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August 15, 2007

Shrimp Tales

Expert tips for catching seatrout the old-fashioned way - on live shrimp

Free-Line a Shrimp for Big Action
Of course, trout won't bite if your shrimp aren't frisky, and Ward says keeping them cool is of utmost importance. The shrimp expert advises anglers fishing in hot weather or hot water to place sandwich bags filled with ice cubes in the bait bucket. He also claims that some of his shop's customers who keep copious amounts of shrimp in larger livewells find success maintaining bait's health by placing a 7-pound bag of ice in the well.

That's good advice for those who free-line these bite-size baits. Though simple, the method requires a feathery touch from an astute angler and a lively bait to induce jarring strikes.

Like many youngsters, Capt. Scott Sommerlatte (979-415-4379, www.scottsommerlatte.com) of Lake Jackson, Texas, grew up catching trout on live shrimp and quickly learned that free-lining baits around Texas jetties was a great way to tangle with Ol' Snaggletooth.

Simply hook a shrimp through the horns with a small, short-shank live-bait hook or a No. 8 or No. 12 treble hook. (In windy conditions, try hooking the shrimp up through the tail for easier casting.)

Sommerlatte attaches the hook to a short 20-pound fluorocarbon leader with a loop knot to induce maximum action. He places a tiny split shot, "just enough to keep the bait from running to the surface from the fish," atop the leader. Above the shot, a small red, green or yellow glass bead acts as the finishing touch on this A-B-C rig.

"When you move it through the water," he explains, "the bead kind of clicks against the split shot, and it also provides some nice color and visibility."

Let that shrimp swim down into the cracks and crevices of the jetties or other structures, and hang on!

These days, Sommerlatte concentrates on fly-fishing almost exclusively, but he still reverts to his upbringing now and again and tosses a live shrimp. What's more, he takes pride in passing on the thrills shrimp and trout gave him as a youngster.

"If I'm taking a kid fishing, you can bet your rear I'm going to have a bait bucket full of shrimp," he exclaims. "It's such a visual experience. It just can't be beat!"

And who knows, it just might produce a fat, 13-pound trophy for some lucky, young angler. Or maybe even an old one.