Catching Live Bait
It really doesn't matter whether you are fishing freshwater in Georgia or the saltwater areas of the Big Bend, Panhandle, or the Atlantic Coast of Georgia or Florida. The key to many of these areas is the ability to catch and/or procure some live bait for the species you are targeting.
There are a number of methods that many people use, so let's start with the standard throw net. I will be posting a video on this topic at some point after my recovery when I get my guinea pig to show us the good technique. Throw nets range in size from small 3 foot mesh nets to 10, 12, and 20 foot monsters. I personally have never been able to throw one much bigger than an 8 footer as the bigger ones require some unique "loading" techniques this old man is unfamiliar with.
A second technique is the use of a Sabiki rig. These can be purchased at most stores near the coast that sell saltwater fishing tackle. It consists of several tiny gold hooks (some are naked and some have little feathers). They come in different hook sizes and have a swivel on one end to attach to the line and another snap swivel to attach a sinker to get it to the bottom. You simply drop it to the bottom, crank it up a couple of turns and jig it up and down until you feel the baitfish hitting the rig. You will sometimes catch multiple baits on one drop. These can be used when fishing over reefs, around buoys, and in the passes of these areas we fish.
One of the problems you run into when using a Sabiki rig is that when stored all those little tiny hooks seem to get hooked in any and everything on the boat. Two years ago I purchased a Sabiki Pole that is specifically made for these rigs. The line actually runs through the hollow pole and the weight will sit on the front end of the pole so that all the hooks are inside. Pretty ingenious idea and it has proven invaluable on our trips at catching live bait.
Many people also use pinfish or baitfish traps that are loaded with dead fish and simply put in the water near your destination, picked up in the morning, and you are on your way with plenty of lively baits for the day. Occasionally the traps will get stolen so you have to be careful where you put these. You can purchase a float to help you find the trap and put your name on it, but that won't stop a thief.
The last method we have used when time is of the essence and we don't feel like we have quite enough bait is to go by or call the local bait boats. They can be found in larger commercialized areas like Panama City Beach and Destin, FL. You simply drive up and tell them what type of baits you are looking for depending on the species you will be targeting, back up to the barge or boat, and load them in the bait tank. For $20 you will have enough pinfish or cigar minnows to usually last the day.
I would also suggest that you take some backup frozen bait like cigar minnows, squid, or any other type of bottom fishing baits you like to use. Most of the local bait shops and places like Walmart will carry plenty of frozen bait and just about any type you need. The last thing you want to happen is to run out of something to fish with on a long day of bottom fishing. As a side note, don't throw away any "trash" fish you catch as they can also be used as cut back in the case that you run out of live bait.
Good luck and I hope this helps. Get out there and catch a big 'un. Make some memories and make sure to take some photos and send them in.
Coach R. Alan Richardson