On the Water
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Fast-food Fishing Bait

When conventional bait isn't working, try burgers, hot dogs – even bubble gum
By Dan Armitage
Published: May 1, 2006
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Photo by Edyta Pawlowska/Agency: dreamstime.com
Anyone who has ever attempted to catch and maintain the attention of children ages 4 to 14 knows what a challenge that is.
   
I know, because I conduct fishing seminars for kids at boat shows across the nation each winter. To help hold the kids’ attention, I present my kid-oriented fishing clinics in front of a huge aquarium. It’s filled with gamefish common in the waters around the city that is hosting me.
   
Being around all those fish – and watching what they eat – has given me unique insight as to what fish prefer and how diverse their diets can be. When I started tossing chunks of soft pretzels or pieces of hot dogs over my shoulder and into the fishing tank, kids and fish started paying attention fast.

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Small balls of bread or chunks of hot dogs make great impromptu baits for sunfish.
Photo by Dan Armitage
Bubble gum bait. Over the years I have tossed every type of food – from Gummy Bears and cashews to beef jerky and jerked chicken – into the fishing tanks. And I have rarely had an offering refused by the gamefish within. I’ve rigged Slim Jims as stick baits and used popcorn as surface poppers. One of my favorite tricks is to single out a kid who’s preoccupied with chewing a mouthful of bubble gum. I ask the perpetrator to spit the gum into my hand, where I knead it and roll it into an anatomically correct worm imitation – or as close to a worm-like form as I can get with a piece of Double-Bubble. The crowd goes wild with laughter.
   
Tossing that into the tank, the bright pink bubblegum-worm sinks slowly, undulating much like the real thing, rarely making it to the bottom of the tank without a swipe or three from hungry bass, walleye, bluegills or trout in the tank.
   
If the worm-shaped wad of bubble gum does eventually settle to the bottom, a whiskered, bottom-feeding catfish gobbles it up. All of this delights my young audience.
   
When I hold up a package of plastic fishing worms and show them the bright pink bubble-gum color that is so popular among pro bass anglers today, the kids begin to catch on. Sooner than most adults, I might add. The kids begin to realize that fish will eat a lot of things that we find appetizing ourselves.
   
I recommend to children and adults alike in my audiences that they try bologna, hot dogs, hamburger and bread or buns, as fishing bait. And not just when they run out of traditional offerings like worms and minnows, but as alternatives to those baits when the fish just don’t want conventional live bait or prepared concoctions from the bait shop.   

From soap to cheese. Believe it or don’t, soap is a popular bait for catfish! Commercial catfish anglers will bait their multi-hook trot lines with chunks of Ivory or Cashmere Bouquet, which ooze a seductive scent and last all night long without coming off the hook.
   
Corn has conquered more than its fair share of catfish too, and is famous for catching carp and trout to boot, especially if you chum an area beforehand by tossing a few handfuls of corn into the waters you intend to fish.
   
And one of the best baits possible to use for trout and catfish is cheese. Cheese is so productive that some popular prepared-bait producers offer cheese-flavored formulas.
   
I say, use your own chunk of cheddar, sliver of hot dog or ball of bread. And watch that bobber!

When Dan Armitage isn’t running around the country conducting fishing and outdoor photography seminars, he works as an outdoor writer and radio show host in Ohio.

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