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Live Bait


It's just the first thing that comes to anyone's head when it comes to fishing - that is live bait. Usually it's a worm that comes first to anyone's mind. I don't think there is a kid around that hasn't started off fishing with using a worm. It's just common sense. Fish in their natural habitat eat insects or worms; or smaller fish!

Using live bait works, many times when nothing else will. 
Regardless of what type of fish you're fishing for they don't start their lives looking to eat something artificial. They are looking to eat what is natural. If you use the natural food of the lake your success will be better.

Most people simply overlook the fact that with live bait fishing, just as with any other technique, there is a lot to learn. The anglers who know this, and who put in the time and work required, will always be the ones who excel.

With all of the innovative and high tech features that artificial lures currently have, fishing with live bait still produces over 50% of freshwater game fish caught in North America. Depending on the time of the year and water temperatures or when fishing slows down live bait is definitely the preferred choice for a successful catch.

Most live bait is purchased at bait shops, a local Sport Shop or you can purchase live bait at Our FUNdamentals of Fishing Bait Shop.
For a rewarding experience they can be caught by yourself.
Whether you buy or catch your bait it should always be kept fresh and lively, active fresh minnows, worms and leeches catch fish, it will also save you money by learning how to keep your bait alive.

There are a number of living creatures that many fish like to eat. For most fish, the best all-around baits are nightcrawlers or worms. They can be used to catch almost any type of fish.

Other live bait can include leeches, minnows, crayfish, crickets and grasshoppers.

Compare the cost of losing one worm to losing a lure and you'll see that fishing with live bait can be less expensive than fishing with lures; and if you find your own live bait, you can save even more money.

Before taking or using any bait in any waters, check your local, state or federal regulation agencies to make sure that it is legal and that you conform to all harvesting requirements.

The capture, transportation and culture of bait fish can spread damaging organisms between ecosystems, endangering them. In 2007, several American states, including Michigan, enacted regulations designed to slow the spread of fish diseases, including viral hemorrhagic septicemia, by bait fish. Because of the risk of transmitting Myxobolus cerebralis (whirling disease), trout and salmon should not be used as bait.

Anglers may increase the possibility of contamination by emptying bait buckets into fishing venues and collecting or using bait improperly. The transportation of fish from one location to another can break the law and cause the introduction of fish alien to the ecosystem.

Choosing Bait

Which bait should you use? To make your selection easier, know the type of fish you are after. There are some species which eat certain Fishing Baits. Use the appropriate Fishing Bait and you can be on your way to a nice catch.

Always match the size of the hook to the size of the bait - Not the size of fish you hope to catch. The bait that you'll be using should be able to blend well (as not to look suspicious) with the fish hook.


Worms are by far the most thought of bait when it comes to fishing.
Despite the tremendous onslaught of commercial lures, the worm still remains a favorite. 

Some fishermen opt to use worms as baits as they are cheap as well as easy to find on your own.
Know the basic types of Worms and learn how to gather, keep, and use them in Fishing. Choose which type of worm is suitable to use for your fishing needs.

There are several kinds of Worms meant for fishing - red worms, garden worms, and night crawlers.
Most common earthworm species which can often be dug up in the garden, are eminently suitable for freshwater fishing.

Night crawlers are sold at all bait shops, some gas stations and sporting goods section at discount stores.
To make sure it's fresh and lively, buy your bait the day you go fishing, at a bait store close to where you intend to fish.

Earthworms, along with crickets, and minnows are a staple of most bait stores. They're fairly easy to keep in big tanks or cages and suppliers usually visit these stores at least weekly. Make sure you purchase enough bait for the day. It's better to have some left over than to run out when the fish are biting.

When buying earthworms, ask to see them. There's usually a box where the container can be dumped so you can see the number as well as the health of the bait you are buying.
You can also purchase worms at Our FUNdamentals of Fishing Bait Shop and click here to learn how to keep them for days on end.

What Fish Eats Worms

Worms are more or less the favorite food of most fish. You can catch Bluegill or Sunfish, Large-mouth Bass and Small-mouth Bass, Trout, Salmon, Carp, Pike,Pickerel,Perch,White Bass,Crappie just about any freshwater fish.

