© St. Petersburg Times, published September 30, 2002
When using live baits, it's important to hook the bait in a way that maximizes performance. Whether it's free-lined, suspended under a cork or worked under a tight structure, placing the hook in the right part of the bait gives it a more natural presentation.
Large baits such as threadfins or scaled sardines can be hooked through the mouth and out the bridge of the nose. This will keep the hook from working into the side of the bait. Anglers who run the hook under the nose know it will sometimes work into the gill plate. When a fish strikes, the hook will dig deeper into the bait and not the fish.
White baits are too small to go through the mouth. Go under the nose and use a small piece of jig placed on the shaft of the hook to keep it in place. If using a cork, place the hook through the pit of the pectoral fin. This makes the bait swim upside down in circles, giving it a wounded and erratic presentation that makes fish strike. Keep the line tight between the rod tip and the cork so it won't sink to the bait. If this happens, the bait will make a mess of your rig, causing the line to break when putting pressure on the fish.
Shrimp hooked through the tail will cast farther and are easier to skip under docks. They also look like they're trying to escape when you move the rod tip up. Below a cork, hook the shrimp under the horn, avoiding the dark spot.
-- Doug Hemmer charters out of St. Petersburg. Call (727) 347-1389.