• Can you expect to catch more jewies of this calibre with soft plastics or live baits? Image: Kevin Savvas
    Can you expect to catch more jewies of this calibre with soft plastics or live baits? Image: Kevin Savvas

FOR those who want to catch Mr Big this autumn, and by that I mean a big jewfish, the perennial question is always live bait or lure? Obviously both techniques work, but will one technique give you a better chance of catching one than the other?

If you read the marketing hype on the packets of soft plastics these days you could convince yourself that lures will out perform live bait every time. With some of the blurbs splashed across them, novices can be tricked into thinking this stuff is fact not fiction. I concede that in the right scenario and the right hands, lures will outfish live bait, sometimes. In saying that, put live bait in the hands of a true pro and watch the fish succumb! Lure anglers would shiver with jealousy.

As much as I hate to admit it, live bait reigns supreme. A bait or lure is a lie told by a fisherman to a fish. This is a popular quote from Fisho's own David Green who usually makes this reference to lures. I tend to expand on this a little and refer it to bait as well. I mean, a dirty big 8/0 will go a long way to marginalising the concept of free swimming prey. And let's put things into perspective; a live bait is a dead ringer for the real thing! All we need to do is convince the fish the live bait is in fact an easy meal and not connected to 30lb nylon. Doesn't seem so hard does it?

The drawback to using live bait is the anchoring process. Not many anglers drift live baits for jew but it is a gun technique. You sort of get the best of both worlds: the mobility of searching out fish as with lure fishing and the authenticity of using the real deal. I tend to find the anchoring process to be a little stale and outdated. It obviously still works, because a million jewie anglers can't be wrong, but there's a better way these days. If you can take the successful aspects of both techniques then surely you will be better off.

Let's look at plastics; the very definition of how they work can translate to live bait. I know this sounds a little imaginative, yet the whole idea is to create the illusion that a live prey item is an easy meal. Alternately, you have to convince a fish that a piece of plastic moving in the right manner is in fact "real". You're behind the eight ball before you even start .... but the concept is still similar; we want fish to react to our live bait and our lures in the same way. Under this premise a lure can surely be referred to as live bait. But will it out fish the real thing? It's hard to comprehend it will when one is flesh and blood and the other is petrol-chemical based or scented food starch!

Thanks to modern scents though, this line of demarcation is blurred. There's no doubt that scents like Gulp and S-Factor are closing the gap, and the way fish react to lures is changing. Fish seem to be more aggressive, more willing to hit a lure or they are getting tempted to strike outside of peak fishing times. This is a positive thing for lure fishos. But a fish will still hit live bait similarly. Free tucker is still hard to turn down, even for us scavengers.

In the end, live bait is still live bait. It smells like live bait, looks like live bait and swims like live bait. It also sends off tempting distress signals. Most of these things can be recreated in a laboratory but the essence of life is lost. I can't see how lures will ever out fish the real thing on a consistent basis. But I'm more than keen to try and find out for myself!

My current stats tell me my catch rates are still comparative with lures compared to live bait. But where live bait is the clear-cut winner is the overall size of the catch. Upgrading my lures hasn't really had much impact. More on this later...

If you want Mr Big and you are not a lure convert already, learn to use live bait. It will be your best chance. For those of us who prefer to take the road of most resistance, welcome to the land of a thousand casts!

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