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Catch More Fish – Chum ‘em Up

By Capt. Alex Crawford

All game fish respond in varying degrees to chum. For some anglers chumming has become an art form, even a science. One thing is absolutely sure, effective chumming techniques produce more fish. Let’s discuss some of the most productive methods that will make you a more successful angler.

First, let’s understand that there are as many types of chum and chumming methods as there are fisherman that employ them. No one technique is the panacea. The way you choose to chum fish to your boat may be the very best technique, because you have confidence in “your” system and that makes you fish harder.

Over the years one chum recipe has worked for me. Following is my “Only Chum Recipe.”

Supplies & Ingredients:

  • 1 box of heavy duty zip lock plastic freezer bags
  • 1 five gallon bucket
  • a garden hand rake or stirring implement
  • Garden Hose
  • 1 gallon pure pogy (menhaden) oil
  • 1 - 3 pound can whole kernel corn
  • Rice, oats, macaroni (optional)
  • 12 cans Kozy Kitty cat food (sold at most stores 3/$1)
  • 6 loaves of wheat or stone ground bread. Some bakery outlet stores sell old bread for 10 cents per loaf, you must ask for “critter food”.
  • Food processor (Warning: You may burn it up and don’t even think about telling the wife what you need it for)
  • Electric can opener


  • Chop bread in processor
  • Dump 12 cans of cat food into bucket, mixing in bread with small amounts of water. Consistency desired like thick soup
  • Stir in 2 cups of Pogy oil, evenly distributed
  • Take off gas mask and drink one cold beer a safe distance from bucket
  • Fill freezer bags and double bag
  • Lay bags flat in kitchen freezer (Warning: see Food Processor above)
  • Transport chum in designated chum cooler with ice over and under
  • Use ½ bag at a time ( fits perfectly into a standard nylon chum bag)

Depending upon your target species, chum deployment is the next issue. When anchored and wreck or reef fishing for bottom species like snapper and grouper, several methods will work. Hang your chum bag on a stern cleat and allow the current to create a “chum slick” behind your boat. Remember, your goal is to not to over feed the fish, just get them interested in your baits. Many species like mangrove and yellowtail snappers respond extremely well to this technique by coming up in the water column to eat your free-lined baits. Or, send your chum to the bottom on a hand line or use your downrigger ball. Dispensing a small amount of chum periodically will bring Kingfish in for a free lunch. They can’t resist the pogy smell. Neither can nuisance sharks, especially in summer.

Chumming up bait is another auxiliary use for your new chum recipe. All the best live baits will come to chum, like pinfish, hardtails, cigar minnows, ballyhoo etc. You can cast net them or catch them on hook and line. Having the most lively fresh baits sometimes produces when all else fails.

Chumming is a standard, integral part of fishing in many locations, while in others, it is non-existent. Local custom and tradition seems to dictate. For example, chumming snappers and groupers on the coral reefs of the Florida Keys is the accepted, modus operandi, but this procedure is virtually unused in the Panhandle. Sometimes necessity is the Mother of invention. Regardless of where you fish, do some chum experimentation. The results may surprise you.

Years ago while fishing in the British Virgin Islands, I learned a new, simple chumming technique that worked great for triggerfish. An elderly lobster fisherman showed us how to mix cracked crabs with sand to create a really effective chum ball. We thanked our new friend with some fish fillets. He reciprocated with a few lobsters. We all learn from each other.

Variations of the process are endless. Another popular method is called chunking or chunk-baiting. Again, this variation simply induces the fish to eat, by sight or smell or both. I learned how highly effective chunking can be on a tuna trip out of Venice, Louisiana. A friend and I were chasing tuna steaks in the Gulf, out of the mouth of the Mississippi River. The drill went something like this. First, we found a shrimp boat underway and dragging his nets in 200 feet of water. We would motor up behind the shrimper, so that you could literally spit into the cockpit. As we threw chunks of cut poggies directly behind the shrimper’s transom, we pitched a chunk with a 12/0 circle hook tied to 60 pound fluorocarbon on a 20 pound class Shimano spinner. The take was immediate. Blackfin tuna follow shrimp boats for the free by-catch that is shoveled out of the scuppers. We could see the tuna with their big eyes rolling over on their sides to watch the free hand-out hit the water. Gives a whole new meaning to Pavlovs’ dogs. Pumping and winding on Blackfins to 29 pounds will force you to sit down and drink a cold one. Guar-own-teed!

Mahi-mahi is another species that loves to be chunk-baited. Offshore in summer we just park it in a sargassum weedline and start chunking fresh-dead baits. Before long, mahi show up to investigate and the fun begins. Or, a speed-demon Wahoo shows up and wants to play. That’s the joy of it all, just like a box of chocolates, you never know just what you’re gonna get.

Live bait chumming is one of the most deadly of all methods. Many guides have perfected this to an absolute art form. Having the ability to keep large numbers of bait alive and frisky is the key. One of the best ways to catch snook is by live-baiting them with sardines. Virtually all sportfish can be caught in large numbers using the most natural of all presentations, a live bait. One of the really innovative patterns is live bait for billfish. Anglers in the Keys are super successful catching Sailfish on 12 pound class tackle using live Ballyhoo on small circle hooks. Around the worlds’ great billfishing venues, Marlin are being tricked with live baits. The list of live-baiting success stories is only limited by imagination and creativity.

Try chumming on your next fishing trip. You will catch more fish. And everyone knows that a day spent on the water fish catching is a day that does not count against one’s longevity. FISH ON!

Till next tide, tight lines and solid hookups,
Captain Alex Crawford

Proud Member Florida Outdoor Writers Association
Proud Member Florida Guides Association





Capt. Alex has fished the forgotten coast since 1980. Top Knots is a 23' center console Wellcraft with a 200HP Yamaha outboard. First class tackle includes Penn Internationals, Ahab Fin-Nors and Shimano TLDs and spinners. Electronics include Sitex Color bottom machine, Magellan and Garmin GPS, Standard VHF fixed mount and Standard handheld and a Clarion CD Player. All USCG safety equipment is always in serviceable condition and onboard.

Please visit his website – TopKnots.com – for more complete information about chartering a fun and productive inshore or offshore fishing, or eco-touring day on Florida's pristine unforgettable coast.

Contact Info:

Top Knots Charters
436 Hwy 98 West
Apalachicola, FL 32320
Phone: 850-653-1325
Alt: 850-697-9690
Fax: 850-653-1324
Email The Captain
Visit His Web Site



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