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Author: Burt Carey
Wisdom often accompanies age, so where could you find a larger collection of trout catching savvy than at Social Security Beach.
Everyone knows about Social Security Beach. That's because most states, indeed, most bodies of water with trout in them, have at least one gathering place where mostly retired gentlemen meet for a day or two each week to lounge in nylon-webbed folding chairs at the water's edge, to toss out a hunk of bait on a hook and whittle away the hours talking. Sometimes they might even catch a fish.
While keeping up with family life and politics, medical miracles and who just might buy the hardware store in town may seem to be important topics on these days, the cement that bonds such people is the finned delight they pursue. Even the grumpiest of old men can appreciate a good catch of trout!
They leave the delicacies of fly-fishing and the arduous work of spin-casting to a younger, more-energetic crowd and target hatchery-supported fisheries in lakes, reservoirs and ponds just about anywhere trout will live. While most of these angler gents would seemingly rather spend a lifetime talking about how difficult it is to catch trout, a relative few go quietly about their business and bring home limit after limit of their favorite fish. They are the curve wreckers of Social Security Beach. Their secret? It's the bait they use and how they use it.
Salmon eggs. Worms. Marshmallows. Grubs. That should do it, eh? These days, you can add one heaping helping of Power Bait to that list, and you'd have figured out all of the tackle needs of the most successful trout anglers around. The fact is, these five types of bait catch more trout than all other methods combined.
While Berkley Power Bait is actually a brand name, the words just flow out of anglers' mouths these days as the best way to generically describe a type of doughy concoction born of scientific finagling. It was the research and development department of Berkley that first created mass-marketed, moldable bait that anglers could easily use and trout would eat. Researchers wanted a manmade bait that would mimic the milking and floating qualities of the marshmallow but with an irresistible fish-attracting scent added.
They were successful, and anglers love the stuff. Today lots of manufacturers make something similar to Power Bait, which you can buy as dough in jars or as small nuggets that resemble colored marshmallows.
With any medium to lightweight spinning outfit, Power Bait can be employed near the surface, floated above a weed line, or anchored to the bottom of your favorite trout lake. Your terminal tackle requirement is a single No. 8 baitholder hook or a small jig head.
For floating Power Bait near the surface, you'll need to add a bobber and place it just above the hook on the main line, as close as 12 inches in murky or disturbed water, or longer as water clarity, fish activity, and freedom to cast dictate. Using your fingers, roll a dollop of Power Bait about the size of a small marshmallow between your forefinger and thumb, and then mold it onto the jig-head hook. Or you can use a single nugget. Cast and let the bobber hold the bait in place. The longer it sits, the more the bait milks into the water, spreading its fish-attracting flavor and scent. Some anglers prefer to use a baitholder hook and then add a split shot or two to keep the dough bait from floating.
You can use the same bobber setup to float Power Bait just above a weedline, or you can float the Power Bait from the bottom up. Here's how:
Attach a three-way swivel to your main line, and on one of the remaining rings attach a length of lightweight leader. To its end you'll tie a weight just heavy enough to hold your bait in place on the bottom. In moving water, you'll need more weight than in a lake. To the last ring, you'll attach a leader that is about two or three inches longer than the height of the vegetation in the water, and put the lightweight No. 8 baitholder hook at its ends. Pinch on a ball of Power Bait and cast the rig out.
Here's the part Social Security Beach curve wreckers don't tell: After the weight settles to the bottom, gently - gently! - give the rig a small nudge or two to help the Power Bait rise up and clear the top of the vegetation. Otherwise it sits amidst the weeds below and out of sight of cruising trout.
While it's best to keep you rod in your hand to feel any bites that take place, it's easier to keep the line tight by using a rod holder. Whatever you do, keep a close eye on the tip of your rod for any action.
Want to fish the rig on the bottom? Shorten the terminal leader or add a split shot about 12 inches up the line from the hook. Keep in mind that if a trout feels resistance from a weight, it won't hang onto bait no matter how scrumptious it might be.
The glory of Power Bait is that it adapts well to traditional bait rigs used for generations. Those who use grubs or worms - either night crawlers or the ubiquitous red wigglers - understand those riggings quite well and have probably used them dozens of times.
What makes the game different for these guys is variety. Place a small marshmallow and half of a night crawler on the same hook and you have an injured worm (the milking action of the 'mallow) that will tumble and semi-float as it moves along a lake's inlet stream. Or, if you're not sure how deep the fish are, you can slowly pull the rig across a point or uphill through the water column.
Now sandwich a salmon egg onto the rig and you've got the infamous Shasta Fly, so named by the geriatric bunch at Shasta Lake, California, before the wonder days of Power Bait swept onto the scene. The egg not only gives the rig a spot of color but additional fish scent as well. Fish this rig near the bottom, and you've created for the trout an egg-eating competitor that needs to be attacked.
Of course you'll find the stalwarts who will tell you nothing beats a salmon egg for catching trout. The down side to fishing with meat such as worms, they say, is that panfish will also eat them. If you've an aversion to catching anything but trout or trout-like species, pierce a pair or three salmon eggs onto a baitholder hook and fish the rig on the bottom to tempt trout-like carnivores. Mind you, that includes whitefish!
Experimentation is the key to success with bait. I've had some of my best trout-catching days facing swirling winds and rainsqualls. While the comfort of a truck cab might prove something toward sanity, the hardcore bait anglers among us know when to park our behinds on Social Security Beach.
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