Liquid Love On The Go

Whether Transporting, Storing or Actively Fishing, Portable Baitwells Keep You Hooked Up

Capt. Steve Dougherty November 25, 2009

It should come as no surprise that shore-bound anglers have a huge disadvantage when compared to their fellow brethren equipped with modern vessels. That’s not to say that as a shore-bound angler you can’t be successful—you just need to have a few tricks up your sleeve.

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Live bait aeration kits are simple to install and can easily transform any container into an effective baitwell. Photo: Steve Dougherty

While understanding the precise migrations of predators and prey will no doubt keep you connected, being armed with the freshest offerings is many shore-bound angler’s secret to success. Sure, curious cobia will inhale a properly presented bucktail, sly snook will engulf a DOA imitation, and fat flounder will pounce on a curly-tail jig, but what if you could fish a live eel, spunky shrimp, or chubby bull minnow under the same scenarios? Chances are your frisky offerings will greatly increase your odds of success. Maybe you get a kick out of fooling intelligent predators into striking a brightly colored piece of plastic, but many anglers fish with faux forage simply because it’s the best available option. If you had a baitwell full of trusty live offerings would you still go fake?

With basic plumbing skills and affordable hardware, the sky is the limit.

When it comes to land based fishing, I know that the odds are in my favor when I’m armed with the liveliest offerings possible. Some days I may purchase a couple dozen frisky baits at a bait shop, while on others I may catch bait myself and transport the valuable offerings over long distances to secret honey-holes. Whatever the case, it pays dividends to have the proper tools for the trade. Being well prepared almost always leads to successful fishing, whether landlocked or not.

Over the years portable baitwells have transformed from simple units powered by AA batteries, to sophisticated systems that utilize special features and 12-volt battery banks. The most rudimentary form of a portable baitwell is a Frabill Flow Troll. This self-aerating baitwell is a staple among shore-bound anglers and has been widely used for decades. If you’re not familiar, this 6-quart bucket has a flow-through design and self-locking door that provides plenty of clean and aerated water to keep shrimp, crabs, and small fin-fish alive for hours. With no batteries or wires to worry about this floating “shrimp bucket” is as simple and stress free as portable baitwells get.

The next step up is a 5-gallon bucket equipped with a battery-powered aerator. Marine Metal Products (www.marinemetal.com) offers a wide variety of aeration systems and is probably most well known for their compact Bubble Boxes. These quiet and powerful units utilize weighted glass bead airstones and suffice for large quantities of shrimp and fin-fish. When it comes time to up the ante with larger offerings that require better circulation you will need a more advanced system. Keep in mind that with a powerful pump you can easily turn any container into a portable baitwell. It’s important to remember that portable baitwells differ from the livewells found on fishing boats. Portable baitwells typically work on a closed system that re-circulates existing water, while plumbed livewells with thru-hull fittings have a continuous flow of raw water. If you’re fishing on a steamy hot day and utilizing a closed system, you may need to periodically exchange the water to keep the temperature from getting too hot.

When you desire to store and fish larger offerings like mullet, hardtails, sardines, bunker or pilchards, you will need an even more powerful unit. Innovative do-it-yourself types create effective and efficient baitwells out of nearly any and every storage device. With basic plumbing skills and affordable hardware, the sky is the limit. Captain Dave Pomerleua (www.madsnooker.com), a veritable wealth of knowledge when it comes to enticing the states largest linesiders, can be seen driving around with his custom trailer with twin 200-gallon baitwells. While this may be overkill for most, with a bit of an imagination you can devise a plan that no game fish will thwart. While Pomerleua likely utilizes a high-powered pool pump, for smaller applications Rule (www.rule-industries.com) and Seachoice (www.seachoice.com) offer aeration kits that can turn any tank into a portable baitwell. With provided suction cups these units attach to the bottom of your bait tank and can effectively aerate 5 to 30-gallons of water. An adjustable spray nozzle on the end of a piece of tubing can be custom cut to fit in any tank. These kits are wired for a 12-volt power source but are also available with cigarette lighter adapters so you can rely on your vehicle’s power source to keep your forage fresh and frisky. Whether you’re wade-fishing, surf-casting, or scouting your favorite pier or jetty, being equipped with frisky live bait will surely turn the tides in your favor.

Kayak Revolution

With the increasing popularity of kayak fishing, it comes as no surprise that manufacturers are designing portable baitwells for this eco‑friendly application. Shimano (www.shimano.com) and Liquid Fishing (www.liquidfishing.com) are two of the trusted brands that produce complete kayak-specific baitwell systems ready to use out-of-the-box.

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