How to keep bait alive and lively?

Dr. Bob Weiss spent the majority of his life keeping people alive; now in his retirement he spends his time keeping his bait alive.

Weiss is a well-known fishing icon in Southeast Louisiana, especially in the Lake Pontchartrain area, and he has many rodeo wins to his credit.

Dr. Weiss give a seminar on live bait at a recent CCA meeting, and I spoke with him about how he handles and keeps his bait alive and lively.

He said using live bait is a no-brainer.

“If someone offered you a rubber hamburger or a real one, which one would you eat?” he said.

He believes that there is no substitute for the real thing, and goes through great pangs to find and keep alive the best bait possible.

“The best bait is the biggest and liveliest you can find,” he said. “That is what you will catch really big fish on.”

Weiss is an expert at keeping bait alive for long periods of time, and also travels long distances with his live bait.

“I was fishing a rodeo in Venice in late May. On Thursday afternoon I picked up some live bait at Rigolets Marina in Slidell,” he explained. “I fished two days with the bait and still had some left over on Saturday afternoon.

“Oxygen is the key. Air contains 20 percent oxygen, and if you put pure oxygen in your bait tank, it has five times more oxygen than air.”

Weiss said setting up an oxygen system is not difficult and will involve a little time and money, but it is a good investment with live bait selling at 35 cents apiece. His rig consists of an oxygen tank, a regulator, some plastic tubing and a diffuser stone.

He uses a local industrial welding supply company for the air tank and his refills, and buys the other items on the Internet at either Aquatic Eco-systems ( or KeepAlive (

The whole setup costs a few hundred dollars.

In addition to the oxygen, Weiss recommended using water from the bait shop for your livewell and keeping it cool using ice-filled Ziploc bags.

He mentioned that if you keep your bait for longer periods of time, you will have to exchange the water periodically due to the buildup of ammonia and other contaminants in the tank.

Robbie Campo of Campo\’s Boat Launch also recommended using water from the bait shop, recirculating it in your live well. He said that if you bring water in from outside, do it slowly, because differences in salinity can shock the bait and kill them.

Lake Pontchartrain fishing icon Allen “Chink” Sumas said he simply uses a 120-quart ice chest with a floating air pump to keep his bait alive.

About Capt. Steve Himel 70 Articles
Capt. Steve Himel has hunted and fished in Southeast Louisiana for over 45 years. He operates Marshland Adventures, LLC and has been a freelance outdoor writer for the past 16 years. He is a member of the Louisiana Outdoor Writers Association.

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