So what is the best way to present live bait? The best way to present live bait is really pretty simple. The best way is the natural way. You want your bait to appear to be as normal as possible. For example, if you're fishing in your favorite stream, you want is to seem to the fish that the worm that you're using for bait has just crawled out from under an underwater rock and is now tumbling naturally with the current. Or if you're lake fishing, you want the bait to appear as natural as is possible. The more natural your bait looks, the better results you will have.
What you want to avoid is the ever popular "worm ball". This is where a fisherperson takes a worm and hooks it over and over on a hook that's much too large, thus creating the "worm ball". Although small fish may fall for this, large ones won't. I see all too much of the dreaded "worm ball" on our rivers and streams. It's just not necessary, not to mention not productive and completely unnecessary.
A person should employ a "gang hook", especially when fishing with the good old American worm. A gang hook is simply two small hooks tied in tandem. With some research, their fairly easy to tie yourself, or you could purchase them from someone like JRWfishing.com, either way they're the perfect way to present a worm that looks as natural as is possible to look while still having hooks in it.
So what if you're fishing with live bait, but not worms? The exact same principles mentioned above apply. You want the bait to look as natural as is possible. If it's a minnow, you want it to look like a wounded minnow. If you're using a leach, you still want it to look like a leach when it's the water. The same goes for a crawfish, for example. You're going to catch more fish, the more natural your bait looks. It's that simple. Hook size is also very important with most freshwater fish in North America. And most people use hooks for live bait that are entirely too large.
For example I've hooked and subsequently landed many rainbow trout that measured from 18 inches to 23 inches on size 10 hooks! For those of you who don't know, that's a small hook. Most people would look at a size 10 hook and say, "what are you going fishing for, minnows?" But when you employ fishing equipment such as gang hooks, that's the size of the fishing hook that should be used for much of your freshwater fishing. When a worm is rigged on a fishing hooks as small as size 10, the hooks are barely detectible, and that's what you're looking for. If you use gang hooks, you will catch more fish, there's no doubt about it.
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