Sprats as Bait

Sprat is a generic term for any type of small fish – although the European sprat (Sprattus sprattus) is a specific species of fish. Sprats were once a popular food fish in the UK, and seem to be undergoing something of a revival with many supermarkets now selling this species fresh on their fish counters, often under the name whitebait. Although little used, sprats are cheap and easily available and can be a useful and effective sea angling bait.

Use of Sprats as Bait

Sprats are easily available from supermarkets and fishmongers.

Using sprats as a bait to fish on the seabed for demersal species such as cod, bass and whiting will meet with mixed results at best. Sprats are not particularly oily and while a feeding fish may take this bait catch rates would be better by using an oily fish such as bluey or mackerel or a more common bait such as ragworm, lugworm or peeler crab. However, sprats can be very effective when float fished. They can be an excellent bait when suspended under a float for all manner of species that live and feed in mid-water with mackerel, pollock, garfish and wrasse all taking this bait, probably due to the visual attraction of this species and the similarity to many of the small fish species which predatory fish naturally feed on. As stated the best place to buy sprats is from supermarkets which have fish counters or from fishmongers. Sprats are very cheap with £1 buying between ten and twenty individual sprats depending on the size of the fish.

Sprat Bait Presentation

Sprat Bait
A large sprat presented on a hook.

Larger sprats presented under a float to catch species such as pollock can have the hook placed through their mouth and then out through the underside of the fish. as the picture above shows. This will create a bait which is presented in mid-water in an attractive way for passing predators to attack. Many anglers secure larger sprats to the hook with additional bait cotton or elastic to ensure that the sprat stays in place on the hook. Smaller sprats can simply have the hook passed through their eyes or behind the head which will allow the sprat to hang naturally in the water.