A while back, a couple of fishing buddies got into a heated argument over the proper way to put a cricket on a hook.

Both are normally easy-going sorts.

They don’t get upset over our $26 trillion national debt, a threat by some nut to blow up the planet or modern medicine’s infuriating inability to eradicate male-pattern baldness in our lifetime.

But they almost came to blows over how to stick a bug on a fishhook.

Ernie insisted the hook should be inserted behind the cricket’s neck and threaded through its body. Al argued for a sideways approach, going under one arm – or whatever appendage crickets have – and out the other side.

I assume most PETA readers have fainted by now, so I’ll continue.

Anglers have always quibbled about the best way to bait a hook. Take worm fishermen, for example.

There’s the gob mob – fishermen who advocate impaling as many worms as possible on a hook. They say the wiggling ends attract fish and entice them to bite. The Wiggling Ends theory also applies to attracting gawkers at hoochie-coochie carney shows.

Practitioners of the one-worm method, on the other hand, argue that all those wiggling ends get nibbled off without the fish getting the hook in its mouth, while a single worm is gobbled down, hook and all.

The one-worm approach cuts down on worm-waste at a time when the price of nightcrawlers tops gold per ounce. Stockpiling worms can be a shrewd investment. But don’t leave them in your safety deposit box during a long, hot summer.

Once a worm is on the hook, some suggest spitting on it for good luck. Tobacco chewers should automatically rule it out.

Minnow fishermen are the pickiest of all. They fall into three categories – lip lockers, back stabbers and tail nailers.

Lip lockers hook minnows through the lips. It does the least injury, which means the minnow remains frisky longer. However, the hook may tear through a minnow’s fragile lips and allow it to escape, although it will never again play the saxophone.

Back stabbers impale the minnow through the back, just below the spine. It’s less prone to come off, but there’s a drawback. If the hook hits the spine, the minnow is instantly deader than Jimmy Hoffa.

Tail nailers insert the hook near the minnow’s tail. Minnows hooked in the tail tend to be extremely lively – just as you and I would.

Crickets, worms and minnows are the only live bait I use, although leeches are popular in Canada. I once saw a Canadian fisherman using a leech for bait, but I didn’t like the looks of the bloated, ugly critter.

The leech was also fairly repulsive.

Ice fishermen up North use maggots for bait. They call them meal worms, but I know a maggot when I see one. I’m told they keep the maggots from freezing by holding them in their mouth.

I find that hard to swallow.

Longtime outdoors columnist Larry Woody is a three-time winner of the Tennessee Sports Writer of the Year award and is the author of several books, including “Along for The Ride.” Woody covered NASCAR from the early 1960s until late 2007 in addition to SEC sports, minor league baseball, the Tennessee Titans and the Vanderbilt Commodores.