In many cases in fishing, nothing beats live bait.
But to use bait, you first need to buy it or catch it. Catching it is one of the best ways to ensure you have enough bait and the bait is fresh – and it saves you money. Casts nets work great for catching bait. If that’s not working, Mercury Pro Team member Peter Miller has a tried-and-true way to fill up his baitwell: a Sabiki rig.
“I use a lot of techniques to catch bait, but by far one of my favorite things to do when I’m struggling to catch it is a Sabiki rig,” said the host of the TV show “Unchartered Waters.”
A Sabiki rig consists of a monofilament leader with six “branch arms” sticking off it. On each arm is a tiny gold hook with a piece of Mylar on it. At the bottom of the rig is a 1/8- to 1/2-ounce bell sinker. At the top is a snap swivel. A small bead on the line above the swivel prevents the swivel from hitting the rod tip if you reel up too far.
“The idea is the line of six hooks with Mylar looks like a little school of fish,” Miller said. “When the bait sees it, it will bite almost every time.”
To catch his bait, Miller will start by dropping a bag of chum over the side. Once he sees the baitfish down below, he’ll drop the Sabiki rig down to them.
Now, just like any fish, even baitfish can be picky. Thus, the rigs come in different sizes. Branch lines are often 6- or 8-pound test compared to the 12- to 14-pound-test main line. Keep multiple sizes handy based on how aggressive the baitfish are biting. If it’s going slow, change it up and sooner or later you’re going to get bit.
Once you’ve got some bait on the rig, Miller says to reel all the way up to the bead, swing the weight into your free hand and walk over to the baitwell. Next, take a dehooking tool and slide it down only the branch line (not the main line) right to the baitfish’s mouth. Then, with one twist of the wrist, pop the hook free, and the bait will fall into the well without your having to touch it, which is important for Miller.
“A key to good bait is having ones that are untouched and unscathed, without any pH balance from your hands, fingerprints or line marks on their bodies,” Miller said. “You want ones that look perfect when you put them out there, and if you do, I guarantee you’ll catch more fish.”
Check out the video below to see Miller demonstrating how to fish a Sabiki rig and dehook bait without touching them.