If there is one piece of equipment that I think makes bait fishing more fun and enjoyable it is bite alarms. If you have never used one you are missing out. Perhaps it become a Pavlovian response but I absolutely love mine.
A bit alarm makes fishing so much more fun because it adds an audible excitement to the strike, but more importantly it allows you to divert your attention from staring at the rod. You can cook some steaks, tie some rigs, talk to your buddy, interact with your kid, enjoy the scenery and just enjoy yourself while keeping an ear out for the alarm.
I cannot count the number of people who have told me that they don’t have the patients for fishing. The truth is that they don’t have the patience to sit holding a rod waiting for something to happen, but the do have the patience to enjoy camping or picnicking by a lovely lake or river next to a bunch of rods with bite alarms.
I have taken dozens of first timers, kids and novices fishing and a good bite alarm can make all the difference in whether they have a good experience or a bad one. When I was a young boy I could never sit still, and when my dad took me and my older brother King Salmon fishing in Alaska our guide noticed that I just couldn’t stay in my seat and wouldn’t pay attention to my rod. So, instead of barking at me to sit still and pay attention for the next three hours he pulled a $.50 brass bell out and clipped it onto my rod. I was able to have a great time being a kid out on the water with my dad and then come scream back to my rod when I heard that brass bell ringing. That bell turn a potential fiasco into a great fishing trip.
You can buy all sorts of bells to clip onto the tip of your rod. They are cheap, which is good because I lose and break them constantly. The best type are the kinda that attach with an alligator clip because you can take them on and off with one hand and they don’t break as easily.
Just a couple thing to remember about bells. Don’t cast while they are attached to your rod. Eventually you will forget this rule and then watch your bell go flying off into the water.
Additionally, take them off before reeling in. Sometimes the rigor of reeling in will cause the bell to shift into the path or the line and get tangled which can snap your line in a fight or just be a big headache.
You can buy a half a dozen bells for $5 and if you use them for very long you will start to find yourself responding to the sound of a bell like a dog to a can opener. Careful, carp and catfishing bite alarms are very additive.
Electronic Bite Alarms
These cost a lot more than a bell soldered to an alligator clip but they do so much more. Bite alarms measure movement or vibrations in the line itself rather than the rod tip.
This difference allows them to register positive bites or “drop bites”. A positive bite is when a fish takes your bait and swims toward you. Instead of the line going taunt and the rod tip bouncing the line goes slack. The hanger or bobbin on an electronic bite alarm detects that slack by acting as weight on the line. When the line goes slack the hanger or bobbin drops and the line moves through the alarm causing it to go off.
When fishing out in open water fish can just as easily swim towards shore as away from it. This is call a “drop back bite”. If you don’t have an electric bite alarm with a bobbin you may not figure it out until after the fish has spit the hook or gone and gotten themselves wrapped around a log.
Another advantage is that electronic bite alarms are loud enough to wake you up. I have a job, a wife and a kid. I don’t have a lot of free time. If I want to go fishing all night now days I can’t just sleep till noon then next day nor does that sound like as much fun as it use to. With electronic bite alarms I can get some sleep while fishing all night.
I pitch my cot right by my rods, turn on the bite alarms and hit the sack. By the next morning I have landed a ton of trophies and still managed enough sleep to function the next day. Electronic bite alarms let me do a lot more fishing than I could otherwise.
The volume also just increase their effective range. I can go to the bathroom or go to my car and hear if something grabs my line. I can also spread my rods out along the bank more as well and not limit my self to fishing all my rods in one spot.
If you don’t want to wake the neighbors with your bite alarms set to max volume you can buy wireless bite alarm receivers. You carry the receiver around and it alerts you with sound and/or vibration when one of your alarms goes off. This is a good option when not everyone in camp wants to wake up to wake you reel in your fish.
Bite alarms out perform the old bell in their discrimination and sensitivity. Higher quality bite alarms can be set so that each alarm has a different tone so you can tell which rod is got the hit. The alarm can also be set to produce a different tone, pitch or frequency in order to communicate the magnitude of the bite, the speed of the bite and whether it was a positive or negative bite.
You can also get wind resistant swinger arms for your bobbins to prevent the wind from giving you false alarms and LED bobbins that glow at night so you can see you alarms and what the line is doing.
Electronic bite alarms are screwed into the top of banks sticks or rod pods. Thankfully all bite alarms, bank sticks and rod pods seem to have the same thread (3/8″ BSF).