Nothing fools a fish faster than live bait. Unfortunately, keeping live bait alive is a pain in the butt. Recent advancements make it easier to operate a livewell, but there are still plenty of tricks to learn.
1. Hobie’s Livewell V2
This spring, Hobie released a new system inspired by a long tradition of West Coast live bait fishing.
Hobie fishing manager, Morgan Promnitz has been through plenty of homemade livewells. “The new Livewell V2 saved me three trips to the hardware store,” he jokes.
The system has an integrated, chargeable battery designed to run the Livewell all day. A powerful pump is plumbed to run through any kayak’s scuppers. Rigging is as simple as dropping the livewell into the kayak, plugging in the battery, hitting the power switch and pedaling forward to prime the pump.
2. Wilderness Systems Thrive Baitwell
The self-contained system includes a chargeable lithium battery with USB outlets to plug in a phone or other electronics. The Thrive Baitwell comes with partitions to keep bait in reach and a spring-loaded lid making it easy to use both hands to manage the bait.
Wilderness Systems’ team angler Frank Ruczynski has been using the Thrive to chase striped bass, gray trout and flounder in salt water and bass and panfish in fresh. “I can fit a limit of panfish in the Baitwell,” he brags, keeping his catch alive avoids having to tote a cooler and ice.
3. YakGear Createwell
Aftermarket accessory company YakGear designed the Cratewell to double as a livewell or tackle storage system.
Chris Castro of No Limits Fishing has been using the Cratewell to store shrimp and baitfish for trout, flounder and redfish. The soft-sided, PVC bag fits in a standard gear crate and holds seven gallons of water with ports to host two aerators. “When I’m not using the livewell, the bag folds out of the way and the crate doubles as gear storage.
Setting up these new systems might be easy, but keeping the bait alive is still a challenge. It takes a fine balance of water flow and oxygen to sustain fish. To increase the dissolved oxygen, Chris Castro drops an oxygen tablet into the Cratewell. “If I see lazy baits I suspect the oxygen level is low.”
In the hot Texas sun, he is careful to monitor the water temperature. “I keep a cup handy to periodically dump cool water into the tank,” he says. Castro says shrimp can be particularly finicky. “A sea sponge in the bottom of the livewell gives the shrimp something to cling to when the water is sloshing.”
If you’re a newbie to fishing with a livewell:
The first thing Frank Ruczynski noticed is how the added weight affects the kayak’s handling. “It takes some getting use to,” he admits. The sloshing water will cause the boat to roll or jerk. “I cut the fill tube inside the tank to lower the water level and reduce weight,” he says. Remember, a gallon of fresh water weighs about eight pounds.
Out in California, Promnitz’ fortune or failure depends on the quality of his live bait. He takes care to remove the bait from the Sabiki hook with a dehooker and catch the bait in a small dip net instead of chasing it around with his hands. “Reduce stress on the bait to improve their color and spunk,” he says.
The most important tip for storing live bait, Promnitz says, “Keep the lid closed so the bait doesn’t jump out.”