What’s the Best Live Bait?

With thousands of lures readily available today, live bait would nearly seem to be an anachronism for fishing in the 21st Century. The truth is it’s not.

While lure and fly fishing are absolutely efficient and the most popular ways to go after gamefish today, live baits will typically take more fish. That translates into more enjoyable on the water. If you’re presenting a newbie or child to the sport, bait will practically ensure enough action that they’ll like fishing and wish to get more involved in it, slowly working into lure fishing and fly casting.

Bait often fools the largest specimens of our most popular gamefish. But if you think bait fishing suggests impaling a spider on a fishing hook and lying back with your “fishing pole” resting over a forked stick, think again. Using bait correctly can be a tough and appealing sport. Here’s a rundown on five of the best offerings you can use for the country’s most popular sportfish and techniques for presenting them.


Minnows are the best bait for shoreline-oriented fish.

It’s a reality of life in the marine world that big wheel eat little fish. Bass, stripers, crappies, catfish, walleyes, white bass, rockbass, trout and pickerel are infamous for their fish-gobbling tastes. However even fish like bluegills and redbreasts will get hold of minnows sometimes.


The simplest method to get minnows is to purchase them at a bait shop. Put them in a plastic-foam cooler, a bait container that can be awaited the water or a livewell in your boat.

If you want to catch your very own minnows, seining is the best way. Discover a small creek or shallow area along the edge of a lake and use a 4-by-8 or 4-by-12 foot fine-mesh seine with weights on the bottom, floats on top and wood deals with on each end. Sweep slowly through the swimming pool, then infiltrate shallow water and raise the web. It should be alive with knocking little bits of silver– do not keep any small ones. Cylindrical traps and umbrella nets are also efficient for capturing minnows when baited with bread, oatmeal or catfood.

How to Fish Minnows

Impale minnows through both lips from the bottom up, or through the back, using size # 2/0 -6 hooks, depending on the size of baitfish and quarry you’re going after. If the bait becomes lethargic, change it with a fresh one.

Minnows can be fished in a range of methods. Floating them underneath a bobber is an effective technique in spring since numerous fish remain in the shallows and you can permit the bait to swim suspended near cover with this rig. This is a great strategy for pickerel, bass, crappies and catfish.

Drift fishing with minnows using a number of split shot or a dipsey sinker for weight also works well, particularly for crappies. A method I frequently use is to cast and draw in a minnow as if it were a plastic worm. This offers you the twitching appeal of live bait, plus the motion of a recovered offering. This technique likewise works when you’re fishing jigs sweetened with minnows — a hot method for walleyes, pike and pickerel.


Shad are the best bet for larger fish in opn water, such as striped bass.

Minnows are the indisputable best bait for shoreline-oriented fish, but shad are the top offering for larger quarries that stroll the open water, such as striped bass. They’re also exceptional for huge flathead and blue catfish, and don’t be amazed to acquire a few significant largemouths with these baitfish also.

Best Live Bait

Given that they are a deepwater fish, the best way to catch shad is with a cast internet. Search for shad in coves and near points, dams and riprap along bridges. Another alternative is to head out at night in areas where they are abundant and hang a lantern over the boat’s gunnel. The shad will be attracted by the light and gather beneath the boat; then it’s simply a matter of throwing away the cast web and hauling them in.

Shad keep best in large, round containers with oxygenated water. Adding a little bit of rock salt, ice and a chemical bait additive likewise helps keep them perky.

How to Fish Shad

Shad can be fished numerous methods. If gamefish are shallow, drifting them below a cork in 4-10 feet of water can be really effective.

Wander fishing without a float or anchoring over structure, however, are the top methods. Rig the shad on a # 4/0 -2 hook connected to an 18-36 inch leader. Connect the leader to a barrel swivel and thread an egg or bullet sinker onto the primary line above that– generally one-half to 1 1/2- ounces has to do with right.

Position this rig so that it’s either a few feet off the bottom or simply above where you’ve located fish on the depth finder. Stripers, catfish and the periodic bass will do the rest.


