Sailfish action will be at peak for the next few weeks but it is still largely weather driven. Cold weather really bunches the fish up where you can actually target the fish with live bait. Threadfins, sardines, little runners, if you got ‘em smoke ‘em! Cobia and sharks will be in the neighborhood as well as kingfish. Most skippers elect to troll at least to begin with, perhaps switching over once something promising is located. Gag grouper will be eating live baits as spawning season arrives.
Hook placement is one key to success when fishing with live bait. Knowing where to hook the bait in multiple places for different situations can make a day. Always observe the area you are fishing before rigging your bait. Ask yourself these questions. Is there bait around? If so, what are they doing? Are they schooled on top or marking on the fishfinder down low? What is the tide or current doing? Take a mental note of the answers to these questions, because they should play a major role in helping you decide how to hook your bait.
If you don't really care what you catch when fishing with live bait but are just seeking to have a relaxing day catching whatever decides to take your bait, just about any old rod and reel will do for fishing with live bait. However, If you're targeting smallmouth and largemouth bass you should use "specialized tackle" matching it to the size and fighting spunk of your target.
I consider this to be a minor disadvantage of fishing with live bait. Many buy the live bait they use, as I do sometimes. I like to trade with the local bait shops so they will hopefully stay in business. By the way, it's very important we all support our small, local bait and tackle shops. Nothing against the big guys, I trade with them too. Both big and small have their place and value to bass fishermen.