Paddle Power in July 2023

Kayak fishing certainly lends itself to trimming down the ever-growing tackle load we anglers like to insist is necessary for a day on the water. Sometimes it pays to complicate things when looking to hook some quality fish from your kayak. The words live bait can send a shudder down the spine of many kayak anglers, but they shouldn’t! In fact, live bait can be a session saver and account for some great action. Yes, a few extra steps need to be taken and you will need to expand your angling skills a bit to become proficient in not only procuring bait but also keeping it healthy/happy until the moment of truth.

The first stage in getting your bait game on point in the kayak is having a capable live well that your baits can get enough room and oxygen to stay frisky. For most baits you want to keep a simple 5-gallon bucket with a lid and small battery-operated bubbler that will do the job well. Only large baits with heavy water flow needs like pogies that we typically use off the beaches need a step up in live well. Those baits will need constant clean ocean water pumped in and then overflowed out. There are many DIY and ready to purchase options out there if that is the route you want to go.

Like I said it is unnecessary to have upgraded live wells for most kayak fishing situations around East Central Florida. Shrimp, mullet, mud minnows, pinfish, and croakers are all great examples of baits that fare well in the simple bucket and bubbler. White baits like pichards, greenies, and threadfins can also be kept in the simpler well, but you must be conscious of overcrowding and keep the water clean. One of the best, bad problems to have – is too much bait. What one would typically think is a great start to your trip with a fantastic cast net shot can quickly turn to sadness if you put too much bait in your well for its size. If you’re lucky they will just be low quality with scales falling off and a red nose. Worst case scenario they will all die from the overcrowding. There is no consistent perfect amount of bait for any given baitwell setup. Factors such as water temp, size of bait, and type of bait all play in. Unfortunately, trial and error are the only real way to dial it in. Water quality changes in your bucket are another obstacle to keeping your bait happy. By simply swapping all the water you can eliminate the fish waste that turns the water sour and keep that bait happy. There are many times when stubborn fish just can’t help but be a sucker for a nice frisky bait.