Get chummy with fish

October 5, 2013

Many folks are familiar with “baiting a hole” for catfish. Striper anglers, including myself, do essentially the same thing to bring on the striper/hybrid bite.

Baiting a hole, or “chumming,” can be used for several species of fish in freshwater, and can make the difference in getting the fish to bite.

Chumming is using some kind of bait, food, or scent that will either attract or entice the fish to bite.

Many catfish anglers will use soured maize or milo to bait a hole for catfish. The catfish have a great sense of smell and are drawn to the baited hole. Carp anglers may toss corn in an area to congregate fish. Saltwater anglers generally use diced or ground up oily baitfish/fish leftovers to bring in feeding fish.

Saltwater striper anglers may chum so heavily at times they create essentially an “oil slick,” which the fish follow into the boat. Stripers do have a sense of smell even though they are mainly sight feeders.

Chumming in freshwater is not much different than saltwater. Most striper anglers/guides will cut up dead baitfish and toss it in an area where the fish are expected to be close by.

Many times if the fish are not biting and you can see them on your graph, you may be able to change their mind with a little temptation (chum).

Chumming an area may bring in other species that you may or may not want there. Chumming with cut or ground-up baitfish may bring in other species such as sand bass, gar, drum, and catfish.

You do not want to over chum an area as you may be feeding the fish that you are trying to catch. You want to entice the bite but not fill them on chum.

This is where a meat grinder works well. The ground-up baitfish is not substantial enough to get a bite on, but will still offer a good scent.

Some anglers will take this ground up dead bait and freeze them in blocks and place these in areas to be fished. The block of frozen stuff will start to thaw and release the chum attractant as it melts.

If you have a lot of current or the wind is high, chumming may not be effective. Chumming is generally more effective when you can keep the chum in the general vicinity of where you are fishing.

If the wind is up, you may opt to use a chum dispenser hung over the side of the boat. This will release the chum and the fish may follow it to the boat.

Chum dispensers are widely available down on the coast as the primary market is there. There is very little market inland for these dispensers. You can, however, order them from Bass Pro or Cabelas.

I have in the past ground up baitfish with a meat grinder and freeze the results of the grinding in old margarine/ice cream plastic tubs. You can then dump the block of frozen chum where you want it (as discussed above). You can also put some smaller blocks of frozen chum in a piece of PVC pipe with small holes drilled in the side.

If you hang this over the side the boat or on the anchor rope, the chum scent will disperse as the chum melts. These methods work. However, you may have to have the consensus of the household to store ground-up baitfish in your freezer.

Generally, my preferred method is to use shad that I have on the boat the day I am on the water. I keep a cutting board and knife to cut them up and toss them up stream so that they drift down under my boat. I also may use a pair of stainless steel scissors and cut the baitfish up over the side of the boat.

Right now while fishing for hybrids I usually follow the tossing of the chum with a thrashing of the surface of the water using my landing net or rod tip. This simulates surface feeding fish and the chum, scales and fish oil you just put in the water is what the fish would normally see in a school of surface feeding fish.

The bigger predators wait for the injured bait to fall for an easy meal. This is very effective at times for stripers or hybrids but don’t be surprised to see a catfish on the end of the line every now and then.

Many of the hybrids/stripers that you may clean after a day’s fishing with chum will have those cut up chunks of baitfish in their stomachs. That ought to tell you that they were definitely interested.

Chumming is another tool that is used by most every striper/hybrid guide I know. If you have never tried it, give it a shot. I promise you it will help you to put more fish in the boat.


Water temperatures on Granbury have fallen to the upper 70s with the passing fronts. With the cooling surface temperatures, turnover is in process on Granbury and most every north Texas lake.

Granbury black bass continue to be good to 4 pounds on soft plastics. Sand bass are good on most days on jigging slabs at mid-lake and the lower ends. Wintering birds are sure to arrive this month and they will help the anglers.

The tilapia on Squaw Creek continues to be good to excellent on worms and crankbaits. These vegetarians must be hungry as they are feeding on most anything thrown their way.

The recent front slowed the sand bass and striper fishing on Possum Kingdom Lake. Benbrook hybrids are fair to good on live bait near Richardson’s slough and near the Dutch Branch opening.

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