It’s hard to beat live bait when it comes to striper fishing, and Colt Bass, who guides on Lake Hickory and Lake Rhodhiss, said anglers need to bring the real deal when chasing stripers, especially as the summer action heats up.

“They say it’s lazy-man’s fishing, but if a man uses a cast net, catches bait, runs five or six lines – it ain’t lazy man’s fishing for me,” said Bass (828-381-3426), who has guided on for nearly a decade and bases his business on providing natural food for the fish he targets.

“Having live bait can make or break your day,” he said. “If you have it you can have a great day. Without it, you could end up empty-handed.”

Catching baitfish is also inexpensive compared to other alternatives.

“You could buy seven or eight crankbaits or use the same money to buy a cast net,” said Bass, who usually collects bait before he meets his clients. He keeps a 150-gallon aerated tank at his home, allowing him to have bait any time he needs it and giving his clients more time on the water actually fishing.

Two important things to consider with live bait are hook size and the type of baitfish being used. Bass said three different baitfish will peak a striper’s interest: blueback herring, gizzard shad and threadfin shad, all three of which are present in Lake Hickory.

Use the smallest hook that can physically land the fish; Bass said that the average treble hook you’ll find on a crankbait will do the job.

“The first time I saw it, I didn’t believe that they could catch a big 10-, 15- or 18-pound striper,” Bass said. “But the important thing is to use the smallest hook that will do the job. That way, the bait will swim naturally under the water.”

While there are no guarantees with any bait, live bait has the distinct advantage of being a natural meal for a gamefish.

“The great thing about live bait is I can come back up here, and that striper will eat bait again tomorrow,” Bass said. “He won’t get fooled and try for a spinner bait two days in a row.”