Do you love big bluegill?
Storing Your Grubs is Not As Good As Fishing With Them
(Alternate title #1: So You Want to Push Your Spouse Over-the-Edge - Keep Spikes in Your Main Fridge)
As the first title says- bait was meant for fish to eat, for you to fish with and not for you to store for a long time. Now all of us can’t be on the water every day so we need to keep bait between our fishing outings. The key to great fishing - great bait. The key to great bait - use it sooner than later. Alternate title #2 - “How to Turn Great Bait Into Less-Than-Average Bait.”
So with an overview of the mission now you know you need to use that bait while it still has its magic. You also know you need to use it- before it either gets out or your spouse and/or mother finds it in their fridge. It will save your life, and the life of that bait.
Bait is magic when it is lively and fresh. Robust, strong, active and able to take a fine hook - that is fresh bait. As bait is stored, the magic literally drains out. Bait becomes dehydrated and malnourished when kept in captivity for extended periods. The enemies to bait are in this order - temperature followed by dehydration and lastly nourishment.
It is difficult to control the hydration and some bait will just not eat when it is in the adult grub stage so feeding your grubs also is not easy to control. This leaves the number one factor we can control - temperature.
Not all grubs are the same. The main baits for panfish, bream and bluegill you would want to fish with and store are: redworms (yes it is a worm), spikes (maggots) and wax worms. Each of these has its own temperature range. I was told once by a bait store counter worker that it was fine to store the redworms, next to the waxworms and spikes in the same fridge. I never returned there to purchase my live bait and they went out of business shortly after that. Bait stores- learn how to store - er uh, yer main product. I mean, the store is named after the stuff.
Redworms are possibly the easiest, longest-lasting bait to store and these bad rides CAN be kept for extended periods using a compost bin. Redworms feed off of matter growing on leaves, paper and items that are composting back into soil. You can store redworms at a temperature range from 50 degrees to 75 degrees easily so they do well on a basement, garage floor. Every once in a while pitch in some shredded new paper, moistened and then burry some vegetable leaves, parts and left-overs under that. The rule still stands here though - you should fish these rather than just keeping them. If you have the right conditions - you could even raise these as I described. There are commercial worm composting bins that have multiple decks so you can rotate them. Food goes on top, worms travel up into the top trays to feed. These are usually stored in dirt and leaf compost - their favorite. Remove the dead worms to keep the whole bunch happy.
Second easiest bait to store is the Wax Worm (not-so-much a worm). The Wax Worm is really a moth larva, more like a caterpillar. These are nature’s clean-up crew as the adult moths smell old beehive wax where they fly in to lay their eggs. Probably as the bees are getting ready to snooze in the Fall. When the eggs hatch these micro caterpillars work their way through the old wax leaving a new space for bees to rebuild fresh in the Spring. Waxie facts aside, they store pretty well. They do prefer temperatures from 48 - 60 degrees so slightly cooler than our redish worm friends. These are difficult to rehydrate so keep them out of the sun/heat and out of the furnace room. You might get lucky with some wax paper as food, but as with all your bait- fish them while they are sturdy. These are stored in wood shavings usually - mix in some shredded wax paper so they feel right at home. Make sure you keep your wood chips dry or you will end up with a moldy mess. Remove dead soldiers a couple times a week- these can create a problem to the living quarters.
The most versatile fishing bait in the world - the spike is good to store for extended periods - only in the right conditions. These are best stored in a sturdy marriage or strong relationship with your roommate. Or you can use a very cold fridge. What I am suggesting is that there are two issues you will encounter from storing spikes (which are specially-raised fly larvae). Issue one - odor. When stored in numbers, these power grubs will put off a powerful odor. Nothing super-harmful, but when packed in together they will excrete a lot of ammonia. If the container is covered - your cover will have some cracks and this odor will escape into your fridge. Hopefully, this is your beverage fridge and is a spare fridge. Even so, you might end up wiping your beverages off prior to drinking - just a tip. The odor is not a deal-breaker, but you need to know it. Odor comes out of all bait that is stored in quantity.
In humid climates and even after you go fishing in the rain- these grubs might get moist. Once moist, you have a ready-made disaster on your hands. While they seem quite helpless - adding water to a 1,000 spikes is similar to taking the kryptonite neckless off of 1,000 Supermen (is the plural of Superman - Supermen?). Well, they can’t fly or smash steel, but they have the ability to climb straight up walls when wet. I have found them on the walls, in carpets, under floor mats - this is a problem you do NOT want to have. If you live down South or where it is super humid you have been warned. I recommend that you keep them covered and poke many air holes in your cover that are very small - thin as a toothpick. Any thicker and they will climb out those holes.
