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Captain Joel’s Fishin’ Holes: July 5, 2018

Published on: July 3, 2018

Dead-sticking in July when fish are lazy


In most months of the year we fish with live bait fish or live crabs. For most of the year we are so particular about keeping live bait looking lively on the hook that we even tell our anglers to rest their bait in the water prior to the cast. We enforce the fact that most game fish like dead and gimpy baits — they just don’t like dead and gimpy baits with hooks in them. Live bait can be kept out of the water almost as long as our heads can be kept under the water. So, to sum it up, we take great measures to make sure that when we present a bait to the game fish it looks as lively and natural as possible — during most months of the year. 

In July, however, the whole game changes. You can throw all that live bait stuff out of the window. We mostly use fresh dead and cut bait in July. As the water temperature increases, the gamefish become more lethargic. They are not as hungry as usual because they don’t exert as much energy. They lie around and try to stay in the shade under docks, mangroves and weed beds. They lose their desire to chase bait in the heat. They are much more likely to smell a dead bait, find it and suck it down than they are to chase a live bait down and eat it.

Below are a few types for fishing with dead bait in July which we call “dead-sticking.”

Dead-Sticking Tip #1 – Take a greenback, thread fin, pinfish, finger mullet, small ladyfish, sand perch, tiger minnow, etc. and cut the bait fish’s belly off from the anus to the pectoral fin. You cut the belly off for two reasons: One is because you want to remove the air bladder so the dead bait will stay at the bottom, and two, so you can make the morsel more bite-sized. You’ll also want to cut the tail off the bait fish to keep it from spinning in the current. When using a blue crab, just quarter it.

Dead-Sticking Tip #2 – Your choice of tackle is very important. You should use a #1.0 or #2.0 hook. Try to hide the hook. Push the hook into the meat and up through the skin. When the barb of the hook is through the skin it will hold your bait better and hide it better. Use light monofilament leader and use the smallest split shot you can use to hold your bait at the bottom. If you overdo it with a big egg sinker you risk spooking the game fish in the area on the splash of the cast.

Dead-Sticking Tip #3 – Use fresh dead bait, not sunburned bait, not frozen bait, not even bait that was cut and bled out an hour ago laying on the live well lid. It’s hard to fool mother nature. Game fish like it fresh. Cut and cast. Snook, reds and trout will eat your dead bait in July. Be patient and chum with bait fish too.

For a charter with Capt. Joel Brandenburg of Ana Banana Fishing Co., call 813-267-4401, or visit For information on our kids’ fishing camp, visit