Fishing with Live Baits – How to catch more fish?

Fishing with live baits is considered the most effective method among other ones such as foods, homemade dough ball, and artificial lure. However, it is also challenging and requires you to do a lot of work at the same time to keep them as attractive to your target fish as possible.

Also, it is quite tricky to determine which live bait you should use for different types of fish as many things can determine your decisions including the natural prey of the fish, the water conditions and even the regulation in the areas where you are going fishing in.

This article will help you to answer a few important questions regarding fishing with live baits such as whether it is a good choice to use live baits, what baits to use and how to buy and store them. Knowing about these things will help you a great deal of catching more fish.

Fishing with Live Baits: Good or Bad?

There are both pros and cons when it comes to fishing with live, natural baits.

Let’s first have a look at the benefits of using live baits when you go fishing.

  • Live baits are considered the most effective method you can use to catch fish. They attract the fish in the most natural way with the shape and scent of the real natural prey.
  • When you use artificial lures, you need to know how to retrieve the bait the same way as the natural prey move in real life, and you also have to throw in some movements now and then to attract the fish. With live bait, you don’t have to do anything except letting the baits move on their will.
  • You can easily find live baits in nature. Also, you can go to any fishing store to buy them with little cost.
  • Not to mention that you have a lot of options to choose from. From insects, worms to small fish and other small aquatic creatures- you can always find a live bait to use regardless of seasons and conditions of water.
Fishing with Live Baits Good or Bad

Image source: Reel Pursuits

Of course, fishing with live baits also brings in some drawbacks which you need to consider carefully before deciding whether to use them or not.

  • First of all, you need to spend time and effort to make sure that live baits are still alive when you cast them into the water. Some types of live baits are so fragile that they need specific environments and temperature to live well for a certain amount of time.
  • It requires you certain techniques when you cast the bait to make sure they are alive when coming in contact with the surface of the water.
  • When you use natural baits, especially catching them right in the place where you are going fishing for bigger fish, you might affect the food chain severely. Not to mention that you might introduce an invasive type of bait into a particular environment and this can destroy the natural habitat of that area.
  • Some types of baits are messy and “gross” to handle with.
  • Furthermore, you cannot use a single bait multiple times. Although it is not a huge problem economically since they are quite cheap, it takes you some amount of time to hook the bait on. This might be a problem if you target fish that go feeding in school. By the time you cast another bait, this school of fish has already gone.

What Bait to Use for Fishing?

To sum it up, I have created a table where you can find different types of baits and some fish which feed on them.  This list is for reference. There are more types of live baits and the types of fish that are not completely listed in the table.

Live Baits Fish
Minnows (shiners, creek chubs) Smallmouth bass, largemouth bass, rock bass, salmon, rainbow trout, crappies, Northern pike, stripers, walleyes, pickerel, and catfish. Sometimes, they can also attract redbreasts and bluegills.
Shads Bream, striped bass, flathead catfish, channel catfish, blue catfish bluegill, and trout.
Madtoms Smallmouth bass, lake trout, and catfish.
Hellgrammites Bass (Smallmouth, largemouth, spotted bass), catfish, trout, panfish and Northern pike.
Panfish Picks Bass, flathead catfish, channel catfish, Northern pike, and trout.
Fatheads Walleye, perch, Northern pike, sunfish, crappie and bluegill.
Mud Minnows Walleye, trout, mudfish and dogfish.
Suckers Trout, walleye, bass, channel catfish and crappie.
Yellowtail King fish, snapper, kingfish, tuna, cobia, cods, mulloway, tuna, mackerel and sharks.
Kahawai Snapper, kingfish, cobia, mahi and trout.
Slimy Mackerel Tuna, sharks, kingfish, snapper, trevally, cobia, mahi and snapper.
Crawfish Smallmouth bass, Largemouth bass
Crayfish Bass (both smallmouth and largemouth bass), perch, pan fish, blue gills and crappie.
Piper Kingfish, snapper, cobia, mahi and small tuna.
Crabs Bream, cod fish, parrot fish, grouper, drummer, and snapper.
Prawns Bream, Cod, marine perch, redfish, yellowtail, flathead and flounder fish.
Squids and octopus Coral trout, sweetlip, goatfish, bream, perch, emperors, and leatherjackets.
Shellfish (abalone, oysters and mussels) Salmon, bream, drummer, snapper, and whiting.
Blue Koheru Kingfish, snapper fish, rainbow trout and tuna.
Night Crawlers Smallmouth bass
Worms Largemouth bass fish, pike, trout, carp, bluegill, crappies, perch (both yellow and blue perch), eels and pumpkin seeds.
Leeches Smallmouth bass, walleye, catfish, crappie and trout.
Frogs Bass, walleyes, catfish, crappie, bluegills and large bream.
Lizards and Salamanders Bass, walleye, Northern pike, bluegills, and trout.
Other insects and their larvae Bass, flathead, salmon, mulloway, whiting, founder and bream.

