A relaxing day out on the water can be just what the doctor orders. But as you float on the water, cast your line and wait for a bite, you can quickly stress when none of the fish go for what you have to offer on your hook. Whether you are catch and releasing as you fish or you are catching to eat, the right bait is key to attracting the fish. But how do you decide which bait is best when there are so many options out there?
Best Natural and Artificial Bait For Fishing
Types Of Bait
The most popular options for fishing bait include:
Worms are a classic bait option for any fishing trip because they are common and easily sourced. You can buy them at bait shops, local sellers, and even dig for them yourself if you would like. There are a larger variety of worms out there than you may think as well. They include nightcrawlers, bloodworms, red wiggler worms, meal worms and of course the common earthworm.
While not the most pleasant things on the planet, leeches are another great option for fishing bait. While you will more than likely have to purchase this type of bait in bait shops, the movement of the leeches is naturally very appealing to fish. You can buy them ahead of time and keep them in the fridge for several days if need be, and they will still be ready to go and attract fish to your hook.
A minnow is simply a live baby fish that you can use to attract other bigger fish to you. You can buy them in bait shops or try to catch them yourself if the area you are in permits you to do it yourself. Similar to leeches, the natural swimming motions the minnow does is highly appealing to other fish and can help you to get a bite faster. If you do opt to fish with minnows as bait it is recommended that you look at tutorials on how to place the minnow on the hook as to allow full motion without accidentally limiting their mobility or even paralyzing them.
Freshwater Clams and Mussels
In areas where mussels and clams are common they can be a great inexpensive and easy to catch bait option. It is recommended that you open them up and either leave them in the sunshine for a bit to toughen them up or use thread to tie them to the hook so the gooey material won’t rip or slide off the hook when the fish go for it.
Insects can be another fantastic bait option for those who want to save money on bait and stick to natural bait. Some of the best insects to use for fishing are crickets, grasshoppers, caterpillars, beetles, and even ants. You can catch them yourself, buy them from bait shops, and even buy them over the internet from vendors that also provide insects for reptile food.
Crayfish are not commonly used for fishing because they are difficult to hook and are more difficult to maintain than other bait options, but are a favorite of bass fish. If you are specifically going after bass it may be worth while to try crayfish if you aren’t having any luck with other bait options.
Wax worms are not actually worms, but larva from a Greater Wax Moth. They are used for attracting and catching smaller mouthed fish because they move similar to regular worms but are small enough that they only really attract the smaller mouthed fish.
Dough balls are not in fact made of dough, but a combination of different baits clumped together. The clumps are held together with flour, water, cornmeal and molasses to keep everything in place and clumped together while in the water. You can buy pre-made dough balls from bait shops or make your own. The combinations of baits included in dough balls are designed to attract specific types of fish based on what they are most likely to go for so ask the shop what fish they had in mind for that specific dough ball mixture to make sure it is right for what you need. If you opt to make your own you should do your research and look up what fish are in your area and what they prefer so you incorporate the appropriate ingredients.
There are many things you have in your kitchen that you can use as fishing bait as well. Some of the most popular items are corn kernels, Vienna sausages and other canned meats, egg noodles, chicken liver, strips of chicken breast, hot dog chunks, doughnuts, mini marshmallows, mulberries, raisins, bread, cheese and even raw bacon. And if you’re fishing for catfish, the list can go on and on since they are a scavenger fish.
Dry kibble may be what you have in mind when you think of fishing with dog food as bait, but canned dog and cat food is actually more preferable to fish. Globing on a healthy portion of canned pet food will easily keep your line busy as the fish enjoy a new kind of treat.
Catfish will easily and consistently go for your hook when you include a piece of ivory soap on it. While no one is really sure why this works, it does and can be a great way to catch a lot of catfish.
Candy, and even a little pre-chewed bubble gum, can be another great option for bait because the sweet flavor attracts fish. This can be anything from bubble gum to mini marshmallows and even chocolate that you find in your local candy isle or any grocery store.
An easy and versatile way to attract fish with reusable bait, jig lures work for nearly every type of fish out there. They are inexpensive, designed to catch the eye of fish passing by and can be used over and over again. They can include hair, feathers, weights and even plastic grubs to make it hard to miss by any fish. But because they are artificial bait you will need to learn how to keep them moving in the water to attract the fish while not moving them too much to make them stand out as fake or scare the fish away.
Spinners/ Buzz bait
If you aren’t interested in having to move the artificial bait once you cast your line you should look into spinner and buzz bait options. They are easy to use, take the difficulty out of maneuvering your lure in the water and are perfect for beginners. The spinner lures have a piece of metal that spins around to attract fish to them. The movement creates a vibration that emits a buzzing sound that also helps attract fish from a greater distance than just a visual appeal.
Made of curved metal that looks similar to a spoon and coming in a wide variety of sized and colors, the spoon lures are a great way to attract fish because it resembles injured prey. The spoon wobbles from side to side which looks like a hurt or dying fish so other fish will come to take the easy meal.
If you want to use the live baits but want to reuse them you should look into plastic versions of them. You can get plastic worms, leeches, insects, and even amphibious creatures like tadpoles as options that can even mimic the movement of the real thing.
