Brining bait is a vital process to all anglers. A good brine firms the bait up and helps keep the scales in tact. Within brining season upon us, let’s focus on the best way to brine bait and achieve long lasting, vibrant, fish-catching baits that save us money by being able to use baits longer.
I’ve been brining baits for decades. I started as a kid with saltwater brines (like everybody else) and as commercial brines came on the market I started playing with those. A few weeks ago, while screwing around in the Bait Lab, I found something that worked flawlessly. Sure, my new recipe is more work than some anglers want to do, but it’s yielding the most vibrant baits I’ve seen.
This new process requires two steps, but guarantees tremendous color, firm bait and killer scales (if you start with good, fresh bait). I’m using herring, but this brine is effective on all meat baits, including sardines, alewives, minnows, anchovies, smelt, ballyhoo, etc.
Historically, I’ve simply used brine (Fire Brine) and went fishing. It worked well and caught tons of fish, but during my downtime I wanted to take my bait to the next level. Recently, I tinkered with something new (Pautzke Fire Dye) and tried to dye my baits prior to brining them.
I was playing with Fire Dye to see how quickly the baits would take color and was shocked how quickly the dye penetrated. It was instant. The main reason I’m using dye and brine together is because I’m trying to design a bait that fish can’t say no to and there’s no question what color it is. I want lasting, lively colors that stand out and scales that pop.
Some of the powder commercial dyes on the market lose their color quickly. Meanwhile, by dying and then brining the bait, the color penetrates perfectly and the brine ensures the bait remains stout throughout the trolling process. Again, this is a little more work, but I want my baits to be supreme out there. And, while this may sound like you’re in for a long, drawn out process, this is easier than you’d expect.
The Perfect Brine (That’s Easy)
Take herring (or other cut bait) and thaw them out. You want to thaw them so they’ll absorb the brine and dye. The main reason why you want to thaw them is because they are vacuum packed. If you try to pull or cut them apart it will rip the scales off.
Find a good container to put your bait in. Add Fire Dye. I use a quarter bottle per 6-12 baits. You don’t need to use more. This is powerful stuff. The best dye I’ve used in decades of fishing. Let the bait sit in the dye for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, you’ll notice the bait takes the color instantly.
Remove bait and place them in the Fire Brine. Let them sit in the brine overnight. Keep them in the fridge or a cool place. At this point, you’re bait will be able to fish anywhere in salt or freshwater and will retain vibrant color, lifelike scales and stay together longer when fished.
Tips From The Bait Lab:
*Prior to dying or brining you can either use the baits whole or plug cut them. This is a personal preference.
*Feel free to add scents to your brine. The baits will take on the scent while in the brine. I like using pure anise or Fire Power (pure krill powder). As baits soak they suck in the scent as well.
*Mix and match your Fire Dye with Fire Brine. So, if you’re using Blue Fire Dye, mix it with Blue Fire Brine. The same goes for chartreuse, purple, red, orange and pink. (Green Fire Brine can be mixed with Chartreuse Fire Dye.)
Editor’s Note: Veteran guide John Albrich has been brining baits for decades. He considers this his best, yet.