Enough fakery — live bait is the real deal

Updated 11/7/2012 9:19 PM

St. Charles angler Kyle T. objects to the way artificial lures and various other fishing gear is promoted and subsequently pushed on fishermen.

"My weekend routine consists of viewing many television shows pertaining to the outdoors," he explained. "And I know it takes sponsorship to make the wheels go round, just so the host can provide an entire season of show chapters.

"But the way the lure commercials are presented, the viewer, in my opinion, is led to believe he won't be successful on the water if he doesn't have a supply of a specific lure."

It's hard to argue with Kyle. In fact I distinctly recall a conversation with Ronald Lindner about live bait.

As in previous conversations, Lindner noted professional bass tournaments do not allow participants to use any live bait. Ron claimed the reason for that is because there are no live bait sponsors shelling out big bucks for the honor of having a banner on the stage during weigh-ins proclaiming "Joe's Nightcrawlers Are Squirming Their Way to First Place."

He and brother Al were great devotees of the use of nightcrawlers, leeches, and minnows in the early days of the development of their famous Lindy Rigs (the live bait, slip-sinker setup that turned angling on its head).

And when Al wanted a big bass to film when he and Ron were associated with the old In-Fisherman television show, he would often use water dogs (salamanders) on some of the lakes around his home grounds.

Up until this year I had spent a lot of time wading sections of the Fox River.

The late Buck Squancho and I would have our fly rods strapped in the backs of our fishing vests while we alternately used spinning gear for the river's mighty smallmouth bass.

And when we couldn't get live leeches to use as our primary bait, we switched over to the Uncle Josh pork leech. It turned out to be just what the smallies liked for chow.

Of course there were many times when I experimented with nightcrawlers and minnows, especially when I fished the shorelines near the Kimball Street Bridge in Elgin.

One chap came over to me while I was "dunking" some live bait alongside a deadfall tree in South Elgin and asked how big a hook I was using.

I lifted the rig and showed him my setup.

He gasped and told me he couldn't believe what I was tossing in to the water.

The rig was 8-pound mono connected to a 8-pound fluorocarbon leader (for invisibility), a tiny split shot and finally, a No. 8 bleeding-bait hook. It's as simple as one could get.

If I was concentrating exclusively on fishing the snags, I would have used a Lindy No-Snagg weedless hook of the same size.

Berkley claims some of its flavor-induced plastic and biodegradable, lookalike baits will sometimes out-fish live bait. That may be true some of the time, but I wouldn't go 100 percent in that direction.

I'll often bring two types of live bait with me in my boat. There is a section in the livewell for minnows, and I sometimes use a large bag-cooler loaded with ice blocks. The bag is where I store the nightcrawlers on hot days.

I'll also drop a couple pounds of ice into the bait well to keep the little guys and gals happy and fresh.

Artificial baits and minnow imitators are good under the right circumstances. The same is true with plastics as well. But I say, time is of the essence, and if live bait is a confidence-builder, I say go with it.

It's up to the angler to keep switching until the right trigger creates the opportunity for a fish to stuff its mouth.

•Contact Mike Jackson at angler88@comcast.net, and catch his radio show 6-7 a.m. Sundays on WSBC 1240-AM and live-streamed at www.mikejacksonoutdoors.com.

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