Red Worm

Also known as leaf worms, garden worms, red wigglers or earth worm; the fact of the matter is that this is great bait for fishing. Red worms look similar to nightcrawlers, but they are smaller and skinnier. Red Worms are dark red in color and they can grow up to three inches long. These Worms can be used in Fishing on clear water.

The most obvious reason for using red worms is many fish have small mouths. Examples are trout under 14", panfish of all sizes, and suckers (yes, even the two-footers).

 Red worms are mostly used to catch perch, bluegill, rock bass, trout and other panfish. When fishing for panfish, red worms usually work better because of their size. A bluegill can easily get a red worm into their mouth which gives you a good chance of setting the hook and landing the fish. Red worms can be found in most places that sell nightcrawlers - bait shops, gas stations and super markets.

Red Worms are also great fish bait because they stay alive for as long as 45 minutes in water and have a tough skin that keeps them on the hook, making it easier to hook a fish.

Another reason to opt for red worms in many situations is their scent. Red worms are NOT small night crawlers. They are a completely different species, called stinkies or manure worms in some areas. A red worm smells rank and a lot of fish seek food with their sense of smell.

They are usually found in organic matter such as aged manures and heaps of compost. If you are less sensitive, go to a horse stable with a pile of manure. Put some manure with red worms in a bag.

See Warning!

What Fish Eats Red Worms

Panfish, bluegill, perch and trout love 'em!

Garden Worm

 Range from three to five inches long. They are available at any bait shop or you can simply look for these Worms in your own garden, or some place that has soft, loamy ground. Using a shovel or garden fork, dig around a foot down. Slowly break up the clods of soil while you search for garden worms.

See also Worm charming below

See Warning!

Night Crawlers

Night Crawlers are much sought after for fishing bait.

Night crawlers can be used in many different ways such as the whole worm, half pieces, floating or following behind a flasher. The night crawler can be used to catch a variety of fish including bass, trout, catfish, strippers, crappie and bluegill - making it the simplest yet effective live best bait for fishing in fresh water. With a night crawler you have the chance of catching a 2oz bluegill to a 10lb bass.

Night crawlers are excellent choice when you are fishing in high, muddy water and if you are after bigger fish. These worms got their name from their tendency to crawl out of the soil at night. Like the garden worms, they can be bought at any bait shop and at a very low price. As well as like the Garden Worm, you can look for them on your own.

If you're night crawler hunting the best time is evening after a hard spring or summer rain, it can be as simple as picking them off the street, especially the ones that have low curbs with grass parkways, darker streets are more productive than well lit ones as they are light sensitive. Searching in grass under leaves and rocks where the soil is moist use a flashlight and be sure to cover the lens of your flashlight with a thin cloth, or something else that can make the light dim. A red plastic covering over your flashlight is the best solution! I don't know if they can feel white light or what but if you shine a flashlight directly on a night crawler they will slide very quickly back into their hole. Night crawler picking is fun on a warm summer evening after a rain, just bring a container and get plenty of bait for free.
If it hasn’t rained for a while, try looking under old boards, bricks, logs or debris where the soil is still moist. Grab the worm as soon as you pick up the board, since they immediately try to go down a hole.

I find it best to use some form of forceps with a bent tip to pickup the nightcrawlers. The bent tip makes picking the worms up much easier.

Worm Charming

Also known as worm grunting, and worm fiddling. These are methods of attracting earthworms from the ground. 

Most worm charming methods involve vibrating the soil, which encourages the worms to the surface. In 2008 researchers from Vanderbilt University claimed that the worms surface because the vibrations are similar to those produced by digging moles, which prey on earthworms.

The same technique is used in the animal kingdom, especially among birds, which devour the worms as they appear above ground. The methods used vary, however tapping earth with feet to generate vibrations is widespread. The wood turtle also seems to be adapted for worm charming, as it is known to stamp its feet - a behavior that attracts worms to the surface and allows the turtle to prey on them.

The success of worm charming can often depend on these soil conditions, with charmers choosing damp locations or using water to attract the worms.

The activity is known by several different names and the apparatus and techniques vary significantly.

The techniques are as simple as placing a stick in your hand like you're praying and spin the stick in your hand like you're making a fire - Boy Scout style.

After a few minutes, worms should come out of the ground. 

The traditional, and still most popular technique is to stick a garden fork in the ground, and hit it with a stick. The consequent vibrations bring worms to the surface.

