Chumming with clam bellies is a technique of catching bass where you
can see high numbers of bass and sometimes BIG bass as well. It is also a controversial
method of striper fishing because if youre not careful you can "gut" hook
many of them. It has been around for many, many years, but in the last 10 years or so, it
has reinvented itself. Clam bellying for bass is easy, there are a ton of fish around and
anybody can do it. You can chum bellies at any bridge, inlet of marsh bank and one thing
is for certain, it works. Clam bellies to bass is like candy to a baby
BE PREPARED. When it comes to bellies you can use fresh, but most of us use
frozen clam bellies. You buy them at your local tackle dealer in various size containers
and if you are fishing an entire tide, its best to get the frozen 5-gallon can. Ask
the dealer to take them out and set them aside early in the day so theyll be
somewhat thawed by the time you head out after work. You would be surprised how long it
takes a 5-gallon block of ice to thaw, but after all it does depend on the temperature of
the day. You can use smaller cans if you wish and you can use a chum pot.
METHOD. The key here is to anchor up tide of any structure youre fishing.
You want to float the bellies back into the structure whether its a bridge or sod
bank because that is where stripers lay in wait of an easy meal. Many of the old timers
dont use chum pots, but rather squeeze their bellies while many of the newcomers
prefer the chum pot. If new to the game, use the chum pot and fill the pot with the
contents of the frozen clam bellies. Tie off the chum pot to a rope and place under your
boat. This now releases scent and pieces of clam back into the structure getting the fish
roiled into a frenzy below the waters surface. You then use a fish-finder rig with a
24-inch length leader and fish right in behind the boat on the bottom. Stripers come out
of their hiding place and follow the scent right up to the boat. This action can be fast
and furious with boats catching up to 50 bass per trip on a good day.
If you prefer to squeeze you bellies, heres how we do it. Take your frozen clam
bellies and place them in a 5-gallon bucket. Add to this seawater and allow to mix to
together. Then you ladle out the "soup" youve created giving them just the
juice and no clams. You want to fill the water with scent and drive them crazy. Meanwhile
take a whole clam belly and holding it over the side, squeeze the fluids out of it and let
it go. Dole out some more juice and when the first clam you placed in the water disappears
do the same with another. What youre doing is getting them worked up with the juice,
then tempting them with only one or two clams at a time.
After releasing a few clams, place one on a hook and release it back into the current.
To do this correctly it is important you release your line with the baited clam no faster
or slower than the speed of the current. Too fast and there is too much line in the water
and you wont feel the strike and too slow the bait will fight the tide and rise to
the surface. When you feel the bite strike back. Dont let bass run with the clam
bait, if you do the bass will swallow the bait and hook and you now have a gut hooked fish
and probably a dead bass even after releasing what you think is unharmed.
TACKLE. The best tackle for chumming bellies is a rod with a soft tip for
presentation, but with enough backbone to set the hook into the maw of a big bass.
Ive found the Seeker BA85-7 or Fenwick 708M to be the perfect rods for this type of
fishing. These are one piece seven-foot rods, made by the Seeker Rod Co. of California and
Fenwick of the Pure Fishing Co. in Spirit Lake, IA. Right off the rack these rods are
superb. The Seeker is rated for 25 to 40-pound test lines and the Fenwick for 12 to
20-pound test lines.
Chumming bellies is a way light tackle anglers out there can enjoy bass action, but
remember if you are fishing around bridges there is a lot of current and even if you do
manage to land the fish, you may tire him out needlessly after a tough and prolonged
battle. Save the light tackle for open areas like marsh banks or inlet bars and eddies.
Around bridges you may also have to use six or seven-ounce sinkers and add the fact you
have to "turn" the bass your way, gain complete control and keep the fish away
from structure, youll be glad you stepped up in tackle. For a reel to compliment my
rod choices, I use the Ambassadeur 7000 level wind reel, spooled with 25 to 40-pound
Berkley Big game line for the heavier rod and an Ambassadeur 6500 UC for the light tackle.
RIGGING. Many anglers may opt for fish finder rigs and some of the real sharpies
prefer to just use just slip sinkers and hooks. The hooks I have found most effective now
are the Daichii hooks. These hooks absolutely blow away the competition no matter what
brand you use. They are constructed of 80-carbon steel and remain sharp no matter how many
fish you catch. The two models I would recommend are the Daichii Circle hooks in model
D82Z or a live bait hook like the D18Z in sizes 3/0 to 5/0.
Why two styles of hooks? Well circle hook shave been proven to produce less gut hooked
fish because the hook turns inside the mouth of the fish and hooks them in the corner jaw.
The only drawback to these hooks is youre not supposed to set the hook with them.
Just put the rod in the holder, tighten the line and sit back, when the rod bends the fish
is hooked. That is the reason I opt for the later style D18Z because I like to hold the
rod, feel the strike and set the hook myself. These hooks do cost a few pennies more but
are well worth the money.