Wild Shiners, the Bait for Florida Trophy Bass

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Wild Shiners, the Bait for Florida Trophy Bass

By Captain Chris Shepard
Looking for a big fish technique in bass fishing?
Feed them nature’s candy, wild shiners or shad are the most productive and efficient way of catching trophy size bass. Take these steps in to consideration and make this work for you.

Properly Handling of the Bait

Golden Shiner Fishing

Golden Shiner Fishing

Handling of the livebait can be very important. One of the key items is water temperature, it should make slow changes, if any, from the time shiners are placed in live well, until they reach destination to be fished. Plenty of oxygen and aeration must be provided also. Bass rarely hit bait that can not escape from them, although there are times they will. If your bait is dieing after only a few minutes on the hook, check the water temperature difference between the lake and your livewell.

Tackle, Rods, Reels and Fishing Line

Shiner Fishing Rod

Shiner Fishing Rod

Using proper tackle to match bait size can increase number of hits. For example, if the bait is three inches long, stay with 4 ought or less on your hook size. For shiners 8 to 10 inches long, use 5 and 6 ought hooks. Use weed guards only when necessary in heavy cover. At least a seven foot heavy
action rod, we prefer 7-1/2 G-Loomis GL2. It has a soft tip to help you cast distance and back bone to turn a trophy when needed. Spool them up with 20 to 30 lb. Berkley big game line when fishing cover, grass lines, trees etc.
It, sounds a little over powering I know, but it is all about being prepared when that big one hits. During the winter months the bigger the better when it comes to wild shiners size. Summer months we tend to change tactics, down sizing in bait is key once the feed changes to shad. The tackle should also be down sized, like the line. We convert to 40lb Stren Superbraid and here is the key, attach a 17lb clear Berkley big game leader to it. It will give you an edge over the other anglers.

Hooking of the Live Bait
Shiners and shad live longer if hooked properly, one option is to hook them through the bottom lip, then through the nostril. Care must be taken not to hit between the nostril, this is where there brain is located. Careful not to break the neck of the bait, when slipping the hook upper ward pass the bottom jaw look for the small holes (nostrils) once located hook should penetrate with very little pressure. This technique makes the shiner swim in a downward motion, and works great for trolling. Hooking in the dorsal fin will make the bait swim up and away from the line or bobber, thus creating more action, but the bait will wear down much quicker and die sooner, so wait until you are anchored to try this technique. You can hook the shiner in front or behind the dorsal
fin. Each method allows the shiners to be steered under, over and around vegetation to exact points.

Bait Presentation
When casting live bait, remember the object is to get them to the fish in perfect condition. Underhand pitching or side arm casting prevent hard impact with the water, thus helps to keep all the scales intact. Your cast or pitch should more of a lob then a cast. Scales that are knocked off leave white spots on your bait that can be seen under water as well as makes your bait weak. Take the time to hit your target the first time without repeated casts. Just remember you are not fishing with artificial bait, so let the shiner sit and work for you, do not try to work it.

Bobbers, no Balloons
Keep the bobbers as small as you can, large enough to keep up with where and what your shiner is doing. Two, three or four foot depth in most lakes are good to keep free movement of your shiner. As far as bobbers vs. balloons, “just stop using the balloons”. Even if you saw Roland Martin using them on TV, it does not may it right. The balloons in most case pop, come untied or break off, either way it’s really bad for the environment and the fish. Some say bobber color matters, personally we like what ever your favor color. Remember most lakes and systems in Florida have fairly stained water.

Shiner Fishing Rig

Shiner Fishing Rig

We covered a lot of this in our Field & Stream article in July 2005, Free lining works seems to be the most popular, it’s great in running water or for trolling. Carolina rigging in running water will normally blow your mind, it requires constant contact with weight in order to distinguish hits. Depending on the water speed, 1 ½ oz. weight with 3′ to 4′ leaders.

It also works better in deep water or high skies days when fish do not want to come up. Our all time favorite still has to be the drop shot rig. In most cases you are fishing grass mats, grass lines or some kind of structure. The drop shot rig allows you to position your bait in a specific location and not have the shiner swim out of the strike zone.

Anchoring Basics
Always check wind direction! If you know where the fish are, be sure to set the boat up properly first time around in order not to spook them. We use two methods of anchoring. One is using covenantal anchors, one on the rear with another off the bow. Have adequate rope and heavy enough anchors to hold. Scope, scope and more scope, the magic to getting the anchors to grab is having enough rope out. A good rule of thumb is three times the depth. Four feet deep, let out 12 ft of rope for each anchor.

Florida Shiner Fishing

Florida Shiner Fishing

The other option for anchors are to use poles instead of anchors. Yes, that’s right PVC poles, in most Florida lakes poles can be used and there always areas that you can not use them, but day in and day out there easier on your back and a lot less messy.

Hook Setting Technique
Most people tend to wait to long and set the hook to hard. It is true women in the boat tend to prove that the strength of the hook set is not the most important, often good skills are better. Mono fishing line will stretch, so the  most important thing to do is retrieve all slack until you have made contact with fish, do not let the fish feel you reeling. With the rod tip down set the hook over head, while maintaining pressure with a bent rod all the way in keeping hook firmly in place.

Good fishing!

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