Fishing Bait..err.. Whats up Doc?!

Ahhh... the perennial question of all fisherman anywhere,
What is good fishing bait?

The truth of the matter is, it can be one thing one day, something else another day, everything on Tuesday and nothing at all on Friday! Just like Bugs Bunny likes to say, whats up doc indeed!

Good fishing bait tends to be a combination of common knowledge, superstition and a little bit of creativity. This is true for tropical fishing or fishing anywhere really.

Tropical Marine Fishing Bait

We can essentially categorize tropical marine fishing bait into 2.

Alive or Dead.

That's about it.


I know it sounds a bit morbid but hey its true.

Now there is a whole different category called fishing lures which is basically artificial bait, and that is a whole different story altogether.

By and large though, you cant really go wrong with something live or was alive not too long ago, as fishing bait. The critical question is where you are at, what you are fishing for and sometimes just whether you are wearing the right underwear or not! (i.e. sometimes luck is the best bait of all :P ).

In the tropics, if you are fishing out at sea, dead bait works fine for a lot of fish. Dead Squid cut up into pieces, is a pretty common fishing bait.

Dead squid, let me tell you, gets you all kinds of fish, no matter if you are out near a reef or an artificial reef/shelter (in South-East Asia, there are places at sea where there are things called uncang/unjam/tuas (Malay Language), which essentially are things put in the water by people to provide shade for bait fish to hang out). or just out at sea in general.

There is some sort of stink in dead squid that just draws them fish over! At the same time, dead squid is rubbery and sturdy enough to last you awhile in the strong currents out at sea. Shrimp can work, but generally they are too soft to stay on the hook.

Certain types of reef fish will go for dead crab bait. You basically cut a crab body into quarters or halves, and stick a hook in it and dangle it over.

Now of course, live bait is favored as well out at sea but for the bigger fish usually. Spanish Mackerel is one of those that prefers live fishing bait (over dead fishing bait). Generally called 'Tenggiri' in Malay, this fish is a popular food fish and an awesome fishing experience as well. usually fishing for these fish, involves first getting the live bait that they prefer. This can either be live bait fish (mostly Mackerel and Sardines or known in Malay as 'Kembong' and 'Tamban') or live squid.

Catching live squid
is a true joy in itself and once you get one, make sure that the fishing boat you are in, also houses a live well or bait tank. These are usually some sort of tank filled with running sea water. Basically water is being sucked from the side and into the tank and out again from another outlet. This set up is important to keep the bait alive.

Catching the live bait fish is all about going to where they congregate, such as at the uncang I mentioned earlier, and doing some quick fishing there. This is usually best achieved by using a rig known popularly as 'Apollo' which are essentially a set of half a dozen hooks or more which has pieces of white/shiny paper/plastic near the hooks (These are also known as Mackerel Feathers or Feather Lures).

Simply dropping these by the side of the boat to a good depth at an uncang can result in a dozen bait fish hooked almost at once! (schooling fish as they are, they will attack these hooks together, thinking the shiny paper or plastic is food).

If you ask me, this so-called 'Apollo fishing' is a joy in itself, especially for newbies, because you will hook a few fish at a time and likely with some luck you will hook quite a few more as well.

Now in the US, on the West Coast at least near Los Angeles, a friend of mine told me, they just needed to drive their boat over to a certain location, and they can simply buy the live bait out in the middle of the sea. Once bought, they just net them into their boat. I suppose thats pretty cool, but then LA folks are missing out on Apollo fishing man!

Another great live fishing bait is basically Marine Worms ('Umpun-umpun' in Malay). They are either lugworms or ragworms in English, more likely lugworms.

Amazingly, just as in freshwater, these marine worms are also pretty good bait. I dont know what it is about these creepy crawly thingies but I guess any fish understands that any worm is full of protein and good for them (Havent you heard about human beings cultivating worms these days too?)

Anyway I digress, so essentially those pretty much cover fishing bait out at sea.

Pay pond fishing, where the fish are tropical marine fish, tend to have totally different bait. Its pretty bizarre that this is the case, perhaps most of the fish being stocked in the pay ponds were farmed fish that only fed on the few things that are generally used as fishing bait.

For pay pond fishing, its also about live and dead bait (Generally fishing lures are not even allowed).

Dead bait tends to be Mackerel. Now for some reason, no other fish type will work. Who knows why that is. So essentially chunks or fillets of this fish are put onto a hook and you wait there for 15 minutes or so and see if you catch something. For certain kinds of fish, dead Octopus works too. These are usually small Octopi, probably just a tentacle or two, and Garoupas ('Kerapu' in Malay) tend to go for such bait. Red Snappers will do as well.

Live Bait used in marine pay ponds tend to be either shrimp or small fish such as Mullet ('Belanak' in Malay).

As I said, and I will repeat this again, good fishing bait can be one thing one day, something else another day, everything on Tuesday and nothing at all on Friday!

So whats the best idea?

Bring everything you got and try them all :)

Tropical Freshwater Fishing Bait

For freshwater fishing, good fishing bait has the same mantra you read about 2 seconds ago. However, the difference here is that generally good fishing bait is either alive or some sort of vegetable, grain or fruit (again fishing lures are a whole different category).

For the vast majority of tropical freshwater fish-hood, some sort of vegetable, grain or fruit will get you places.

The simplest of this is white bread. Get yourself some white bread, clump it together into a ball, get a bunch of hooks and pin it into the ball and chuck it into the water. You are probably pretty good to get some kind of fish.

Another favorite method is similar, whereby you use a mix of things. Usually duck/fowl feed (in Malay called 'dedak') with some sort of mix. Some people will mix wheat flour in there, others will also add turmeric (in Malay called 'kunyit') and so on. This gets clumped just like the bread (and some folks will add certain oils to make this clumping action better as well) and since its more easily disentangled, there are special 'spring like' devices which you can wrap the mix around and these 'spring like' devices will act as the frame for the bait. Hooks included of course.

Now if you are a common carp fishing fan out in the United Kingdom or Great Britain, you will know that this setup gets pretty elaborate, with addition of other things, things that allow the fishing bait to dissolve slowly and so on and so forth. Some folks even would sling shot corn and other things near to the fishing bait to further stimulate the fish.

Depending on the fish as well, fruit will work too. Not any fruit of course. If you were out in the wilds, and doing some river fishing, fruits in those parts would be ideal. A common alternative, is to use strong smelling fruits such as Oil Palm Fruit. To get the best potency of this kind of bait, leave them in water overnight and they will get pretty stinky good for the fish.

In terms of live fishing bait, the favored varieties are minnows, frogs, crickets and of course worms. The first two will snag you some of the predators such as Snakeheads while the other two will get you more of the community fish such as tin foil barbs.

Now with all this in your arsenal, you could still get no fish at all at the end of the day. Not only do you need luck but you also need a good fishing guide who knows where the fish are at and what they might be eating that day.

Cover all of this, and you would have gotten yourself a 'sure fire' fishing bait combination.

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