 When it rains the worms come out slowly, but with charming and moles they come out as if they were running. That's if worms could run."

See Warning!

Keep your worms in a large container filled with soft earth or compost. Several commercially available Styrofoam containers and kits are available to store worms. You can purchase one here.
An ideal way to keep a dozen or more worms is in a large coffee can. 
Remove both ends, and then use the snap-on plastic lids (you will need two) to hold the worms. Since worms tend to go deep, simply turn over the can and open the top lid to get worms when fishing.

As a general rule when using worms, be sure to match the size of the worm to the size of the fish you're after.  When going after small ones such as, Crappie or Bluegill, (sometimes called panfish) you'll want to use a small worm or even just a portion of a large one.  Worms can easily be cut into pieces with a pocket knife.  Be sure to put the unused portion back in the container, so it'll stay alive.

When fishing for larger fish such as Bass or Walleye, you should be using large worms, just be sure not to overload your hook. Remember, you want to give them a taste not the whole meal.

If possible, we suggest buying your worms at a tackle shop close to where you're going to be fishing.  

Note: Worms, minnows, and nightcrawlers die easily, and when dead they tend to no longer attract fish.

If you're fishing for the day, use the container they came in, keep them in a cool dry place and be sure not to keep them more than a couple of days.

A lil' trick to having big, fat, juicy worms every time you go fishing

Three to four days before you go fishing take your worms and put them in a container if they aren't in one already. Several commercially available Styrofoam containers and kits are available to store worms. This particular kit includes worm bedding.

Frabill Lil' Fisherman Worm Tote

Insulated poly-foam worm box has dual fliptop lids for easy access to top or bottom. Holds 1-2 dozen crawlers. Includes bedding.

Make sure there isn't any open space between the bedding and the container top. This will keep the worms from being able to move around.
Next add about a quart of distilled water to the bedding. Do not use water with chlorine, it could kill the worms. Mix the water with the worm bedding and mix the bedding and water with your hands. Do not let the bedding get too wet. You don't want to drown them! Squeeze a handful of the worm bedding. If water drips, the bedding is too wet. If it's too wet, then more dry bedding should be added to absorb the excess water.
Next, place several dozen nightcrawlers on top of the worm bedding. Do not stir or mix the worms into the bedding.
Now place some damp paper towels on top of the worm bedding. Add the cover and set aside for a few hours. After a few hours, remove the paper towels and check for worms that have not crawled into the bedding. Any worm that did not crawl into the bedding should be removed.
Replace the cover and store the container in a refrigerator or cool location.
Properly refrigerated storage is required to keep the nightcrawlers in top condition. Any damaged worms should be removed immediately and discarded.
Now all the worms can do is lie around and absorb up the water you put in. After 3 days your conditioned worms will look better than anything you can get from the dealer.

Please do not yell at me when your wife yells at you. The first time I placed them in the kitchen refrigerator, my wife about had a cow!

Use care in collecting all bait. Be careful when checking for worms and crickets under boards, since boards can hold rusty nails. Also, pull a board back towards you to keep the board between you and any bait. Sometimes baby snakes will be found under those same boards! Spiders, including poisonous types, can be found in the same areas. Watch for fire ants in some areas, and be aware that some bees and wasps nest in the ground.

See how to hook a worm at Our How To Hook Your Bait Page



Big fish eat smaller fish. Sensibly enough, you can use small fish as Fishing Baits. These Fishing Baits are called Minnows.
Minnows are probably the second most popular type of live bait.

Live minnows are so effective that some states have laws against using them. Check your  States Rules and regulations here. The good news is that dead minnows can often be almost as effective, when fished the right way. In some cases, a dead minnow lying on the bottom can work better than a live one swimming actively above the bottom.

Freshwater shiner minnows are a common species that most fish will readily hit. They're usually small but can grow up to a foot long. Crappie love them when they're about two inches long and a largemouth bass will go crazy over a six-to-eight inch shiner. Some others include fathead minnows, spottail minnows, chubs, suckers, and sculpin.

Minnows, along with earthworms, and crickets are a staple of most bait stores. They're fairly easy to keep in big tanks or cages and suppliers usually visit these stores at least weekly. Make sure you purchase enough bait for the day. It's better to have some left over than to run out when the fish are biting.