Buying Baitfish

You, can easily buy many types of baitfish in your local fishing supply stores. Nevertheless, there are some few things you should know when you go shopping for fishing baits to ensure you get the best and most suitable ones:

Always be specific. When you come to the local fishing supply store and ask if they have the bait you want to buy, always be specific. For example, if you want to buy minnows for your bass fishing trip, don’t just ask for minnows. You need to tell them you need these baits for bass. Otherwise, you might end up having crappie minnows, and of course, these baits are less effective in attracting bass fish.

Live baits for bass

Image source: The Kayak Critic

Some fish can feed on dead baits. However, in all of the cases, the healthy baits are the optimal choice. It is especially true in the case of bass fish as they are the only attracted to lively baits. Therefore, you need to make sure you can buy healthy minnows and shiners. They need to swim actively and look fresh. Healthy baitfish also tend to eat more aggressively so you can try to sprinkle some breadcrumbs on the surface to see how they react.

Also, you should check for the signs of red snouts in these baitfish. These signs indicate that they are kept in the small container for too long and become less healthy. The chances are high that they will not be able to live longer.

Red snouts in these baitfish

Image source: University of Minnesota Duluth

The final sign that you can check for the health of the baitfish is by looking at how they move around inside the fishing tank. If they tend to move around the area near the surface, they are properly not in good health condition. Healthy baitfish will move around corners of the tank for most of the time.

Catching and Keeping Live Baits

Besides buying live baits from fishing stores, you can catch them as many of them are wildly available in nature. Although it is kind of messy and takes some skills to catch live baits, it is fun and also saves you a lot of money as well. Not to mention that you can be able to have the most healthy and lively baits.

The most important thing is, of course, keeping all of the baitfish alive until you cast them into the water. And to maintain the healthiness of these baits, you need to make sure they are kept in the right conditions with right temperature, less dense population and full of oxygen.

You should also know that some types of baits are tougher and hence easy to keep alive than other types of baits. For example, creek chub and fathead minnows are quite durable while shad and most types of shiner fish are quite fragile. Nevertheless, you should use the live baits which you have caught as soon as possible while they are still lively and healthy.

Creek chub and fathead minnows are quite durable

Image source: Fishes of Wisconsin

To catch live baits, you can use traps, cast nets, seines and of course by hand.  Some big live fish baits will require you to use other smaller baits and lures to catch them.

Finally, before you catch any bait, you need to check with the regulation in your state to see which type is allowed to be collected and used.

Now, let’s go into more details how you should catch and store some specific popular live baits

Minnows

Minnows

Image Source: Florida Shore Fishing

How to catch them? You can use traps, seine nets or cast nets to catch minnows.

These items can be bought easily and cheaply in many fishing stores. To lure minnows into the nets, you can use bread crumbs and crackers.

Put these traps in a shallow area with slow moving current overnight. If there are two people catching minnows, you can use seine net. Otherwise, you can use cast nets to catch minnows in shallow water.

You should be quick and have a good estimation to land the net just in time before the school of fish passes by. Other gears you can use are cylindrical traps and umbrella nets.

How to store them? You can store them in a container with enough oxygen. You can use a cooler tank or plastic foam cooler to keep these baits to maintain a constant cool temperature for your baits.

