by Bob Jensen
Fish in the summertime can be a finicky bunch. Some days they want a crankbait moved quickly halfway between the surface and the bottom, other days they want a jig tipped with soft bait bounced aggressively right on the bottom. And then there are the days when they want something worked very slowly, and they want the bait right in their face. The only effort they want to expend on those days is to open their mouth and inhale a minnow or leech or nightcrawler. There are times when live bait will help you catch more fish. But, if you want to catch fish on those days when the bass, walleyes, panfish or pike are being super-selective, you need to use lively live bait. Here are some things you can do to make your live bait livelier.
Leeches are probably the easiest live bait to keep lively. Just keep them cool, don’t crowd them, and keep the water fresh. If one of them gets sick, throw it out.
Night crawlers require a little more attention. Again, keeping them cool is a big deal. Frabill makes a crawler container caller a Lil’ Fisherman. It’s a foam container that opens on both ends. You keep some crawler bedding in it, Fat and Sassy is one of the best beddings, and then put it in the cooler with your sandwiches and bottles of water and ice. The crawlers stay very nice when stored this way.
However, lots of very successful anglers add one step to this process. Before they go fishing, they take some crawlers out of the Lil’ Fisherman and put them in a small container of water that contains a few ice cubes. This plumps up the crawlers and makes them super healthy and active for awhile. Those anglers keep that small container of crawlers in an easy-to-get to shaded area of the boat. When that container runs low on crawlers, take a few more out of the cooler and put them in the water. Many anglers feel that they catch more fish, especially walleyes and smallmouth bass, when the crawlers are treated this way.
Now on to minnows. Minnows can be a challenge to keep in the summer, but it doesn’t need to be that way. With a little effort and the proper storage, it’s possible to keep minnows effectively even on the hottest days. The key is don’t try to keep too many minnows in one container, and keep them aerated. Aerated is really important.
Some anglers, especially when it comes to walleye fishing, don’t bother with minnows in the summer months. They feel that leeches and crawlers are better for walleyes, and sometimes they’re right. But there are days when you can add to your walleye catch with a redtail chub or shiner. It’s worth the effort to have some minnows in the boat, and the effort really isn’t that much. When you get your minnows at the baitshop, put them in the aerated bucket right away, and make sure the aerator is on. Turn the aerator on and leave it on. Some anglers turn the aerator on for awhile, then turn it off to conserve batteries. Then they forget to turn it back on and only remember to do so when it’s too late. In the summer, you can’t beat the six gallon Frabill Aqua Life container. It keeps good numbers of minnows alive better than anything I’ve used.
In the summer months, if you keep your live bait lively, you’re going to catch more fish. In fact, that idea holds true any time of the year.