and eat it. This method is called dead sticking.

One tip for dead sticking is to take a baitfish like a greenback, mullet, ladyfish, etc. and cut the belly off from the anus to the pectoral fin. You’ll also want to cut the tail off to keep it from spinning in the current. When using a blue crab, just quarter it.

Another tip involves your choice of tackle. Use a #1.0 or #2.0 hook and try to hide it by pushing the hook into the meat and up through the skin. When the barb of the hook is through the skin it will hold your bait better and hide it better.

Use light mono leader and use the smallest split shot you can use to hold your bait to the bottom. If you over do it with a big egg sinker, you risk spooking the game fish that are in the area on the splash of the cast.

Finally, use fresh dead bait, baits that have been left out in the sun or frozen or cut and blead out an hour ago won’t be as effective. It’s hard to fool Mother Nature, gamefish like it fresh so cut then cast!

In July, snook, reds and trout will gladly eat your dead baits!

For a charter with Captain Joel Brandenburg of Ana Banana Fishing Company call 813-267-4401 or visit and for info on the Ana Banana Kids Fishing Camp this summer visit