On the best of fishing days, fish will bite anything you throw at them. On other days, they are far more particular about what they’ll eat. Often, it’s the difference between having live baitfish and dead baitfish that seals the deal, but if you don’t have access to live bait, and fresh-caught dead bait isn’t working, anglers can still tip the odds in their favor.

Chuck Griffin of Aqua Adventures in Charleston, S.C., (843-860-1664) said a little sliver of styrofoam can be an angler’s best friend when your intended quarry — no matter the species — turns up its nose at dead bait.

“When all I have is dead baitfish and I can’t get a consistent bite on them, I’ll put a piece of styrofoam inside the baitfish,” he said. “It doesn’t take much, but I like to put in as big a piece as I can. It has a big impact on the rate and the way the baitfish settles and sinks in the water, and something about the difference in how it falls as compared to how a dead baitfish sinks can really get the fish eating.” 

And while you’d probably be surprised at how easy it is to find a little styrofoam in tackle packages or minnow buckets, every angler just isn’t going to have any with them on every fishing trip. That’s when Amy Little of Fine Lines Charters in Charleston (843-345-1310) said she makes sure to add a lot more action to her dead baits.

Hooking a dead minnow under a popping cork is a good bet, Little said, because anglers can work it back to the boat as quickly or slowly as they want, so even though the baitfish is dead, the angler can add the action and change it up by working it at their desired speed.

Dead bait is rarely as good as live bait, but with these tricks, anglers can make a slow fishing day a little better.