•Catching it yourself
Allen "Chink" Sumas Jr. is featured in the book "Trout Masters — How Louisiana's Best Anglers Catch the Lunkers", and is a fishing legend in the New Orleans area.
When recently asked where he buys his live bait, Sumas chuckled.
"The last time I bought live shrimp, they were 2 cents apiece," he said.
Sumas is a huge fan of live bait, and catches all the live bait he uses.
"When the shrimp season is open, I will trawl for my bait," Sumas explained. "You don't want to drag more than 10 or 15 minutes, and most of the time you will get all the shrimp and croakers you need — and even have enough to give to some of your friends in other boats."
Sumas fishes almost exclusively near the Seabrook Bridge in New Orleans, and trawls in Lake Pontchartrain for his bait.
"When shrimp season is not open, I catch croakers off of the Lakefront seawall," he said. "I use a No. 10 cricket hook and a small piece of shrimp on a Carolina rig and can usually catch 20 or 30 small croakers 3 to 6 inches long — perfect trout bait."
In addition to trawling and catching bait using small hooks, a cast net is an essential tool for live-bait anglers. Learn how to use one, and keep one on the boat at all times; you never know when some great live bait will swim by.
Small minnow traps baited with cracked crab and lowered into a bayou may also produce some minnows and small fish that make great bait.
Catching live bait is not for everyone, and most anglers must rely on bait shops to purchase it.
The Campo family in Shell Beach have been catching and providing live bait to recreational fishermen since 1903. Robbie Campo and his son Robert at Campo's Boat Launch said there's a reason they sell so much live bait.
"Live bait catches more fish than artificial — period," the elder Camp said.
Michael Campo runs the bait boat and Robert (his nephew) helps out.
"There is a lot that goes into catching and keeping bait alive," Robert Campo. "We pull a 40-foot net and drag between four minutes and 15 minutes, depending on the water temperature. We normally catch between 500 and 2,500 shrimp per drag, and some croakers, as well."
Once the bait is caught, the process of keeping it alive begins. The Campos use bait tanks, as well as huge baskets suspended into the bayou where they pump in air and recirculate water in their tanks.
There are many bait shops scattered along the popular fishing areas of South Louisiana. Find one near the location that you fish and get to know it: It can be a great resource for anglers to find out what the fish are biting on and the best locations to fish.
Make sure to tip the person helping you at the bait shop, and you will always get a good count and your bait bucket will have the biggest bait.