Shad

How to catch them? Shad fish often stay in deep water areas near covers, dams and under bridges. Therefore, the best way to catch them is by using a cast net. It is quicker and easier if you go catching for shad at night. They will be attracted by the light of your boat lamp and will gather around under your boat. Just then you can simply throw out the cast net and scoop them in.

Shad

Image Source: Ozark Anglers

How to store them? You can store them in a large container with aerated water.

To maintain the liveliness of the bait, you can also add in rock salt and ice.

Madtoms

How to catch them? Madtoms like to live under piles of rock in streams and rivers. Hence you can catch them by lifting up these rocks. There are two ways you can use to catch these baits. First, after you lift the rocks, just quickly scoop the water up with a small net. And secondly, you can put a carton next to the rocks so that these baits can swim right into the trap. They are not so easy to find, but they are stubborn and can last for several days.

How to store them? You can store them in a plastic container or a cooler tank.

Madtoms

Image source: Fairfax County, Virginia

Hellgrammites

How to catch them? You can find this type of live baits in rocky areas, under some piles of rocks near rivers and streams. They live in the same areas with madtoms as well. You can catch them using your hands; just simply turn some rocks over. You can also use small dip net or seine net with other people.  One person is in charge of turning the rocks and throwing the bait downstream. The hellgrammites will follow the baits into the Seine.

Hellgrammites

Image source: Ohio Birds and Biodiversity

How to store them? You can store them in a container bedded with leaves, sticks. You can also add in some amount of water to maintain a moist place for hellgrammites. Keep them in a cool place and stay out of the sun light.

Crayfish

How to catch them? You can look for this type of bait in many freshwater areas such as ponds, lakes, and streams. They live under piles of rocks and debris as well as muddy areas. You can use minnow trap with bread and meat to attract them. You can hunt for them in the daylight or at night.

Crayfish

Image source: Aquarius Systems

How to store them? You can store in cooler tanks or, a plastic foam cooler.

Crawfish

How to catch them? First of all, you can catch them with your hands by turning over rocks along streams and creeks. But you need to be quick in order to catch them. The best time to do so is at night while these baits come out for food.

Another much more effective and efficient method is to use a trap, which you can buy with little cost. It could be minnow trap or wire mesh box. To attract crawfish, you can use cat or dog food stuffed inside a

To attract crawfish, you can use cat or dog food stuffed inside a holed can. You can put the can inside the box and leave it throughout the night in a shallow area of water. In the morning, you would be able to collect a large amount of this bait.

You can also use seine nets and cast nets as well, just like when you use them to catch minnows.

How to store them? You can store your caught crawfish inside a cooler tank with an aerator or a bait bucket which is made from metal or stainless steel. Use them as soon as possible.

Yellowtail

How to catch them? They can be easily found in many types of different water environments. You can use drifting fishing with sabikis to catch these fish using spinning rods with soft baits. Also, you can use burly to catch a school of them when they come near your boat. You can find plenty of them near the bays or in open areas with slow moving currents. They also gather around near the sign of birds.

How to store them? Yellowtails are quite tough and can survive well in a live bait tank. You can store them in a tank with pump and aerated water.

Yellowtail

Image source: George Poveromo

Kahawai

How to catch them? With this type of bait, you can use trolling techniques to catch them. Some lures you can use to catch them are small silver spoon and saltwater fly. Like yellowtail, they often gather under the signs of birds or settle around coastlines, which are close to piles of rocks and seaweed beds.

How to store them? You can store them in the fish container.

Slimy Mackerel

How to catch them? You can find these fish in deep water areas and wide open areas. To catch this type of fish bait, you can use sabikis with the drifting technique and small spoons to troll fish.

Slimy Mackerel

Image source: Wikipedia

How to store them? They are very active fish that cannot live long when living inside a fish bait tank. Therefore, you need to use them as soon as possible. Extra care is needed when you keep these fish. You need to store them in a large container with a lot of oxygen. Also, you need to change the water frequently and keep them in a cool place.

Blue Koheru

How to catch them? These types of fish live nearby offshore reef and in the areas where the currents are strong. You can use burly or jigs to catch them.

How to store them? You need to store them in a well-ventilated container.

