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Bucket brigade: ensure your baits arrive alive.


As evidenced on bridges and fishing piers everywhere, plastic 5-gallon buckets manufactured originally for the construction and food industries serve most ably in the transport of bait. Any type of bag, bowl or pail can work in a pinch, but adding ice, water or oxygenation requires more refinement.

Galvanized steel buckets with holes drilled in the side or lids can still be found in some garages, but since the 1960s most bait containers are plastic. Keeping baits alive in buckets has likewise evolved from simply changing out the water, to oxygen tabs, to aerators, and of course just about all vessels larger than a johnboat come equipped with built-in livewells.

Many manufacturers offer a large variety of bait bucket models, with bigger companies like Plano and Frabill (now owned by Plano) hawking everything from a simple $2.99 plastic bucket to multi-purpose models costing well over $50. Buckets are available in many configurations. Some may be clipped to a belt.

Some are watertight for keeping scented baits in liquid. Some buckets are foam-lined; some ventilated.

You'll see spring-loaded trap doors, lid-top tackle compartments, and other features. You can even buy a lid separately with an aerator that snaps onto some bucket sizes.

If you plan to keep baits in a non-aerated container for a short time (transporting from the tackle shop to a dedicated livewell, for instance), do so with good, clean water and try not to overcrowd the baits. You might add inexpensive O-Tab tins which emit some oxygen as they dissolve, but for routine use it's really better to use an aerator. These devices are inexpensive and easy to find.

One common style of aerator pumps air through a plastic tube to a weighted stone at the bottom of the bucket where bubbles are released into the water. Portable units fit on all but the smallest buckets as well as larger containers such as coolers, keeping in mind that the more water and number of baits, the more aeration is required. For something as large as a 20-gallon cooler, a high-volume, 12-volt spray-aerator is a better choice.

Depending on what model you select, aerators run on batteries (usually D cell or 9-volt) or come equipped with leads that clip to a 12-volt car or boat battery. Some may include a 120-volt adaptor to keep baits alive overnight in the garage.

Marine Metal Products, a major player in this market, offers a variety of aerators, including a "two-way" Bubbler which runs on two D cell batteries or a 12-volt source, via a cigarette lighter plug. At the other end of the lineup, the company makes one of the smallest bubblers, a Baby Bubbler powered by two AA batteries, suitable for quick trips from the bait store to the boat.


What about complete bait-transport systems? Two top-of-the-line bait buckets are the six-gallon 1469 Aqua-Life Bait Station made by Frabill ($59.99, and the five-gallon Bait Dipper ($74.99, The Bait Dipper, which I own, has a small tackle box attached with Velcro to the top, two accessory hanger clips, a detachable flashlight, a view-through lid and--best of all--a handle attached to a perforated bait strainer that raises baits to the surface so you can pick out which one you want without a dip net or getting your hand soaked.

Another trend in bait buckets: At least one builder of roto-molded "performance" cooler offers a series of portable baitwells with maximum insulation and durability. The Engel Live Bait Coolers start at $74.99, including aerator equipment.
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Title Annotation:FS SEMINAR: IN SHORE
Author:Kelly, Doug
Publication:Florida Sportsman
Date:Jun 1, 2014
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