Big Trouble in Little Grubville- The Formula
The larger the quantity of bait you pack into one container and the longer you store this bait, the more issues you will have with loss, escape, quality and the greater the stank you will create. Knowing the secret formula now, you can do a few things to reduce your loss.
Increase your storage size. Room to roam will help your grub friends from getting claustrophobic - no tight spaces.
Boost the quality of the container and increase the medium (material matter) they have to stay in. It will be well worth it to you to spend a dollar or two extra to get an aluminum or stainless steel bait keeper. Metal containers help to keep things clean & cold much better than plastic. The metal diffuses heat and will wick the heat away from under a pile of grubs. Metal also cleans up easier and also does not retain the odor that plastic containers do.
Put a lid on it. Covered and semi-covered containers help keep beneficial moisture within the container. Your grubs or worms will require different ventilation for each species. Too much air getting in could result in moisture loss. Not enough ventilation is usually trouble as this will prevent your grubs from getting rid of CO2 and which will trap gas. Ammonia can build up and really stress your stored bait. If your container wasn’t meant for storing grubs, you will need to improvise. Either get a hot poker to melt some holes or you might need a fine metal drill bit to cut some holes in your metal container.
Waxies & Redworms do well in containers that are covered with very few holes and will reside even in the standard bait container they are sold in. Spikes will require a larger container and something a little more specialized. They are packed in fine sawdust which could use changing after two or three weeks (if you MUST keep them that long). Spikes when ordered in quantity will require a larger container and are usually shipped in closed bags - nothing you could keep them in for any length of time.
With spikes (maggots) you will need to have the escape-proof container. I don’t mess around with these at home and especially when I travel. With these bad boys on ice, having a sealed container with an aggressive seal is key. I would bring an armed guard - maybe riding shotgun next to you to monitor these prisoners. If you can’t afford 24-hour guard, then follow these instructions for transporting dangerous spikes.
Ice melts. The ice turns to water and that water splashes around when you drive. Once this water comes in contact with the spikes, they become miniature superheroes with abilities to climb straight up container walls, out of coolers and into your vehicle.
If you are fishing and rain is coming- you will want to have the cover handy. Keep these dry or watch them escape. You will be helpless once they get moist and they will scatter - EVERYWHERE!
Once I shared a ride with someone who didn’t keep a tight lid on their spikes. Oh brother! Escaped spikes, which turn into flies - even their spent shell casings, stink. I now use professional bait tubs which come all the way from Europe to ensure they do not escape in my car. Trust me - have a bunch of these crawl out in your car ONE TIME and you will spend whatever you can to prevent it from ever happening again. Put a lid on them that locks down- and lock them up! After they are out- no search lights, no bloodhounds and no posse will help save you. They burrow into carpets, climb into clothes and will do their business.
Follow these measures will help to control heat-build up, keep your panfish food offerings stress-free and assist in preventing dehydration. Improve the quality of the stored bait and ultimately enjoy better fishing - you will catch more fish with active bait.
Do you have anyone you can split an order with - this will keep your price down. Shipping is more expensive than the grubs themselves so you can order 4,000 spikes or 20,000 spikes and the shipping will cost the same around $14 to ship it to any quantity.
If you have 2, 3 or 4 people - then you can divide the price of shipping. You can also work with a couple of local bait stores and the three of you can split it if you deliver the stuff when they need it.
Bait Store... S-e-c-r-e-t-s
I would work with the bait stores to see if you could work something out. You might just be delivering them better bait than their distributors. Often times, distributor spikes are a week old once they arrive and have not been kept cold enough to be what I call fresh. If you buy from stores, you can tell the freshest spikes because they have a dark black dot 2/3 of the way down their body. This black food dot goes back-and-forth when they are active.
Care to sniff the cork sir? Nah - you can tell how fresh they are very quickly by looking for those black dots. The smaller the dot- the older the bait. Another trick bait stores will fail to catch is that they don’t rotate their stock. You can tell this if some of the spikes have the black dots, but yet others have next-to-no dots. This means they took the time to mix in last week’s with this week’s order. If they stored them in the 25-count containers, odds are they wouldn’t waste the time.
While you can buy 25 for $2.00 to $3 most places, the truth is in quantity, those 25 spikes should cost you more like .30 cents.
Once you have the price down that low, now you can start fishing for bluegill like pro bluegill anglers do and like competitors in our national bank-fishing championships do. They use grubs in bulk to attract fish and to get them feeding-active. Reduce your bait costs, take care of the bait you have ordered but by all means- use the bait. When you go fishing for panfish, bluegills, crappies, perch - you should be sprinkling the spot over where you are fishing with spikes. Adding these extra spikes to the formula will entice fish to enter the area, investigate the falling spikes and to quickly take up your hook bait. I hope you find these bait tips helpful.
Look for more pro panfish & fishing tips on my blog and website or contact me with questions and I will be glad to help.