Piper

How to catch them? This type of live bait is quite difficult to catch, especially for new anglers. You can look for them in bays and headlands where the currents are not strong. Or use a burly to catch them. You need to be patient as it would take a long time to go near your boat.

Piper

Image source: The Fishing Website

How to store them? You can keep them in cool containers with tiny holes on the covers to provide oxygen to the tank.

Lizards & Salamanders

How to catch them? Lizards and salamanders are quick, so you need to be quicker to catch them. You can find them living under piles of rocks, bushes, and logs near a stream. The best time to catch these types of bait is at night with the help of a flashlight and headlamp. You can catch them by turning over some rocks and catch them by hand as quickly as you can before they hide away.

How to store them? The good thing about keeping lizards and salamanders is that they are tough and you don’t need to pay a lot of care for them. You can keep them inside a container layered with moss, wet leaves and small sticks of trees. You can feed them with small insects and worms.

Frogs

How to catch them? You can find various kinds of frogs along various marshy shores of shallow fresh water such as creeks and streams. Also, you can catch them with your hands or by using a net. You can catch them at any time during the day.

How to store them? You can keep these frogs inside a container with a great height so they cannot jump. Also, you should only pour inside the container a little bit amount of water to prevent them from climbing out of it. You should use this live bait as soon as you can. Otherwise, they will become diseased over time.

Nightcrawlers

How to catch them?  Nightcrawlers are the most active at night. You can also find them in the morning after a rain last night. You can also see holes of nightcrawlers as well. When you see the head of the nightcrawlers above the ground, keep in mind that the tail might still be on the ground. Therefore, you need to pull it out gently and steadily to prevent breaking it in half.

How to store them? You can store them in a large worm bed, a Styrofoam box or a cooler. Use a cover with various tiny holes on top. You can bed these boxes with moist leaves and put them in a cool dark place. There is no need to feed these baits regularly. You can also buy a portable worm carrier which has the right material to keep the nightcrawlers alive and healthy.

Leeches

How to catch them? You can use a plastic or metal can and put inside it some minnows. Then you can put the can in a shallow area and crimp the top of the can. Leeches will find their way into the can to eat the bait you leave behind. You can catch this type of bait in the summer best.

Leeches

Image Source: On The Water

How to store them? You can keep them inside a Styrofoam cooler or a closed minnow bucket. You can bed the container with moist leaves and a little bit amount of water. Store the container in a cool place only. They don’t need as much oxygen as fish and also don’t require to be kept in a constant temperature environment.

Worms (such as earthworms):  

How to catch them? You can easily find them in your yard. They will appear abundantly above the ground after a heavy rain which makes the soil really wet. Also, you can find worms inside a compost pile in your garden.

How to store them? You can keep them inside a box with saturated sphagnum moss. Try it the old-fashioned way by putting shredded newspaper instead of moss. You should keep the box in a cool place and away from the sun light. Too much heat and sun light will kill the worms.

Gear For Fishing With Live Baits

There is no single perfect combination of rod, reel, line, and bait. It will depend pretty much on many things: the size of the fish you want to catch, the type of water, the condition of line and temperature, the season when you go fishing and of course on your preference and budget.

Fishing rod

For catching fish of medium weight, you can use one rod with the length varying from 6 to 8 foot long and capability of light and medium action. If you aim for bigger, heavier fish, you will need to use a longer rod with heavy action. You can choose soft tip for greater flexibility. However, it will be bent more easily when the fish is strong.

Fishing rod

Image source: Wikipedia

Reel

The decision of what reel to use is based on your preference and fishing ability mostly. Spincaster reel is easy while spinning reel will require more techniques. On the other hand, the former reel is used to catch small and medium fish while the latter can be used to catch bigger fish.

Line

You can choose from different types of lines such as monofilament line and braided line. Monofilament line is used for small fish while the braided line is much durable and more suitable for bigger fish with sharp teeth and strong jaw. You also need to choose the color of the fishing line and how much weight the fishing line can endure.

Line

Image Source: Vermont Fish and Wildlife

The color of the fishing line needs to be as invisible as possible to trick the fish. Keep in mind that a heavier line is much durable, but it also inhabits the free movement of the live bait you are using.

