During many of my fishing tales, I am often asked by friends: “How do you know what bait to use when you go fishing?” The answer, at least for me, is easy. As I think back through the hundreds of saltwater fishing trips I’ve taken in my life, shrimp has been the most common form of bait I think I have ever used. As I read through forums and articles around the internet and in major publications, it appears that is for good reason too. When I was first introduced to saltwater fishing back in the mid 1980’s, I learned to use shrimp dangling from the Gandy Bridge that connects Tampa to St. Petersburg, FL. We caught cobia, shark, and a few other fish I have trouble remembering after twenty-some years. So, when my friends ask me what to use for bait, the answer is relatively simple – shrimp.
Dead or alive, shrimp are one of the best baits for saltwater fishing. Like crab, minnows, and other small marine life, they are at or near the bottom of the food chain, and become a major food source for most fish. Whether inshore or offshore bottom fishing, shrimp can attract everything from sea trout and redfish, to grouper and bluefish. My son recently pulled a large Sheepshead out from under one of the rocks at the Ponce Inlet jetties with a shrimp, and I can almost always hook a flounder just about anywhere on Florida’s inshore rivers. As far as live bait goes, shrimp are the preferred bait for most of the anglers I know. It will catch almost anything.
Something I always wanted to know in my early years of fishing – long before the internet and instant knowledge – was how to hook a live shrimp. So, for those of you who are a little unsure of how to hook shrimp as bait, and those who may be looking for an alternative method, I have listed below my three favorite methods of hooking live shrimp as bait. Some of the instructions explained here can be used on dead shrimp, but I will focus primarily on how to hook live shrimp with the intent of keeping them alive on the hook.
And in case you didn’t already know, live shrimp can be purchased at most bait shops located near coastal regions, but buying them really takes the fun out of it. I say… go catch them yourself! It’s much more rewarding.
1. Tail Hook
This type of baiting uses a hook that is sized proportionally to the shrimp, pierced through one of the last few segments preceding the tail. A live shrimp hooked in this fashion can remain alive for a long period of time, and will jump and tail-flick. The hook through the tail prevents the shrimp from actually gaining any momentum, and therefore, remains stationary even while jumping around. Applying some physics to this type of hooking method proves that there could be an increased chance of the shrimp remaining on the hook, and longer use of the shrimp before replacement. Fish are attracted to movement, and the constant action from a hooked live shrimp is often too enticing for any nearby fish looking for a meal.
2. Body Hook
I have found I use this method a little more than I keluaran hk would like. This type of hooking is generally used where there are strong currents that could rip the shrimp from the hook. The Body Hook involves double-hooking the shrimp; once through the body from the side, and then piercing the armored portion just behind the head. I prefer to use the armored portion as the second piercing because the armor will ‘lock’ the hooks barb and help keep the shrimp on the hook. The major problem with this type of baiting is that it kills the shrimp much quicker than the other methods, and limits the shrimps’ movement. However, if you are in an area where the currents are strong, this might be your only option. The Body Hook requires a slightly larger shrimp to allow room for the double placement of the hook.
3. Horn Hook
This, by far, is my favorite type of baiting. In Florida, the shrimp we use for bait are primarily the Brown Shrimp, and the White Shrimp. Along the top of the head runs a long horn that can extend just beyond the nose of the shrimp. To hook them properly, without killing them, find the spot just behind the eyes and under the horn. Pierce the armor while being very careful not to puncture the brain. The brain can be easily seen as the small dark spot centered inside and near this same location. I find the easiest way to do this is to turn the hook sideways as it is fed through the armor. When completed, the hook should be held in place by only a very small part of the shrimp with the majority of the force and weight of the shrimp held by the horn. The horn is one of the stronger parts of the shrimp.