Madtoms, likewise called stonecats, are terrific offerings for smallmouth in rivers.

Also called “stonecats,” these small catfish can lure any good-sized gamefish, but they’re specifically effective on smallmouths in rivers. A few bait stores sell them, however for the most part you’ll have to catch your own.

Best Live Bait

Find riffly areas in rocky rivers and streams and look for them by slowly raising rocks. You can either scoop them up with a small internet or place a milk container painted black inside next to the rock and they’ll normally swim into it.

Do not anticipate to find a madtom beneath every rock. They’re not respected. However if you turn over adequate stones, you’ll catch a sufficient number for a day’s fishing. The baits are sturdy and can frequently last through capturing a number of fish. Better still, they are not attractive to small fish so practically every bite you get will be from a good-sized bronzeback.

How to Fish Madtoms

First a note of care: These catfish have a mild toxin in the spinal columns on the top and sides; be careful when you manage them so you don’t get jabbed. Keep the baits in a minnow bucket or plastic foam cooler and hook them through both lips on a size 1 or 2 hook.

Because they moving towards the bottom, no weight is required. Cast up and throughout and allow the tom to dive and drift with the current. When it crawls under a rock, tug it complimentary. If no strike comes, attract and repeat. When a fish takes, let it run numerous seconds, reel up any slack and set the hook hard. Work the bait near deep holes, ledges, logjams, undercut banks and boulders in midstream.


Hellgrammites, discovered in rocky rivers and streams, benefit a number of types, consisting of bass, catfish and trout.

These ornery-looking animals are the larval types of the Dobson fly. Measuring 1-3 inches, they’re found in rocky rivers and streams and are terrific baits for smallmouth, largemouth, identified bass, panfish, catfish and trout. Use one to two-inchers for trout and panfish, bigger ones for bass.



These baits can be caught around the same rocky, riffly areas in streams and rivers where you find madtoms. Lift rocks and scoop them up with a small dip net, or have one person spread a seine out while another lifts rocks upstream, loosening up the baits so they drift down into the mesh.

Store hellgrammites in a container with leaves, bark, sticks and just a small amount of water on the bottom. They’ll remain vibrant for days like this if kept one’s cool.

How to Fish Hellgrammites

Use size 2 to 6 hooks and thread the point beneath the “collar” on the bug’s back then out the other side. Add a couple of small split shot for weight. Try fishing with and without a float, to see which works best. If the existing is sluggish or the water low, a bobber helps. Otherwise, simply cast the bait out and let it wander naturally.


Bass, panfish, trout and catfish have a hard time resisting the scampering action of crayfish.

Few gamefish can resist the scampering action in addition to the taste and scent appeal of these shellfishes. They’re excellent baits for bass of all types, plus panfish, trout and catfish.



Ponds and streams can both harbor crayfish, which are typically discovered under rocks and debris or merely burrowed in the mud, according to fishbaci.com. Baiting a minnow trap with bread or meat will attract them, or you can use a dipnet or can with holes in it to catch them.

Lift logs and rocks in shallow waters till you spot a crayfish, then put the net or can behind it. Push a stick in front of the shellfish and it will scoot backwards into the container. If you do not discover numerous baits during the day, try this technique at night with a flashlight. Crayfish can be kept in a foam cooler or bait container with a small amount of water and damp leaves.

How to Fish Crayfish

Pierce crayfish through the tail on a size 1/0 to 4 hook and either drift fish or cast the bait to cover such as rockpiles, points, eddies, docks, islands and dropoffs. If the water is deep, include a couple of split shot for weight.

Panfish Picks

Expect you simply wish to capture a stringer full of yummy bluegills or shellcrackers for a delicious supper? Two offerings get approval.

The first is the plain old worm — garden worm, red wriggler or a piece of nightcrawler– any of the 3 will do. The 2nd option is a cricket or insect, both members of the Orthoptera order.

These exhibit a strong aroma and are relished by all members of the sunfish family. Thread them on a size 4-8 long shank hook and fish beneath a bobber with a split shot or on spreader hooks above a 1 ounce dipsey sinker when fish are hanging out in deep water.