A good rule of thumb for all warfare is "Only pick fights you know you can win". In Eve, the combination of secure neutral stations and warp drives makes it easy to avoid fights, given enough warning. Baiting is one way of convincing the other guy to commit to a fight.
Baiting involves sending out a baitship (or baitfleet), ahead of the main fleet. The role of the baitship is to appear as an easy kill, lure an attacker into combat, and then hold the engagement long enough for the rest of the fleet to arrive. Because local chat displays the presence of all active pilots in-system, the rest of the fleet is usually located in a different system. It's a very brave or foolish pilot who picks a fight with a "lone" ship while a bunch of the victim's corp-mates are somewhere in-system.
Baiting does not have to be a group activity - you can also bait as a way of generating solo PVP. This involves making yourself look like an easy target (a ratter, miner, or oblivious traveller) while actually fitting for combat. This is particularly effective if you use a larger ship such as a cruiser or battlecruiser to bait smaller ships such as assault frigates and interceptors, where fitting webs and neutralizers can tip the balance in your favour.
Caveat: this article is about baiting legitimate University targets. It is not about hi-sec "griefer" baiting, in which a pilot seeks to trick another into taking an aggressive action, so that the victim can be ganked without CONCORD intervention.
Choosing a baitship
The most important question to consider is "what does the baitship offer the attacker"? Some attackers are happy with any killmail, regardless of whether it's a shuttle or a T2 battleship. Others are hoping to gank a particularly valuable ship (for the status), or to loot valuable cargo or equipment. A few might just want vengeance.
In each case, the goal of the baitship is to look like an easy kill. Cheaper ships which are known for having a high tank to gank ratio (example: Drake) generally make poor bait, as they are unlikely to be a quick kill. In contrast, a mining ship or industrial - usually quite fragile - that has been fitted to maximise its tank can be quite effective; the attacker doesn't realise quite how many EHP he needs to get through until after he has engaged. Make sure that the baitship you select can actually be "killed" by the enemy, ie: you use a frigate for a frigate gang, an indy/mining barge for a cruiser gang...
Another important attribute of good bait is that it shouldn't look like bait - a drake or a maller (both very common bait ships due to their high effective HP) are actually poor bait ships for this reason. A raven on the other hand is a believable choice - it's an attractive target, is easy to catch, and could believably be taken for a mission runner who strayed into lowsec by accident.
Your bait ship must be able to do two thing:
- Tackle a target, ideally multiple targets
- Survive until the fleet arrives to back it up
With that in mind you want plenty of tank, as well as a warp scrambler or disruptor at a very minimum. Armour tank ships are particularly good as bait, since you can use their extra mid slots to fit extra warp disruptors and webs to tackle multiple targets and prevent them from escaping.
Setting the bait
Azual Skoll, Agony Unleashed
You've found a low-sec area that might have hostile pilots. You've chosen your baitship. Now you just need a bite.
The first rule of baiting is: Try not to look like bait.
If you're hanging around where you don't really belong, doing nothing in particular, then hostiles are going to suspect you're bait. This has a few disadvantages:
- Foes might try to scout out the rest of the fleet.
- Foes might try to gather their own fleet, to ensure a kill.
- Foes might decide it's not worth the risk.
This sort of baiting can still work. Foes might be overconfident, spoiling for a fight, or just figure it's worth the risk. They might assume you're overconfident, or spoiling for a fight, or just a bit dim. However, if you can make your presence look like an accident, or if you're doing some sort of legitimate PvE activity like ratting or mining, then foes are less likely to be cautious. Even better if you can add some time pressure, such as a vulnerable ship dropping out of warp and crawling to the gate (on "autopilot"), or a heavy ship wandering into a gate camp and quickly trying to warp off. If the foe feels that he must get it now before it gets away, he's more likely to make a hasty decision.
The location you bait the enemy at is also very important if you need to make a quick getaway, if you/your FC decide that the enemy fleet is too strong for your fleet to take on. Slowboating to a stargate from 15km, or getting into a gatecamp can be very convincing, but can be a certain deathtrap if backup does not arrive soon. On the flip side, baiting on zero at a stargate, or station is very safe, but it is much less convincing to an enemy fleet. This is why your should always try to dscan the enemy fleet first, or get eyes (a scout) on it, before you bait.
Springing the trap
You found a juicy enemy fleet that is ripe for your to destroy, and they just took your bait!
- Don't panic. While it may seem the enemy fleet will totally kill you, your fleet will arrive soon.
- Get tackle on the shiniest stuff first.
- Call in mumble that you have been engaged, and give fleet comp, if not already known.
- X-up in fleet, so that members have an easy character link to warp to.
- Watch as your fleet tears apart the enemy fleet (hopefully).
Your fleet can't handle the enemy?
- You are most likely dead but....
- Start burning away from the enemy, and kill any fast tackle that come.
- Get your podsaver tab ready, as your death will be most likely inevitable.
Timers: Details about aggression timers, which are fundamental to baiting.
- Intelligence & Counter-Intelligence - Azual Skoll on manipulating intel picking fights. Heck, read the entire blog!