How to Make Sure the Whitebait Stays on the Hook
Hook your whitebait correctly and don't be a Buddy.
To hook a whitebait, first hold it up to the light so you can see through it. Some people will hook the baitfish through its nostrils, which is easy to do but the fish will usually slip off as soon as it hits the water (if not before, which was the second splash that Lisa heard!).
The whitebait should be hooked through the clear spot in the snout/nostril area in front of the eye.
It will make a crisp snapping sound if you hook it in the right area. The hook should go through this area, from side-to-side.
If it is hard to insert the hook, then you know this is the right spot. When done properly, that bait will stay on the hook and stay alive for three, four and sometimes even more casts, and even longer if trolling.
Don't Bend the Barbs
When anglers want to practice catch-and-release fishing, they often use pliers to bend down the sharp barb so the fish can be released with minimal damage done. However, if you are fishing with live bait don't bend the barb because the baitfish will slip off the hook.
Also, some anglers don't like fishing whitebait with circle hooks because they turn and stick the bait. You could use a circle hook bead, which prevents that from happening, but some people don't like to. However, if you are fishing with whitebait, your target isn't likely to swallow the bait, which is part of why circle hooks were invented.