Live bait is tough to beat

With so much bait accumlating during fall migrations, matching the hatch is often the best strategy for kayak anglers. (Photo by Phillip Gentry)

Ah fall, a time when every shrimp, baitfish, crab, and anything else on a fish’s diet in freshwater or salt, moves from Point A to Point B. Fall is a great time to be on the water in a kayak as well. All of the recreational boaters are sitting in the stands at the football stadium and half of the fishing traffic is sitting in a deer stand.

One thing that may not be high on the list of autumn activities is throwing an artificial lure. Although artificial baits might be the right choice in a few situations, it’s hard to compete with the real thing when there is so much of it parading through the water.

Kayak fishing with live bait adds a bit of challenge to an already challenging sport. It’s very simple to pack along a box of crankbaits, or soft plastics and hook rigs and just go. But live bait requires special arrangements, especially live baits that live in the water and therefore need water to remain alive.

Stock up with bait

Depending on whether you’re fishing fresh or saltwater and the species of bait you want to use, kayak anglers have several options available to stock up with bait just prior to and sometimes during their main fishing outing.

For many, the prospect of throwing a cast net from a kayak is a daunting task. However, a 6 to 8-foot cast net represents a good investment in terms of weight and space for catching bait, even from a kayak, and can be done in either salt or freshwater.

With some practice, throwing a cast net from a standing position in a kayak is not as hard as it may appear. Stability and balance are required. Or if possible, paddle to a sandy area, get out of the boat and walk the shoreline casting the net.

Larger baitfish can be caught using conventional rod and reel methods.

Bait on the go

Freshwater catfish, striped bass and a host of saltwater species will readily take whole, live or fresh cut baits. These baits can be collected by bringing a smaller conventional fishing rod with lighter line and small hooks to catch them and store in a cooler, baitwell, or trolling bucket.

It’s not necessary to collect an entire days’ worth of bait before moving to the intended species as the predators won’t be far away from the baitfish and the kayak angler can fish for both targets from the same location.

Bait considerations

A large dipnet or smaller landing net can be used to catch floating bait from the kayak. Crabs and shrimp frequently cling to structure or may be free-floating close enough to the boat to scoop up.

If on an extended stay, pack a fish or crab trap (where legal) to capture bait and keep handy when fishing. The trap can be baited the day or evening before and left out overnight to collect bait. The bait can be collected periodically throughout the day or extended stay trip.

Crab traps can be continually rebaited with fish carcasses if your kayak fishing trip includes keeping a few fish for the table. Blue crabs can be stored in a closed but breathable container using only wet grass or moss to cover them to keep the creatures from dehydrating. 

A word or two about on-board livewells is in order if your kayak fishing adventure takes you far from an area where cast-netting or trapping bait is possible. On board containers run the gamut from specially designed insulated coolers to a simple 5-gallon bucket with a lid and possibly a battery-operated aerator to add some oxygen to the stored water.

Some baits may require water circulation to keep them from suffocating in static water. At around 8 pounds per gallon, even the largest kayaks are going to limit the amount of water you can safely carry. Add in the weight of circulation pumps and batteries for a power source and you can see whether or not including these baits in your arsenal is a critical choice.

Fortunately, the cooler the water and air temperature, the longer any type of stored water bait system will function to keep bait alive and healthy.

Hobie Livewell V2

After creating arguably one of the best livewells specifically fitted to their line of fishing kayaks, Hobie has now come out with their newly redesigned Hobie Livewell V2. 

The new model sports a fresh color scheme, modern lines and more built-in features than ever before. This livewell is plug-and-play with most Hobie kayaks and includes all the same built-in functionality of their original models.

Upgrades over their prior model livewells include: a high quality sealed marine switch for ON/OFF control, adjustable downspout for easy water level control, and removable tank partitions for keeping live bait healthy and out of hard-to-reach places.

Also included is a high output pump that circulates aerated water to keep bait alive. Plus, the battery and charger are included as well.

One of the best new features is an adjustable downspout for water level control and drainage. Since the tank holds up to 8 gallons of water, adjusting the water level without having to pick up the whole tank is a major plus.

Additional kayak angler-friendly features include three vertical rod holders with pre-marked locations for adding more, a removable tank partition that provides a rounded surface for keeping bait healthy, and heavy-duty straps to secure the Livewell V2 to the cargo area.

MSRP is $450. 

Available at

About Phillip Gentry 823 Articles
Phillip Gentry of Waterloo, S.C., is an avid outdoorsman and said if it swims, flies, hops or crawls, he's usually not too far behind.

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