How Fresh Is Your Bait?
By Pete Tesch
From as far back as I can remember, upon my return from every fishing trip the majority of my kit was cleaned, reels serviced, bait boxes washed out and the rest tidied and made ready for the next time. Bait wise this was even more important to me than clean tackle, it would have to be the freshest that I could find, maggots would have to be of a good size and well cleaned, casters to would be run as late as possible and any other baits such as meat would only be frozen once. If there was any left over from a fishing trip, then it was thrown in and not used again.
On the other extreme, my regular fishing partner Steve Smith will not discard anything until it is totally useless and unusable. Just take a look inside his tackle box and there you will find all manner of ancient items of tackle such as ledgers from his school days and if he ever loses one it is all I can do to stop him from entering the river to look for the lost item! Bait is the same, hemp is left in his car for weeks, you can imagine what that smells like and every grain wears a furry overcoat. Other baits will be repeatedly frozen and thawed until it is all used up or unusable. This reminds me of an incident which happened a short while ago.
Steve and I were fishing the Kennet but because of prior engagements we both had to leave early, by that I mean late afternoon. Moving up and down the river we had both taken a number of fish and now it was nearing the time for our departure. I had run out of the bait that I was using so rather than opening another packet, made my way to where Steve was fishing. He was still trundling as I stood next to him for a few minutes and this is where I made a big mistake. I asked Steve if I could ‘borrow’ some of his bait. I could run it through his swim as I stood here next to him; I know he wouldn’t mind as we’ve done it before more than once. His hand immediately disappeared into his bait bag. Slowly it emerged and he passed it to me. I gasped “Oh Flip!!” or words to that effect. Into my hand he deposited what I presumed was the remains of a sausage only this one was almost liquid. I cringed as it touched my skin but hey I’m a big boy now as my baiting needle slid into the dripping mass through my fingers, I detected a snigger from over my right shoulder as the slime hung from the Fox Size Two hook. How on earth was I going to cast this thing with a centre- pin? Well I couldn’t, or wouldn’t try. With a very gentle swing it entered the river just beyond the rod top. Once on the bottom I did not dare to try to move the bait for fear of the hook slipping out for there was no way I was asking for another piece. Well I suppose you can guess the rest. After only a few seconds I felt the slightest resistance, an immediate strike and the rod was up and bent over. At 10lb 2oz’s the air was blue but not from me you understand, something about “the last laugh!”
It is now a bit of a standing joke between Steve and myself and I suppose because we are a bit long in the tooth, we are sometimes reluctant to change our habits. We all have our own ways of doing things and have confidence in what we do and I for one will still clean my tackle and tidy up after each trip but perhaps not quite as fastidiously as I used to. I still use the freshest bait available to me but after the trip related above, I sometimes wonder, does it really matter?
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