Being a Kayak fishing guide here in Sarasota, FL I have to make the decision every day, artificial or live baits...Both can be extremely productive if used properly and in the right scenarios. I usually try to feel out each of my new clients to find out how much fishing experience they have and to see what type of fishing and baits they would be most comfortable with. The most common response to my series of questions is, "you are the captain...whichever you think will work the best!" I wish it were that simple! : ) Generally, though, if someone has less experience I usually start with the live bait and then work them into artificial lures.
Live and/or cut bait is really hard to beat! My go-to live baits are hand picked shrimp and or white bait. When working with live shrimp, I like to mostly tail hook them with a 1/0 or 2/0 circle hook. I then usually free line them. If they are sitting in grass too much, I'll rig them under a popping cork. Leaving just enough line under it to keep the shrimp just above the grass level. Every couple of minutes or so I'll give the popping cork a couple of rips across the top of the water to attract the fish. If the fish aren't on a good bite, I like to pinch the tail off to release more scent into the water. Red fish can't resist it! For white bait (green backs or pilchards) make sure you use the right size hook to match the size of your white bait. They are a delicate bait. You want that bait to swim as naturally and freely as possible. I nose hook them and try to cast them as few times as possible. If you are anchored in a spot where you know fish are there, it always good to chum with the extras. You know what they say... if you chum they will come! For cut bait I use mullet, lady fish, or pin fish. Freshly frozen will work but always try to use fresh fish from that day whenever possible. Then take the whole fish and cut into 1inch chunks and use a 2/0 circle hook or up depending on the fish you are targeting. Soak it in a hole or a spot where fish are known to hang out and wait until it's Fish On!
Being on a kayak you are limited on how much space you have and how to keep live bait ALIVE! Artificial baits when mastered can be extremely productive. Most of the time they are easier to cast and you can catch multiple fish on one artificial bait. Being able to cast farther means you can target the fish farther away without spooking them. When throwing lures you also cover much more water. You are able to reach fish that you might not of had a chance at while waiting for the fish to come to your live/ cut bait...
The first artificial bait I start clients on are soft plastics. These are probably the most versatile of the artificial baits. Soft plastics are easiest to learn and catch many species of fish. Either rig them with a jig head or a weedless hook depending on the bottom of the water you are fishing. If you are fishing in 2 ft. of water or less I would generally use a 1/16 oz jig head or 1/16oz weedless hook. Right now I am still catching tons of fish on shrimp pattern soft plastics like the Montser 3X Shrimp in the most natural colors as possible. As the white bait starts to move more into the the bays in the next couple of months, I will be using more bait fish patterns like the Monster X-Moxe and Exude's shads. I always start out working them slowly and then speeding them up until I find out what speed the fish are chewing. For suspension hard baits I like to use Mirro Lure's MirroDines and Yo-Zuri,s Jerk-Baits. Keeping your rod top down, start out slow with the twitch-twitch-pause, then speed up from there... Top water is by far one of my favorites! Seeing the fish exploding sometimes clear out of the water is an amazing thing to see! I like to use Yo-Zuri's (3DB) and Mirro Lure's (Mirro Mullet). You can make long accurate casts with these lures. As the lure hits the water, always let it sit there until the ripples dissipate, then start your retrieve. These lures are heavy and when they hit the water the fish will move away from the lure and then turn back on it to investigate. If you immediately start retrieving the fish will sometimes keep swimming away. After the the ripples leave, a lot of times the hit will come very soon, just as you start to walk the dog with the lure. But, make sure you always work it all the way back to the kayak because some fish will follow it all the way in and blast it right at the boat. Walking the dog... You must point your rod tip to the water as you continue to make short twitches with your rod tip. Remember, always start out working it slowly and then work it faster until you find that magic speed at which they are eating.