Best Live Bait for Freshwater Fishing
Live bait is known to be more effective in attracting fish than artificial bait because fish are more drawn to real live bait. Using live bait attracts a variety of fish species, too, which boosts your chances of landing a catch. Here are some live bait options for freshwater fishing that you can keep in mind for your next fishing trip.
Clams and mussels
If they are native to the fishing area you’re eyeing, clams and mussels are great choices for live bait. It’s ideal to collect them from shallow waters right before your fishing trip to keep them fresh.
Just before using them, crack the shell open and cut out the clam or mussel. Give the bait some time to harden in the sun before using, as it helps the bait to stay on the hook. When using mussels, thread mussels onto the hook, taking care not to pull them too tightly.
Depending on the sort of fish you're aiming for, crayfish can be used either alive or dead. For smallmouth bass or panfish, crayfish are best used alive and whole, hooked through the tail. For catfish, however, dead crayfish threaded on a hook would serve you better.
You can buy crayfish from your local bait shops or catch them in the water with a window screen or fine mesh. Drive the crayfish into the net by stirring the water and keep them in a bait bucket, a moist cloth, or some damp moss afterwards.
Cut bait simply refers to fish cut into pieces to be used as bait. While not exactly “live” bait, cut bait is particularly effective for fish that rely primarily on scent rather than sight, like catfish or carp.
Any caught fish can be used as cut bait. Scale the fish but keep the skin on for optimal results.
Springtime is a good time to use insects as freshwater bait; fish are on the lookout for insects since they are abundant during this time of year.
Insects can be purchased from a bait store, or you can try to catch them on your own.
The attraction to leeches lies in their swimming motion. When using leeches as bait, allow them to get used to the temperature for at least an hour so they can relax and swim naturally.
Leeches have a lengthy lifespan and they can stay fresh in the fridge for several days, so you can keep them in mind if you’re looking for long-lasting bait.
Another popular freshwater fishing bait is minnows, which are basically baby fish. You can also buy them at your usual bait stores or catch them yourself. Minnows typically attract pike, striped bass, trout, and walleye fish.
Keep in mind to use the same water that the minnows were bought or captured in, and store them in a bucket while taking care not to overcrowd them.
When using minnows, hook them upside down, and avoid puncturing their spinal cord to allow them to move while on the hook.
Freshwater shrimp are excellent bait and work well in waters under 70 degrees. Catfish, especially, love to eat frozen shrimp.
If using frozen shrimp, take off its shell and tail before placing it on your hook, as it can easily break into pieces.
Worms are a reliable, affordable, and easily available freshwater bait. You can get them at bait and tackle stores or find them in your garden in damp soil.
Various worms are used to target different fish. Earthworms or night crawlers are suitable bait for almost any fish, while mealworms last longer on the hook than most worms and can be used for fish like trout.
You can use just a small portion of a worm to avoid smaller fish from eating it without biting down on the hook. You can also thread the hook through their side along their body if the worms are too small.
The best bait
So after all that, what is best to use as freshwater bait? The answer is that it depends on what kind of fish you’re aiming for, which is why it’s best to know your different options and when to use them. Considering where you'll be fishing is also essential. For more tips on freshwater fishing, check out this blog post by Fisher Mel! Also, don't miss this related post on top baitfish for freshwater and saltwater!