With minnows make sure they're swimming actively in the bucket and not lying dead on the bottom. They're usually counted out and sold by the dozen.
Healthy baitfish are a must if you want to catch bass with them. Liveliness is what attracts bass. A limp minnow hanging from your hook will not excite a bass. A minnow that is trying urgently to get somewhere safe will greatly increase your odds of "getting bit".
When buying shiners this is particularly important, for if they are not "fresh" and healthy when you buy them they will not do well when you get to the water and some may even die before getting there.
Check out the tank. 
Look in the tank and if the minnows are "bunched up" in a corner of the tank the chances are better they are healthy. If there are numerous individuals or small groups of minnows meandering around or swimming near the water's surface it's a sign things are not well with that bunch. Beware!
No red snouts! 
If they have red snouts they have been in the retailers tank too long. Their going to be weak and you'll get marginal performance from them.

There are also preserved minnows that can be bought. See here

They are a small fish that's fairly active in the water. It takes a little bit more work to keep them alive and healthy, but they can produce very good results in a bass or trout filled pond. It may take some more patience, but if you can find where the larger fish are you will be in for a real treat.

You can fish minnows just about any old way you want and still catch fish on them. While they are not “idiot proof”, you can almost always catch something on them, no matter how poorly you rig them and fish them. But, there are a lot of refinements in fishing minnows that can greatly increase both the number of bites and the quality of the fish you catch. And, you can fish them in a whole bunch of different ways.

Some people along with some websites will encourage the use of trapping minnows using a minnow trap or seining with the use of a seine net. If you do plan to pursue in one of those techniques I would advise that you familiarize yourself with Your State Fishing Laws by clicking here. It's more than likely illegal.
Check local laws before using any kind of live fish for bait.

Click here to see how to hook Minnows

What Fish Eat Minnows

Just about any of 'em!

Perch, Lake Trout, Catfish, Bass, Walleye, Muskie, Northern Pike, Bluegill, Crappie, Fliers to name a few.

Minnows are considered the best bait for fishing Crappie.

Storage can be an issue with minnows but, you have a couple of options.  First, if you plan on fishing for an entire day, keep them stored in a minnow bucket.

Plano Trolling Bait Bucket
The bucket is designed to stay in water while trolling to keep minnows fresh and alive. Secure bait door and built in handle. Yellow. 10.75 " W x 8.5"D x 14.5"H.

Fill the bucket with lake water. Be sure to change the water at least every hour to keep the fish alive.

Minnow traps 


Frabill Black Minnow Vinyl Trap

Efficient, durable and easy to operate. Black vinyl coating blends in with underwater colors, providing superb camouflage. 1/4" mesh. 

Minnow traps are designed to be submerged, and be attached to the dock or some other form of structure.  The purpose of the trap is to catch minnows.  We've found, if you cover the ends of the trap and put your minnows in the trap, they store just fine.  Each morning, simply raise the trap, take the amount of minnows you'll need and put them in the minnow bucket (be sure to put water in the bucket first), secure the minnow trap, and put it back in the water.
 Minnows can die quickly so be sure to keep an eye on them and use dead ones first.

You may want to consider buying large (chub) minnows when going after small fish.  You can cut the chub into 3-4 smaller pieces.  That's 36-48 pieces for a dozen chubs compared to what you might pay for a dozen small minnows.

If you have dead or leftover minnows . . .


It could end up that you are spreading diseases or allowing an invasive species into an ecosystem by releasing them.


Besides minnows, you can use any caught fish, including bait fish, to make cut bait to catch more fish.

Cut Bait

The word cut bait covers a wide variety of fish baits. 

Cut bait can be referred to cutting up bait fish into small portions to fit on your hook.
Bait fish are small fish caught for use as bait to attract large predatory fish. Examples of marine bait fish are anchovies, halfbeaks such as ballyhoo, and scads. Some larger fish such as menhaden, flying fish, or ladyfish may be considered bait fish in some circles, depending on the size of the gamefish being pursued. Freshwater bait fish include any fish of the minnow or carp family (Cyprinidae), sucker family (Catostomidae), top minnows or Killifish family (Cyprinodontidae), shad family (Clupeidae), sculpin of the order Osteichthyes or sunfish family (Centrarchidae), excluding black basses and crappie.

