By Dave Anderson
We are conditioned to think to certain things as baitfish. We can't help it, it comes at us from all angles, reading, watching videos, attending seminars... we hear the same things; bunker, mackerel, sea herring, sand eels, peanuts... having these terms jammed down our collective throats has built up a wall of sorts, it has created a profile of baitfish that is now pretty much a forgone conclusion--it's like we already know what they eat and they don't eat anything else.
Well, you can toss that right out the third floor window.
Big fish are focused on sustaining themselves and survival. It is a fact that they are opportunistic, so yes they will absolutely feed on herring, bunker, mackerel, squid and anything else that happens to cross their paths, but those baits can't be relied upon to sustain them on a daily/nightly basis. So the things that are always present become the most common menu items--these are the things that the worm-soakers and the crab-dunkers are catching; scup, fluke, choggies, sea bass and--most importantly--blackfish. Blackfish are abundant, they are territorial and they are reliable. And I believe that tog in the 8- to 16-inch class are the top sustaining 'baitfish' that trophy stripers in southern New England feed on. Redefine bait and think about reliability--when you focus on what's reliable you take luck out of the equation, and that puts you on a faster track to getting that big fish.