Market bait, for those that may not know, is nothing more than dead shrimp. You can purchase market bait at most bait stands and marinas throughout the state for a lot less than you can buy live bait. You may have to ask for dead shrimp or market shrimp in some areas, but it's all the same when it's on a hook.
"Everything that swims in saltwater eats shrimp," said Captain Owen Langridge with Big "O" Charters. "Fish are a lot like humans in that regard. Think about what you eat or drink on a daily basis... bread, milk... the staples... and that's what market bait is to fish – a staple."
Langridge says he always carries market bait when he fishes as insurance because he knows it can often turn the tide his way when nothing else seems to work. Although it's the smell of market bait that attracts fish, especially redfish, Langridge says don't consider market bait as the saltwater equivalent of catfish stink bait.
"I used to think the older and nastier smelling the shrimp the better they would attract fish," he explained. "That's not the case. In winter you may not have any choice but to use some old shrimp from your freezer, but during the spring try to buy the freshest market bait you can get because it smells more like live shrimp when it's fresh."
Langridge often double-dips when fishing with market bait by tipping a black and chartreuse jig with a dead shrimp. This does two things for him. The black bait gives him a bait fish can see in dirty water, and dead shrimp gives him the smell he needs to seal the deal.
"I fish market bait three ways," Langridge continued. "First, I always try it on the bottom by just tipping a jig with a piece of shrimp. Then I try tipping the same jig but fish it under a cork. I also fish market bait on a Carolina rig, but I usually don't do that unless I'm fishing deeper areas like the rocks at Southwest Pass down at Venice or some of the rigs."
Although he sometimes hooks up with trout on a jig tipped with market bait, Langridge concluded by saying that he most often uses it when he's after redfish. Trout tend to be sight feeders, but redfish are sight and smell feeders.
"If you're after redfish, you may not ever need market bait," Langridge added. "But I would much rather have it in my boat and not need it than leave it back at the dock and wishing I had it with me. Grab some and throw it on your ice. It will be the best insurance you ever bought."