If you decide to use cut bait, Check with your State's Rules and Regulations to be sure cutbait is legal.

How to Get and Use Cutbait

First, you have to catch a fish or as a last resort, buy one from a tackle store. I advise against buying frozen fish for use as cut bait. Freshness is critically important.

Once you have a fish to use, scale the fish and fillet it.
Cut the fillets into one inch chunks. Alternatively , you can cut the fillets lengthwise into strips to add movement to your presentation.

How to hook cut bait?


 Crayfish, also known as crawdads or crawfish, are one of the most versatile Fishing Baits for all game fish. They are small crustaceans resembling little lobsters and usually live in cold water ponds, streams, and lakes.
At times live crayfish are an excellent bait, but more often the meat from the tail is the top producer. Just remove the shell from the tail of the crayfish and place the white meat on the hook. Crayfish tails are best used when still fishing with or without a bobber since they don't stay on the hook very well.
They produce the best results from spring to late fall when they are readily available to the catfish.

Crayfish are not that available, as compared to Minnows and Worms. If you will collect Crayfish, try searching on nearby lakes and brooks at night. Be careful picking up Crayfish as they have pincers, be sure to hold it around the middle of its body.

Though Crayfish seem tougher than Minnows, Crayfish also need cool water and adequate ventilation. Maintain a cool and well-aerated environment for your Crayfish. Place them in a large container with some rocks, gravel, and adequate amount of weeds from the lake.

Before you decide to go out and catch some crayfish or use crayfish as bait, make sure to check your regulations for your state. Some crayfish are considered invasive species and there are laws prohibiting anglers from using them as bait, transporting them into different waters and even controlling how you can catch them. If you are allowed to use them as bait, they can be very effective.
If not, take a look at the numerous jigs and crankbaits on the market today at Our Fundamentals of Fishing Lures Shop that resemble a crayfish. These will help you put more fish on your hook!

What Fish Eat Crayfish

Just about anything!

Crayfish are a main food source for fish such as smallmouth bass, largemouth bass, walleye, catfish and large trout.

Bass love to eat crayfish.

See how to hook a Crayfish here

Mussels and Clams

If clams or mussels are native to your area, you can use them as bait. Gather the mussels and clams from shallow waters before or while you are fishing. Crack the shell to open, cut out the clam or mussel, and allow the bait to harden in the sun slightly to help keep it on the hook. To keep the bait as fresh as possible, open the clams or mussels as you use them and only when you need new bait.


Although not as popular, frogs can be great bait for both bass and walleye. Leopard frogs are the most common and easily found bait for those looking to use them.
 (Check your local Rules and Regulations for restrictions.)

The transportation of fish from one location to another can break the law and cause the introduction of fish alien to the ecosystem.
Read More Here


Insects such as ants, beetles, grasshoppers, crickets, caterpillars, etc., are ideal for panfish, sunfish and trout. You can buy crickets at almost any bait shop and some Walmarts or where aquarium fish are sold.

Crickets, along with earthworms, and minnows are a staple of most bait stores. They're fairly easy to keep in big tanks or cages and suppliers usually visit these stores at least weekly. Make sure you purchase enough bait for the day. It's better to have some left over than to run out when the fish are biting.

If buying crickets, look for lively, active crickets that climb on the container. Make sure there are no dead ones in the bottom. Crickets are measured by volume rather than counted and you don't want to pay for a lot of dead ones.

Crickets and Grasshoppers are also good hot weather Fishing Baits. These insects usually find shelter near the banks. When the wind gets up and they lose their balance, they will fall into the water and the water current will carry them away. Some fish know this so they stay near the spot for a regular food supply. Trout, crappie, bluegill, smallmouth bass and other species eat these insects which naturally go down in the water.

If you decide to collect Crickets and Grasshoppers, go to grass fields in early morning. Crickets and Grasshoppers are less prone to hopping from place to place on a dew-filled morning. More often than not, you can see them in places with bushes in which they can cling on the stems. You can also catch them at night under lights.
Laying a cloth, towel, cardboard or newspaper on the grass will attract crickets. 
You can trap crickets by placing a slice of stale bread in a hidden location and checking it daily to catch and trap crickets. Try also putting bread in a jar placed on its side. Keep the lid next to the jar to trap crickets when you check it.

