Creating and filming Got Bait? has gotten me thinking quite a bit about lures, baits, and how one can be better than another. And, in some cases, how they can complement one another. In a number of situations, neither one nor the other is the ticket—but the two used together can fill the fishbox. Here are a few prime examples of times when you shouldn't reach for a bait or a lure, but instead, should reach for both.
1. Deep-Water Bottom Fish - Blueline tiles, sea bass, grouper, wreckfish, and similar species we go deep-drop fishing for can be caught on either or, but put lures and baits together for these fish and in many cases, you'll be the highliner of the day. Why? Because using a jig or other heavy lure gives you the ability to impart some action to your offering. At the same time, these species like a bit of stink. A chunk of oily fish or squid is often needed to entice that strike, and putting lures and baits together in this case gets the job done.
2. Slow-Trolling - When you need to present your offering at minimal speed and lures like bucktails or parachutes just don't have the needed action, adding a live fish to the hook is bound to trigger strikes. One prime example is bottom-bouncing for striped bass. Traditionalists will thread a slice of pork rind over the bucktail's hook, to give the lure some action. But try lip-hooking a big bull minnow in its place, and you'll discover the stripers just can't resist eating it.
3. Offshore Trolling - The classic rigged ballyhoo often gets the job done, but there are some days when rigging one behind a colored skirt gives you a clear advantage. Wahoo, for example, are known for preferring ballyhoo dressed up with purple, black, or red skirts. In some circumstances bluefin tuna commonly chew on ballyhoo trailing blue and while Ilanders. And mahi-mahi are know to attack more often when they see a flash of pink.
Wait a sec—why not simply add bait to your lures all the time, to cover all the bases? Because most lures are designed to give a certain action as they move through the water, and adding bait to the hook can change the way they swim. Try putting a sliver of spearing on a lipped plug like a Stretch 15, for example, and you're going to lower the chances of getting a strike. So choose carefully as you mix and match bait and lures, but always consider using the two together.
And if you want to see actual hand-to-hand fishing combat testing bait vs. lures, watch the first episode of Got Bait?