Plugs/ Crank bait
If you are interested in using larger bait like frogs, larger fish and other prey that might be a little too difficult to use when dealing with the real thing, opting for a plug or crank bait can be a good alternative. They are made of either hollowed wood or hard plastic with several hooks attached to them so you can guarantee that no matter where the fish goes after the plug, it will catch on a hook. Plug lures can dive or float and can even make gurgling noises, rattle or wobble depending on which model you choose.
When fly fishing you will need bait that works for that specific style. This is where flies come in. It is important to mimic the movement of the insects to attract the fish and make sure it is going to work as needed. Going with worms or food from the kitchen for fly fishing will be unsuccessful because it is the movement that attracts the fish, not the smell.
How To Tell Which Type Of Bait To Use
There are three key factors to consider when deciding what kind of bait you will be using: where you will be fishing, what kind of fish you will be trying to catch, and whether you want to use natural or artificial bait while you fish.
Where Will You Be Fishing
The location and conditions of where you are going to be fishing are an important thing to consider when choosing the right bait. What works for a type of fish in one area may not work for that same type of fish in another if the conditions are too different. This is why it is important to consider the following:
You need to factor in the depth of the water you will be fishing in when selecting the right bait. There are three different categories of lure depth when considering which one you need. They include surface lures, sub-surface lures and deep lures. If you are fishing in the spring you will most likely need a surface lure because the fish will be swimming closer to the surface to find food and spawn. The summer months will mean that the fish will be in deeper waters so you will need a deep lure. Fall fishing means using a sub-surface lure because the fish are heading closer to the surface again. Winter fishing will require a deep lure because the fish will be at the bottom where the water is warmer.
In areas where there is cover such as weeds, overhanging trees or brush it is important to factor that in when choosing your bait and lures. Having weed guards on your lures and bait to prevent snags or getting stuck are ideal to use where there can be a potential of losing the lures and bait and having to cut your line.
Level Of Activity
The level of activity that the fish in the area have should also be considered when looking for the right lure. When the water is colder and the winter roles in the fish will be much less active than when the weather is warmer. Other climate conditions can also affect the activity of fish like storms and strong currents. When the fish are less active they need to conserve their energy and will only go after sure things. So using bait and lures that are slower and easily attainable for the fish will be much more appealing and will have a higher likelihood of success.
When the water is clear you can use just about any bait or lure option, but if the water is murky or difficult to see you will need to consider your bait more carefully. Most live bait is dull in color so even if it is moving around it may not be seen by fish passing by. So murky and dark waters will require lures and bait that are bright in color to combat the darkness and catch the eye of the fish.
As discussed earlier, the seasonal changes affect where the fish will be. The spring and fall seasons will have the fish closer to the surface when the water is neither too hot or too cold. But the summer and winter months will have the fish in deeper waters. The fish retreat to the deeper waters in the winter because it is where the warmer currents will be and where the fish will need to be in order to survive. So if the temperature is on neither extreme you should look in the shallower water, otherwise try the deeper waters.
The size of the fish you are going for also affects your bait or lure. If the bait or lure are too big you will either intimidate the fish or make it seem like it is not worth their effort to go after. But if the lure or bait is too small you can end up with fish passing by without noticing the bait at all.
What Kind Of Fish Are You Trying To Catch
Certain types of fish prefer certain types of bait and there are few universally lucky baits out there. While some baits will work well enough, it will greatly increase your odds to know what the fish you are looking to catch like. For example, are they drawn to sweets or do they prefer a meat option? Some fish like catfish like almost anything, including bubble gum, but others, like gar, are pickier and will only respond to a few specific options.
Do You Want To Use Natural Or Artificial Bait
When choosing which bait option to go with you will have to decide whether you want to use live bait or artificial bait. While they both have their pros and cons and it really comes down to where you are going to be fishing and what your personal preferences are. Some of the different things to consider when deciding between live and artificial bait are:
Also referred to as lures, artificial bait has many perks and perhaps the biggest one is that they are reusable. This means you can create a large collection of lures that are ready to go at a moments notice rather than needing to spend money or go looking for bait every time you want to go fishing. The savings and ability to reuse bait without having to worry about them expiring before you get to use them. Lures are also easier to change out than live bait options.
Unless you lose them, the lure a one time purchase what will last for many, many uses. The live bait will eventually go bad and have to be repurchased before every trip so you will be paying for them multiple times over. But for the multiple uses that you get from the lure, you will be spending more upfront and can be more costly to lose so you should take care to make sure they don’t get lost.
Live bait will be much messier to use than the artificial bait because you are dealing with food, body parts and whole creatures while the lures are simply plastic, metal or wood. This means there are no blood or guts to deal with and can me more ideal for those who want to avoid using living things or have trouble stomaching the hooking process. Lures also often get a cleaner hook onto the fish than the live bait option which also means less mess.
The movement of the bait is also a big difference between artificial and live options. Live bait obviously have the most realistic movement because it is in fact real. But if you don’t hook it properly you can paralyze the bait or kill it making the natural movement impossible to get. But lures can be designed to either stay still or move on their own in the water to create the needed movement to attract fish. Lures can be designed to move horizontally, which is ideal in the summer when fish are moving more freely, or vertically where the movement is key to attract fish in winter. They can also be spinning, oscillating and rotating around in the water and replicate the movement of the natural, live bait without having to worry about the bait dying.