Use care in collecting all bait. Be careful when checking for worms and crickets under boards, since boards can hold rusty nails. Also, pull a board back towards you to keep the board between you and any bait. Sometimes baby snakes will be found under those same boards! Spiders, including poisonous types, can be found in the same areas. Watch for fire ants in some areas, and be aware that some bees and wasps nest in the ground.

To keep crickets and grasshoppers for weeks, feed them a few vegetable scraps, moistened to provide water.

Keeping the Crickets and Grasshoppers in a container with lid is good, but there is a likely chance that one or two of your insects will hop out of your container once you take the lid off to get one Cricket or Grasshopper. Find something else in which your hand fits exactly to the opening, such as a used sock or stocking. When you need a Fishing Bait, put your hand inside the sock or stocking and get one. In this case, there is very little possibility that one of your Fishing Baits will come out.

What Fish eat Insects?

Almost all fish will go after crickets and grasshoppers.
Trout most definitely. They are ideal for catching Bluegills as well.

There are some water creatures that are not as commonly used Fishing Baits as Worms and Minnows, but these uncommon Fishing Baits are likewise useful and effective.


 It is a common fact that leeches are true-blue bloodsuckers. However, they are also good Fishing Baits for so many different species. They work well for largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, walleye, northern pike and panfish.
Leeches are very popular among deep water fish.

Fish eat many types of leeches, but only the ribbon leech is widely used as bait. The color of a ribbon leeches varies from pure black to light brown and some have a brown or olive background with many black spots.

Leeches are almost always bought from bait stores. 
Store the leaches in a bucket similar to those used for minnows. Leeches are hardy and will last a long time.
Leeches are easy to keep alive. 
They are not as sensitive to temperature changes as minnows, and they require relatively little oxygen. Leeches can be kept alive until fall, even without food, but they should be allowed to clean themselves. Anglers can keep the bait "cleaner" by rinsing the leeches on a daily basis and storing them in fresh, clean water in a cool place.

The summer is the best time to fish with leeches; by mid-summer most of the adult leeches have deposited cocoons and die off. Also, in the summer time the leech will wiggle more below a bobber than a worm. When drifting or trolling, anglers will catch suspended walleyes on floating jigheads and slip sinker rigs.

Leeches tend to work much better once the water warms above 55 degrees. When it's colder, the leeches may curl up into a ball and just stay there. When the water warms above 55 degrees, leeches become much livelier, which draws strikes from a variety of different fish.


 These are the larvae of dobsonfly. They can grow up to four inches and they usually live in cold water lakes and streams. Like an insect, a hellgrammite has three pairs of legs and appendages located on its sectioned body. These water creatures are good choice in Fishing for trout and bass living in rivers. Keep hellgrammites in screened boxes with three or four inches of mud. Submerge these boxes on water that has the same temperature to the place where these larvae came from.

Mealworms and Grubs

 Larvae of some insects work well as Fishing Baits. Mealworms and grubs, which grow to the maximum of an inch, are good Fishing Baits if you are after species of trout, sunfish and panfish. Mealworms and grubs are cheap and keeping them does not entail too much work. Just store them in a cold place and they will still be useful even after a long time.
Grubs and meal worms are commonly sold baits readily available from tackle and bait shops. 

You can harvest grubs from the soil and from unusual swellings and deformities – galls – that you find on the leaves and twigs of trees and plants.

How to hook a grub or mealworm


Known as the perfect fishing bait by many anglers.

These small, wriggling little creatures are ideal for use as bait because they are cheap, in plentiful supply, they are easy to hook and the fish absolutely love them. Why? Because they are packed to the brim with protein.

They are suitable for year round use and suitable for all venues, from the most powerful rivers through to the most idyllic farm ponds.

Maggots are sold by the pint in most tackle shops.
Ask for a little maize dust or sawdust if possible to be added to the maggots. This helps to keep the baits clean and also helps to absorb any moisture from the baits.

What fish like maggots?

 Basically anything that swims!
From tiny little minnows to record breaking carp. They will all feast upon maggots at some point in their lives.

The only fish that aren’t really commonly associated with the maggot are pike and zander – they prefer to eat other fish, or our perfectly presented deadbaits or livebaits.

