The Guide’s Secret Bait to Catch Big Halibut

By: Rye Phillips

My job is to catch clients once in a lifetime halibut. During the summer I’m based in Southeast Alaska and people come from all over the world to experience world-class halibut fishing here in Icy Strait near Gustavus, which is the nearest commercial airport.

Our fishery, like those in the Northwest, BC and other parts of Alaska revolve around scent. Better scent trails lead to more frequent strikes. The longer you leave your bait on the bottom the bigger your scent trail gets. This mixed with our extreme tidal swings, allows anglers to set bait with the scent directed toward the deep or any place fish may be holding, traveling or living. This is one of the many reasons why scent is so important anywhere you fish for halibut.

Due to it’s consistency to produce fish I turn to Pautzke Halibut Nectar as the vehicle we use daily to enhance the scent of the our bait. In the halibut world scent rules the deep. When my bait has been on the bottom for several minutes and no longer has much natural scent in it the Nectar and Liquid Krill I’ve soaked into those baits continues to seep out and dictate smells that lure halibut in. This is something I’ve done for several years now and do it daily because it works. In my line I have a short three-month season and don’t have time to experiment. We need to concentrate on what works daily. This always does.


While many use herring for bait I normally use salmon bellies or pink salmon, but this method works on any cut bait. In this blog I’m going to detail exactly what I do to prepare bait, catch monster halibut and create the ultimate scent trail. This method can be practiced anywhere halibut are available.

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Rye Goes Deep Halibut Brine

Step 1: Pre Cut Bait

In the photo below you’ll see two cut pieces of bait (pink salmon steaks). This is when you pre-cut baits so they are ready to fish when you get them out of the bucket next. You can also use herring, salmon bellies, etc, but if there’s pinks around I choose them first.


Step 2: Bucket Up

Place pre cut bait into a five-gallon bucket. This bucket (shown below) contains two whole pink salmon cut into steaks and a half pink salmon for the larger halibut. As a rule large baits catch big fish.


Step 3: Nectar Soak

Pour in a bottle of Halibut Nectar to the bucket of pre cut bait. If I have a lot of bait I’ll pour in two or three bottles to submerge the bait. I also dump in a bottle of Liquid Krill as krill is a valuable scent in the ocean. In fact, I’ll sometimes use other Nectar colors if I run out of Halibut Nectar or can’t find it locally. It’s primarily the same scent.

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Some anglers only let the bait soak a few hours. However, I’ll let it soak overnight. It’s important that the bait absorbs the Nectar so it continues to seep out as long as it’s on the bottom. After the soak I leave the bait in the bucket and use as needed.


Editor’s Note: Rye Phillips is an Oregon and Alaska based fishing guide. For more info on his charters please visit