Sept. 20, 2000, by Gene Kira, Western Outdoor News:
Last week's column contained what was intended as a friendly, gentleman's barb--and a well-disguised one at that--aimed at people who fish with bait. What I did was gently compare the "ease of fishing with live or dead bait" to the implied greater challenge of fishing with artificial lures. I also made what I thought was a humorous reference to those "poor misguided anglers who still use bait" and who in doing so, usually catch more fish than us dumb old lure tossers.
Well! Those innocent, well-intentioned remarks touched off a meat ball of howls from bait anglers, and some of them were pretty darned ungracious, if you ask me.
Soooo...since this is my column, and I, therefore, always get the final say-so in it, here's what I have to say about fishing with bait:
You can drive yourself crazy with technique in anything, even bait fishing. But in general, it's much harder to fish with artificials. It's maybe a million times easier to catch fish with bait, especially live bait, and that's why it's used so much by kids, in tournaments, on party boats, by guides with clients to please, etc.
This is so patently obvious, I don't why I'm saying it (except that we need a column this week, no?). How many charter boats could stay in business without bait tanks? Anyone who still does not believe this should try giving up bait completely for a while. Hurts real baaad, don't it?
Bait fishing, even with circle hooks, is for killing fish, not catch-and-release; to kill one fish (your bait) in order to release another fish, is a piece of oxymoronic illogic that borders on the ridiculous. Sorry, but my brain cells can't stretch quite that far.
Don't get me wrong; I'm all for eating fish, and that, of course, requires that they die in the process. I usually keep one per day for that purpose, and if I'm coming back from a trip, I will take home three or four for the freezer. But I never kill fish to give away, and I almost always eat what I kill. Personally, I don't want to kill something, unless I am going to eat it, even if it's "only" a mackerel, sardine or anchovy.
Back in the days when I fished with live bait from my 25-foot Boston Whaler, I even scooped my leftover dead anchovies from the bait tank, and I ate them. Nowadays, I try very hard not to kill fish unnecessarily, and if I do accidentally kill something, I always at least try to eat it, even such "challenging" gourmet delights as cornetfish, lizardfish, bigmouth bastard, moray eel, and so forth. (I draw the line at the poisonous pufferfish. Leave those botete to the suicidal.)
Bait is for people who have not yet caught enough fish. I was in this category until I met Neil Kelly, co-author of our book The Baja Catch. After fishing with Neil, I found that I no longer cared to fish with bait, and I genuinely didn't care how many fish I caught. Although I'll always catch every fish with joy and gratefulness, I can still die a happy camper if I never catch another dorado, tuna, marlin, sailfish, grouper, cabrilla, or whatever. Now, I get my real thrills from seeing what new species I can fool with artificials.
There's a final, ultimate step in this process: saltwater fly fishing. I've tried and tried to "get it" but, here, the bar is raised so high in favor of the fish that catching even one is often impossible (for me). I don't know if I'm quite ready for that. I've been blessed with a truly great fly fishing mentor, Gary Graham of East Cape's Baja On The Fly guide service. Gary is one of the best anglers I've ever seen, on both fly and conventional. With his knowledge, his eyes, his intensity, and his fantastic casting range and accuracy, Gary can actually fly fish toe-to-toe against conventional lures and often win. He has outfished my Rebels on several occasions. I would never bet against him in a tournament. But on fly, I'm probably the worst student he's ever had. I'm still trying, and maybe someday I'll make it.
And finally, fishing with lures isn't some kind of fanatic religion, even with me. I have absolutely no problem with anglers who use bait. As proof of this, I'm planning to go October 1st with Tony Reyes on his San Felipe panga mothership, Jose Andres. These wonderful boats are Baja's highest altar of catching huge quantities of fish with live bait on heavy tackle. If you want to see what live bait can really do, go on one of these panga motherships. The production of a Mexican panguero with live bait is amazing. I'll be helping to make bait, and I'll be fishing elbow-to-elbow with those who use it. No hay problema, amigos. But, when it's time to wet a line personally, I'll be sticking with the usual artificials and accepting what comes, good or bad. Why?
For me, personally, fishing in Baja with artifical lures rather than bait is simply a lot more interesting and fun.
(Related Baja California, Mexico, articles and reports may be found at Mexfish.com's main Baja California information page. See weekly fishing news, photos, and reports from the major sportfishing vacation areas of Mexico including the Baja California area in "Mexico Fishing News.")