How To Use Maggots

You can fish maggots on the bottom of the river, lake or canal. You can even fish maggots on the surface and at any depth in between.

How To Hook Maggots

Live bait can be delicate. 
I do not suggest casting and retrieving it like you would an artificial lure.
Rather, fish it with a bobber or as bait on a rig. (see the section for the basics on rigs)

These baits can all be gathered for free. 
Worms can be dug in your garden, grasshoppers collected in grassy fields, crickets found in dark corners in the basement, crayfish found under rocks in small creeks, and minnows seined or caught in a minnow trap at a local pond.

Other Natural Baits

For bottom-feeding fish like carp and catfish, bread, small pieces of cheese, and canned corn are good.

Other natural baits include marshmallows (for some reason certain types of fish like them!), salmon eggs, cheese, dough balls, smoked salmon, bologna, salami, green peas. Cheese, just about any kind of cheese will catch catfish but orange cheeses like cheddar or American work particularly well.

You can use a few kernels of corn on a single hook and it will out fish most other baits day in and day out. If you pour a can of corn into a sandwich bag, add a little vanilla extract, close the bag and shake it up, you will have a whole can of corn that is flavored with vanilla extract. Just add a tablespoon or less per can and you will have a lot more success. Carp love this deadly combination and they will hold onto this bait longer allowing you to get a good hook set.

Believe it or not, hot dogs can be a very effective bait for carp and catfish. To many experienced anglers, this is no surprise, but to others, this might sound kind of bizarre. Hot dogs do work. You don't have to heat them up. Just take them out of the package, put a 2 or 3 inch piece on your hook, toss your line out into the water and wait for a bite.
Many fish in excess of 15 pounds have been taken with hot dogs.

Chewing Gum balls (after a thorough chewing) seems to work.

Salmon eggs are one of the best baits for catching salmon and trout during the spawning period when they head upstream into the rivers, creeks and streams. Salmon eggs are also very effective in lakes for trout. Many smaller lakes are stocked yearly with trout and salmon eggs will catch a lot of trout in these lakes. In very deep water where fish are suspended, salmon eggs will not be as effective, but in the shallower areas where trout can easily grab a meal off of the bottom, salmon eggs will definitely work.
Many anglers prefer to use artificial salmon eggs. The single egg pattern is one of the most popular presentations for salmon and trout during their spawning runs.
There are a variety of colors on the market and they will all produce.  The reason why they are so effective is that once salmon and trout enter the rivers to spawn, their primary food source is salmon eggs.  Salmon and trout will set up just downstream of other spawning fish and feed aggressively on the eggs that get knocked out of the spawning beds.  Anglers should make sure to have plenty of single egg flies in their tackle box because you can expect to lose quite a few of these by snagging up on the bottom and foul-hooking fish.


Beef Liver or Chicken Liver?

Beef liver is firm and readily can be skewered by hooks. Baitholder hooks, or hooks that have small barbs to prevent bait from sliding off, hold beef liver in place during casting and retrieval.

Chicken liver is much softer than beef liver, though more readily leaks fluid into the water to attract fish.
Chicken liver is a very popular bait for catfish, especially channel catfish. Once you realize how to get the liver to stay on your hook, it's pretty easy to fish with. Just find a good spot and fish with your chicken liver on the bottom and you're ready to catch some catfish. On some waters, chicken liver works really well for striped bass as well.

Target edges or drop-offs during the day and mid-deep water at night. Older channel catfish actively feed on live prey and are less likely to consume chicken livers. Smaller catfish in the 1- to 3-lb. range will readily feed on livers.

One problem with chicken livers is keeping them on the hook but if you cover them with garlic salt and dry them in the sun for 3 or 4 hours they will toughen up quite a bit and the garlic salt seems to make the cats like them even better.

Several other methods would include:

Wrap sewing thread around the livers to keep the catfish from stealing them. This method tends to work better if you run the thread through the eye of the hook, then wrap your thread around the liver working your way down and then back up towards the eye before tying it off.

Best method is to use elastic thread that you can buy at any Walmart in the sewing department. Just break off 4 to 5 inches of elastic thread and while winding it around the liver that is on the hook make sure you stretch the thread. You don't even have to tie it but just let it go when you run out of thread. This works extremely well to keep the liver on. You will be pleased how the bait stays on cast after cast. The thread is less than $2 and one spool will last for a long, long time.

