Top 10 baits for springThis article first appeared in the The Northern Virginia Daily: Sure, you’ll probably tie on a lure the next time you go fishing. But don’t overlook bait fishing. Done properly, this is a challenging and immensely productive way to fish for Shenandoah Valley anglers. While some people turn their nose up at fishing with bait, aficionados simply set the hook and enjoy the tight bend in their rod as the natural alternative to lures produces yet another battling gamefish on the end of the line.

Fishing with bait doesn’t mean just sticking a nightcrawler on a hook and sitting back to wait for a bite. Bait fishing can be much more active and engaging than that. And it should be if you want the best results, meaning the biggest fish and most action possible.

There are countless baits to choose from, in different sizes and shapes. Some work well on one species and not on others. Different riggings and hooking methods are often required, and the best presentation can vary according to the water you’re fishing and the species you’re trying to catch.

To help unravel the puzzle of bait fishing, this week and next we’ll go over some of the top natural baits you can use in Virginia as spring fishing seasons approach. And the truth is, some of these can produce right now. Nothing will fool fish better during winter than a live offering dangled in front of the quarry.

One. Minnows. Big fish eat little fish. That fact alone makes minnows one of the best baits for spring. Some species, such as northern pike and pickerel, are notorious fish eaters, gobbling prey 5-10 inches long. Others, like panfish and trout, are often considered insect feeders, but will grab a minnow if the opportunity presents itself. Bass go bonkers over minnows. Trophy specialists in Florida take hundreds of 10-pounders each year by working jumbo shiners in weed beds, and some of the biggest largemouths caught in our state each year fall for minnows.

In addition to appealing to virtually all species, minnows are particularly effective in early spring. Winter has taken its toll on baitfish populations and gamefish cruise wide areas searching for those remaining.

The simplest way to obtain minnows is to buy them at a bait shop. Put them in a plastic foam cooler or bait bucket that can be hung in the water. If you have to transport the minnows a long distance, you might want to buy a small aerator to keep the fish perky and healthy. In hot weather, add a few ice cubes to the water when transporting minnows.

Minnows can also be caught by seining them in creeks or setting traps in shallow areas of lakes. Sometimes these “native” species will outperform store-bought shiners.

Hook minnows through both lips, from the bottom up, or through the back. If the bait becomes lethargic, replace it with a fresh one. You can also hook them through the upper back.

Minnows can be fished countless ways. Drifting them beneath a bobber is especially effective in spring because many fish are in the shallows and you can allow the bait to swim suspended near cover, tempting fish to swim out and grab them. This is a terrific tactic for pike, bass, and panfish such as crappies and yellow perch. Read the entire article at the The Northern Virginia Daily at this link >>>

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