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The most productive method to catch snook and redfish is to use live baits, with the scaled sardine being the bait of choice for most area guides. The sardines are a little more difficult to find this time of year and also fairly small. The bait begins to surface at sun-up, making it easier to locate as they flip and shower on the water surface. Look for your bait over grass beds in 3 to 5 feet of water and watch for the diving birds. Anchor over this area and try a chum mix of canned cat food, jack mackerel, whole wheat bread and some anise oil, mixed with a couple cans of water.

A ]- or {-inch mesh cast net would be ideal to prevent these small baits from being gilled. Don't overload your live well, and to supplement it with a good aeration pump will help keep your bait fresh and alive for a longer time.

To use these smaller baits, try using a 1/0 hook (a long shank would be ideal for the mackerel or blue fish) and down-size your leader to about 20-pound test. A 7-foot rod with a limber tip and 8- to 10-pound test line will give you a longer cast. Using two of the smaller baits on your hook also can be productive.

Using this method while fishing with Capt. Frank Bachnik of St. Petersburg produced over 60 catch-and-release snook for three happy anglers from Tennessee. Bachnik also had a nice catch of about 15 bluefish and several small Spanish mackerel while fishing around these small bait pods in the Pinellas Point area of St. Petersburg.

_ J.T. Thomas runs Big Moe sportfishing charters in Largo.