Most of these items can be found in your pantry or grocery store.
Salmon eggs can be purchased at a bait and tackle store.

Bread is a popular bait for carp and catfish. Most anglers will use bread as a way of chumming, which means putting some bait in the water to draw fish to your area. Chumming with bread will draw catfish and carp into the area and hopefully they will stay long enough to take your bait. Using bread alone on a hook is difficult because it falls off easily, but there are many fishermen that use bread and have very good results. If you chum in the same spot consistently for a few weeks, some fish will know to come back there for feeding time. Once you get fish accustomed to a certain area for feeding, you can just throw enough bread in the water to get them excited. Don't throw a ton of bread in the water, just enough to get them excited. Get your baits out where the fish are and you should have some success.

Be sure to check the fishing regulations in your area as chumming is illegal in some states.

Stinkbaits or Doughballs

A doughball is just what it sounds like, a little ball of dough. 
Dough baits are popular baits for carp, catfish and trout. While there are literally thousands of different recipes for these types of baits, most catfish and carp dough baits consist of cereal, bread and flour. You can add many different ingredients to give it a unique flavor and texture.

Stinkbaits on the other hand is as the name implies, stinkbaits are mixture of ball of dough and some food spices and different ingredients which have odors that can attract certain fish species. These substances can be animal blood, cheese, or garlic. Stinkbaits are widely used as baits for carp and catfish.
Additional ingredients that are added to liver or cheese for catfish and carp is adding corn, vanilla extract, strawberry pop, pet food, oatmeal and crackers. Wheaties is probably the most popular cereal used for making your catfish and carp dough bait.
The majority of trout baits are bought. Manufacturers, such as Berkley, have made some amazing products for trout so most anglers just purchase them from their local retailer.
Visit Our FUNdamentals of Fishing Bait Shop for these products.

How To Make Stinkbait or Doughballs

To make your own dough balls, stir up a doughy mix of hot water and flour or cornmeal and add a favorite flavoring. Some favorite scents for all fish include garlic, licorice, anise, and strawberry gelatin. Gradually add water to the mixture and wait for the right consistency that will allow you to make small, tight balls from the mixture. Store in the refrigerator until used. If you only need a small amount of dough or are short of time, use soft white bread and squeeze it into a doughy mass.

 You can use these formed dough balls by taking the shape of your Fish Hook. Sooner or later, the carp or catfish will smell that distinctive odor and it will swim his way towards the Fishing Bait.

To make your own stink bait, take a look at how to make dough balls and then start adding ingredients that give it a distinct or even awful smell. Many anglers believe the stronger the better. By stronger, we mean that the smell is so bad that you don't even want to touch your own bait.

You can find some additional Homemade Doughball and Stinkbait Recipes here.

Preserved Fishing Baits

Perhaps where you plan to fish, there are no Bait Shops and you are not one to be wandering around in fields and woods on your hands and knees looking for bait.

There are a lot of preserved Fishing Baits that are commercially available. 

Salmon Eggs

Balls O' Fire Tyee Salmon Eggs - 1 oz

 Salmon Eggs are preserved in small bottles and can be plain, colored, and/or scented. They are well-liked Fishing Baits for fishing trout.

If you want to use salmon eggs for Fishing, you will need a Salmon Egg Fish Hook.
 When fishing in still waters, just let the salmon egg sit on the bottom. But in moving waters, fasten a split-shot to your Fishing Line and allow the salmon egg to go with the flow of the water.

Preserved Minnows

Berkley Gulp! Alive! Jumbo Leech/Minnow Assortment Bucket 12.7 Ounce, 5-Inch/3-Inch, Assortment

Preserved Minnows are available at numerous tackle shops and since they are already lifeless, preserved minnows are good choice for trouble-free handling and easy storage compared to live minnows. They can be freeze-dried, frozen, or placed on jars. In using preserved minnows, you must hook them in the lips. Attach weight to your Fishing Line. After minutes or so, pull it up slowly.

Pork Rinds

Pork Rind Bass Strip White 50W De

 Pork strips are marinated tough skin strips that come in different sizes and shapes, and also available in different shades of colors. