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I've heard good things about fishing the Texas gulf coast with live croaker bait. What is the technique for fishing with this bait? Specifically, where should one hook the bait and what technique is used for fishing with it?

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As with all of fishing, there are many different ways to present the same bait. For live bait fishing, specifically I would suggest one of the following three techniques and subsequent presentations:

  1. Hooking the fish up through the bottom of the mouth and out through the roof of the mouth - For this technique, I would suggest either jigging or trolling on a weighted hook. If you are not in a boat a simple cast-and-slow-retrieve should work fine. This is an active presentation so if you find the fish are sluggish and not really going after your jigging/trolling, I would ditch the weighted hook for a circle or J hook and set up a slip sinker rig to fish the bottom. The fish should live long enough to swim around on the bottom for awhile, attracting larger fish.

  2. Hooking the fish through the back - If you find that you are getting hits but no hook-ups or your bait is coming back torn up, I would suggest this presentation. It is more secure than through the mouth and allows you to use jigging/trolling/bottom fishing mentioned above. Two downsides to this is that, in my experience, the bait fish have died faster this way than through the mouth and it can make jigging/trolling a bit awkward depending on the size of the bait. While jigging/trolling is possible, I would say hooking through the back is best for bottom fishing.

  3. Cut off the fins and chunk of the fish to use it as cut bait - While this will obviously kill your live bait, it does not make it any less enticing to potential predators! Cutting your bait releases strong scents that indicate to larger fish that there is food in the area. Make sure that you cut off the fins so that they don't foul up hook sets. Again, you can use this for jigging/trolling/bottom fishing. I find it works best for bottom fishing but have also had great results jigging and trolling with cut bait. Honestly, this is my go-to technique anytime I am not getting many bites.

I am sure there are other options but these are the three that I use 99% of the time with live bait and have had great success. I know that some people will hook bait through the tail but I do not prefer this because I find that the tail fin messes up hook sets. Sure you can cut off the fin, but then you might as well just properly prepare some cut bait.

  • Good answer, thanks. But there's actually a very specific technique used by guides up and down the coast that I was looking for -- I've used it on boats but I don't know the hook type, line weight, etc. It involves hooking the croaker near the tail with just a hook, then letting the fish swim down, pull it back up, swim down, repeat. – Chris Mendez Dec 3 '15 at 19:29
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    Sounds familiar, we occasionally use a similar technique for stripers on the east coast. By hooking through the tail and letting the fish swim down the predator fish sense this as an injured fish and should go after it. What I use is a circle hook, atleast 25lb mono (i'm assuming you are going for larger sized fish), and an egg sinker (1-2 oz. should be enough to get the bait down there). – celeriko Dec 3 '15 at 19:50

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