by George Poveromo
 Illustrations by Victor Cormier

The lowly shrimp may be the most commonly used bait south of the Mason-Dixon line. Aside from being fairly cheap and easy to keep alive, these prolific crustaceans rank high on the menu of many popular inshore species, including grouper, bonefish, tarpon, snook, seatrout, redfish and jacks. Here are several ways to rig a live shrimp for fishing in different situations.

1 If you intend to drift your shrimp in the current or suspend it below a float rig or popping cork, you'll want to take advantage of its natural kicking action, which often pushes the strike button of many game fish. The best way to do this is to hook the shrimp through its carapace. However, it is important to avoid the shrimp's stomach and pancreas, which appear as two translucent dark spots. In version one, the hook is threaded crosswise through the carapace, just under the tip of the shell.

2 In version two, which will provide more casting distance and make the shrimp easier to retrieve, the hook point is threaded under the "chin" and exits through the center of the carapace, just behind the "horn" and between the vital organs. When hooked in this way, the shrimp won't live as long as it would if hooked crosswise through the carapace.

3 When casting distance is important, as it can be when trying to bait a cruising fish, it's best to hook the shrimp through the tail. This will place the heavier head section forward while reducing the chances of the shrimp tearing off on the cast. Also, removing the shrimp's tail fan will emit a scent that attracts fish. After breaking off the tail fan, thread the hook through the center of the tail until the entire shank is hidden and push the point through the underside of the tail. Now push the tail over the hook eye and knot to hide them. A baitholder-style hook will help prevent the shrimp from sliding off the hook.

4 To make a weedless casting rig for fishing in grassy areas, break off the tail fan and push the hook point all the way through the tip of the tail. Pull the shank out of the tail and invert the hook, so that the point faces the underside of the shrimp. Lastly, embed the point of the hook in the tail meat.

5 Yet another way to rig a shrimp for basic casting and drift-fishing is to run the hook through the tip of the tail, either crosswise or up through the center of the tail. The latter keeps the hook point clear of bottom snags. Many experts prefer this method because it allows the shrimp to kick freely and puts the hook in a good position for striking when a game fish eats the bait head-first. The tail fan can be left on, or removed to provide additional scent.