If you want to attract more fish to your boat and to your baits, or if you’re trying to get picky fish biting again, chumming is a useful and time-honored angler’s tactic.
Also known as chunking, chumming involves scattering small pieces of live bait in the water, laying a scent trail for the fish to follow. You can then disguise your baited hook in the drifting chum, giving you a better chance at a bite.
How to Chum with Live Bait and Frozen Chum Blocks
First, check with local regulations regarding bait—some types are prohibited in some places. After you know what you can and can’t use as bait, figure out what type of chum will work best for you.
Chumming can be done with frozen chum blocks or with fresh baitfish cut into chunks. Using frozen blocks is the more convenient and less expensive way, and they attract a number of fish species (cobia, tuna, snappers, and groupers, among others). Chumming with fresh, cut-up baitfish is messier and more work, but it does draw fish in from a greater distance.
It is also important to select the chum that your target fish will most want to eat. Sardines and herrings are popular chum because they appeal to a wide range of fish, but if you’re after something special, make sure to use their favorite as bait.
Once you’ve checked regulations and selected your bait, follow these steps:
- Frozen bait blocks will need to be thawed and broken up ahead of time. If you opt to use baitfish, you’ll need to cut them into thumbnail-sized chunks or smaller.
- Get your chum into the water. The simplest way to do this is to throw it in handfuls. This works best when there is a strong current to carry the chum along instead of sinking. You should also drop the chum from different points on your boat: first near the stern, then the port side, then the bow, then starboard, and repeat.
Chum can also be placed in a chum bucket or net leashed to your boat, which holds the chum in the water while also allowing it to escape a little at a time through holes in its sides. This is less messy and a bit easier on the solo angler.
- With either method, be careful not to release too much chum or the fish will be full before they even get within range of your hook. Give them just enough bits in a steady stream to whet their appetite, not provide a full meal.
How to Cut and Chunk Baitfish for Chumming
When breaking down baitfish for use as chum, make sure to have a good balance of small, ground-up pieces to larger chunks. Released as a steady stream from a boat or chum bucket, this will help the scent to disperse through the water better and attract more fish.
Once you have released your chum, it’s time to set out your hook baits. Conceal the hook inside a larger chunk of the same bait, and then let it drift with the other chum. Use your hand to pull some of your line from the rod tip, allowing the excess to make a coil beside your boat. This slack will make sure that your hook is moving the same way as the chum, and keep the line from pulling it in a different direction.
When the line goes tight, that means your chumming has worked and you’ve got a bite! Set the hook and go to work. With chumming, you’ll have a reliable angling technique to improve your catch rate from day one.