What is on the business end of Auenson's line varies very little. The vast majority of the time it holds a Carolina rig with a live croaker. The rig is simple — 18 inches of 30-pound-test monofilament.

"I don't use any special line, like fluorocarbon," says Auenson. "I just didn't see any difference and it's a lot cheaper."

One end of the leader holds a 3/0 kahle hook and the other a simple swivel. Auenson threads a barrel sinker on the main line from the reel before tying it to to the swivel. The sinker is usually 1/2-ounce in weight, although a 3/4-ounce sinker is used when the water is too rough to allow him to get his boat close to the beach and he has to make long casts.

Auenson has nothing but good-humored contempt for fishing with live shrimp instead of croakers.

"Shrimp fishermen catch little fish all the time," he says with a knowing grin. "With shrimp you got to go through too much trash to catch a mess of trout. You get croakers and catfish. You catch catfish on croakers too, but not as many of them."

Hardhead catfish draw special attention when he catches one. Like a gladiator unsheathing a sword, he un-limbers a short aluminum striker baseball bat and clobbers the hapless fish with a ringing "ping" before unhooking it.

"I don't know what they are good for," he fairly spits. "I guess they are good for something, but I don't know what."

Auenson's love affair with croakers as bait didn't always exist. In the later 1980s his main live bait was live cocahoes, although a lot of people were starting to use live pogies. He knew of some "old timers" who fished with croakers, but they weren't available for purchase. They would cast net for them in interior waters.

Auenson is a firm believer that the shift by fishermen to using more croakers was caused by fish changing their "biting style." He offers up the example of everybody using shad rigs for many years, and then solidly shifting to the use of soft-plastic grubs. "Why?" he asks, not really expecting an answer.