Several practical ways in which eel bait can be used by savvy anglers

Tom Keer

Long before there was a “click bait” there was an “eel bait”. They are deadly and many eel fishermen are widely used by night fishermen aiming for striped bass. In my home countries in Cape Cod, a freshwater eel caught at the correct depth is one of the biggest stripers of the season. Bob Rocchetta made history when he caught a 76-pound striper with eel bait one night.

As a species of fish, eels live in fresh water and migrate into salt water to spawn, which is contrary to anadromous fish. The black snakes vary a bit in size with popular eel fishing lure lengths between 2-3 feet in length. Older eels can grow up to two meters long.

1. Eel fishing lure rigs

There are several methods of upgrading eels based on the current speed. If the current is slow, tie the marker end of your fishing line to a rotary knob (a uni-knot works great). Then tie a two foot leader with a test fluorocarbon between 40 and 50 pounds to the opposite side of the vertebra (think again about Uni Knot). Tie the marker end of the leader to a 5/0 7/0 circle hook and you’re done. When the current is fast, tie your fishing line to one eye of a triple vortex. At the rear swing eye, you then tie a three foot leader with a test fluorocarbon between 40 and 60 pounds. Complete the rig by tying a hook (5 / 0-7 / 0 circle hook) to the leader. Add weight to the lower eye. A bench countersink tied between one and two feet from the vertebra on a 20 pound test works best. Go as lightly as you can because if the sinker is hanging in the rock it is easy to break it off. Adjust the weight of the board to match your current speed, with heavier weights working best with stronger currents.

2. Eel fishing methods

Fishing for live eels is easy. The hardest part is to contain these slippery animals. So cool them down by placing them on ice (eels move slower when they are cold). Then, take it with a rag and thread the tip of the hook through the lower jaw and out through an eye socket.

3. American eel fishing techniques

Gently toss the eel towards the target point, open your puff and let the eel swim into holes, along a crack, or in and around rock gardens. If you feel a bump, point the tip of your pole where you felt the hit. The fish will turn around and when you apply pressure they will hook up.

If you’re looking for a big striped bass, give ‘Eel Bait’ a try. They’re better than click baits anyway …

Tom Keer

Tom Keer is an award-winning writer living on Cape Cod, Massachusetts. He is a columnist for the Upland Almanac, co-author of Covey Rise magazine, editor of Fly Rod and Reel and Fly Fish America, and blogger for the Take Me Fishing program of the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation. Keer is a regular contributor to over a dozen outdoor magazines on topics including fishing, hunting, boating, and other outdoor activities. When not fishing, Keer and his family hunt highland birds over their three English setters. His first book, A New England Coast Fly Fishing Guide, was published in January 2011. Visit him at or