It’s pretty obvious that some baits will wash out their scent faster than others after casting out. As a consequence, the more experienced anglers are constantly monitoring the time their baits are left in the water. Baits leeching out heavy scent are likely to be found by fish very quickly, which is why so often a just cast out bait gets a bite within the first few minutes. If you take notice, the longer a bait has been out, the less likely it is to generate a bite.
Less experienced anglers often leave baits out far too long, and without realizing it, are fishing baits that fish will either struggle to find, or completely ignore because the scent trail is too weak to follow up. So what baits need more frequent changing, and how long should individual baits be left before re baiting?
Blow lug, their bodies full of juice and blood, are often punctured when baiting up releasing a fair proportion of the body fluids even before casting out. If not punctured, worms can also burst during the cast due to air pressure, or on impact with the water as the weight splashes down. The skin holds some scent, but this will wash out quickly, so the maximum amount of time a blow lug bait should be left out is between 10 and 12-minutes. Experienced anglers tend to change them every 10-minutes. Tougher yellow tails should be left no more than 15-minutes. Even big gutted black lug baits are best changed every 15-minutes to maximise the power of their carried scent. Beyond this time, the scent is weakening rapidly making it much harder for fish to locate the bait.
King ragworm is, frankly, an over rated bait for general fishing. It has a toughish body, but lacks real scent. These wash out quickly and should be changed every 10-minutes or so. Even big baits using several rag will fully wash out in less than 15-minutes. The magical white rag, said to get bites when nothing else will, is not overrated and is a cracking bait, however, when used as an individual bait its scent power has pretty much dissipated after 10-minutes or so. Maddie rag are mainly a sight bait, with little scent for genuine ledger fishing.
Peeler crab carries lots of scent, but needs, ideally, to be cut in to sections and secured with bait elastic to the hook to form the bait. Presented like this, as the bait hits the seabed, there is an explosion of scent, but this rapidly weakens. However, because the bait is wrapped in bait elastic and the flesh more condensed, this weakening scent trail takes longer to disperse, so a properly prepared crab bait can be left for up to 20-minutes without dramatically reducing your chances of a bite.
Mackerel strip is another explosive bait, though again it quickly washes out, but the fats and oils in the flesh do so in a more gradual manner, so again a small fish strip can be left for no more than 15-minutes, but a bigger fillet intended for rays or huss, can be left for 20-minutes. Wrap the mackerel with squid to keep the scent from exploding but give a gradual scent dispersal rate, then a squid wrapped mackerel combo will last for up to 30-minutes.
Whole squid with the head still on is another bait that will last for up to 30-minutes, but if you cut it in to sections, then it halves the time the bait will fish effectively. Squid strip has an effective seabed life of about 10-minutes. Leave it longer and your chance of a bite will reduce by a factor of 50% for every 5 additional minute it is down there.
Also very good for longevity is a section of bluey. This Pacific saury has a very high fat and oil content, so the wash out time takes much longer. If you watch when fishing bluey, after casting you will see a slick of oil appear on the surface to illustrate just how oily this fish is. In fact bluey can, for big fish like conger, huss, rays and tope when used in half or whole body sections, be left for over 30-minutes and still remain effective. Even smaller chunks, fillets or strips will remain good for more than 15-minutes.
Sandeel presented with the tail and head removed will leach out scent fairly evenly without a sudden explosion. This has an effective life of 15-minutes, maybe 20-minutes maximum. After this its ability to draw bites drops like a stone. Sandeel strip is a 10-minute bait, no more.
Shellfish are explosion baits. Mussel is highly effective for the first 5-minutes, but after 10-minutes the juice has pretty much washed out and only faint scent remains, so change it. Cockle and razorfish again give off a good scent for the first 5-minutes, but this then reduces rapidly and should be left no longer than 10 to 12-minutes.
We also need to be aware that as the bait is descending through the water column to the seabed, the action of it passing through the water is washing the best of the scent out. This wash out is lessened in shallower water when the bait has less distance to fall. In deeper water, even big baits have 20% of their scent washed away before they even hit the seabed. This has a say in how long the bait should be left to fish. This especially applies to boat anglers.
The other factor is tidal speed or surf action. If the speed of the tide is fast at seabed level, then the bait will wash out quicker. In lighter tide flows, the wash out effect is lessened. The same applies in surf conditions. In a gentle surf the bait is moved less, so retains its scent for longer. When a bait is constantly being bounced around, lifted and dropped in a heavy surf, the wash out effect is faster.
Getting back to the more experienced angler, they will use their wristwatch and fish baits for specific set amounts of time similar to those given above, then religiously change them. This is another reason why they so often out. This is a key reason why these anglers often out fish others around them, but also get bites when others catch nothing. Try it! Make a conscious effort to keep your baits oozing scent and you will see a substantial increase in your overall catches.