Bobber or sinker

Bobber or sinker

Image source: Learning How To Fish

This gear will help with the presentation of that bait and support various kinds of fishing techniques such as live lining and troll. When the fish bite your hook, the bobber will go further down into the water, signaling you.

Secrets For Big Difference In Number Of Strikes

The secrets for a high number of strikes are not anything hard to understand. There are two main things important here that you need to remember when you go to the fishing spot- which is how to hook your bait and techniques you should use as bait.

Here are some tips on hooking your live baits

The best place where you should hook a live bait is through the nostril of the small baitfish. This way will make it possible for the fish to have as many actions as possible. They are also able to live longer when you hook them that way.

Also, you can hook the baits by their dorsal fin. This type of hook is suitable for slow trolling. Kite fishing, still fishing and also drift fishing. When you hook the baits by the fin, the baits will move head down with a very speedy movement, and that will surely be able to attract the fish of your target.

Furthermore, you can hook by the throat if you use a large, small bait when you go slow drifting.

Techniques

Moreover, different techniques should be used to make the best of your fishing baits. Overall, there are five techniques you should know about which are drifting, bottom fishing, live lining and trolling, chumming and still fishing.

Drifting

For this technique, natural baits are the most effective in comparison with other baits. When you drift, you depend on the current of the water or movement of the winds and the motion of the boat to move the baits along the water at a natural speed. You can use a bobber and pop cork to drift on the bottom.

You can apply this technique when you go fishing in freshwater areas such as lakes, ponds, rivers, and streams all over the year.

Bottom fishing

This technique is used to catch fish from the floor of the sea with the use of a trolling or drifting boat. The main difference between drifting and this type of fishing is motion.

You can apply this technique anytime during the year and all times of a day. You can hook the live bait into a bucktail jig.  Once the bait has reached the bottom, the bait will move on its own for you.

Live to line and trolling

This technique is relatively easy and can be used by anglers of all levels, even with children using their spincaster reel. When you think about a worm on a hook which is suspended under a bobber, you should think about this technique right away. While your boat is anchored, the live line will drift along with the current. The bobber will keep the bait at a current depth, and when it disappears, it signals you that a fish has bitten on your bait.

Live lining and trolling

Image source: Wawang Lake Resort – WordPress.com

In term of trolling, you will use a small electric motor in your boat that helps it run without making large noise and hence preventing alerting the fish to your presence. You can also walk along the edge of a bridge or shoreline as well. How fast your boat moves will determine how deep your bait can go into.

You can use this technique in a river or a stream. However, there are some areas which don’t authorize the use of a motor in trolling so check with the local enforcers before you decide to use this technique.

Chumming

With this kind of fishing, you don’t need to hook the bait. Instead, you throw various pieces of baits into the water of the area where you are fishing. In this case, live baits are not as effective as dead baits, sweet corn, and bread as they go away while the latter stays in the same place. When you throw a large amount of bait into the water, fish will follow the scent and come to your boat. Keep in mind that you don’t throw out a lot of baits, too much and the fish you target will get full before you cast your bait on the hook.

Chumming is not legal in some states in America so you need to check with the local authority of the place where you go fishing to see if you can use this method or not.

Still fishing

In my opinion, still fishing is the easiest method of fishing, which is still very effective, especially when you use live baits rather than artificial lure. You can do this technique in various types of places such as from river banks or an anchored boat by the sea as well as all kind of depths from shallow water to bottom fishing.

Still fishing

Image source: the Fishtec Blog

The most important feature you need to have is patience. You have to wait for the fish to hook on your bait.

Conclusion

There are surely a lot of things that you should know in term of fishing with live baits. There are many things that you should take into consideration to have success on your fishing trip and come home with a lot of big and worthy fish.

I hope that with this article, you would be able to know more about live baits, how to choose them and use them properly when you go fishing next time. It is no doubt that fishing with live bait is the most effective type of fishing and when no other things such as dough and bait succeed, I am sure that you will have some catch with live bait.

Next time, prepare some live baits in your tackle box and see how incredible it can improve your fishing experience.

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