St. Augustine man’s Mate keeps bait in live state

St. Augustine Beach angler develops contraption that’s cage within a cage

Posted:  May 28, 2011 – 6:22pm  |  Updated: May 29, 2011 – 12:00am

Jim Sutton/The Times-Union

Ron Anselmo with his Live Bait Mate designed, he says, to give anglers a better way to keep bait frisky.

Ron Anselmo had a passion and a problem.

“I’ve been fishing since I was old enough to hold a pole,” he said from his St. Augustine Beach home this week.

His problem — keeping bait fresh and lively — had dogged him for almost that long.

So a couple of years ago he sat down, scratched his head and decided to build something better.

There were four challenges that stuck in his mind.

First he wanted something that did a better job of keeping finger mullet or frisky shrimp from jumping out. He also wanted something that was self-draining.

“You know how on bait buckets you see that one big mud minnow or shrimp you want and you just can’t grab him?” he asked.

But the main criteria in his quest for a live bait system were that it supply constant aeration and that it have no differential with ambient water temperature.

He worked up something for his own use. He liked it. And that was that.

But as he fished his way around St. Johns and Flagler County waters, fishing folks began to notice his gizmo. “Ten out of 10 people would come up and ask ‘What’s that thing?’ And then, ‘How can I get one?'”

So he spent a year tinkering, improving it and trying to figure out how to make the numbers work — to make it economical enough to attract buyers and still make a few bucks on the side.

Thus began the Live Bait Mate.

Basically it’s a combination bait pen and bait bucket. Large versions of bait pens have been around for a while. They’re hung off docks and meant to keep large quantities of live bait ready for fishing trips. That not the purpose of the Live Bait Mate. “It’s a daily outing bait-keeper,” he said.

From my own, unscientific tests, the cage does keep shrimp and mud minnows very alive when tied off to a cleat on the dock. Side by side with a normal plastic, flow-through bucket, it did a better job. The bait gets a lot more water circulation and I noticed how hot the water got was in the plastic floating bucket — especially in the afternoon sun. There were noticeably fewer “floaters” in Anselmo’s rig.

So it’s a cage, not a bucket. The mesh is nylon coated. A collar made of closed PVC pipe floats the contraption. It has a lid that stays shut with a bungee-type clip, much like that of a crab trap. It has a lanyard and handle for dropping off piers or dragging behind you wade-fishing.

One neat twist is that he’s designed a cage within a cage.

The inner cage pops in and out of the larger one is constructed of smaller mesh. So if your mud minnows are small, they could be kept in the inner cage. Larger baits go in the outer one. And if you wanted to keep, say, shrimp and finger mullet together, they co-exist without the stress of in-house predation.

Anselmo now sells his bait cages to curious onlookers. He also sets up shop every Saturday at the Old City Flea Market at the St. Augustine Amphitheatre. He’ll also sell you one on his website — — but worries perhaps more than necessary about having to charge shipping.

The bait cage sells for about $30. But, at least at the flea market, he has been talked down — a little.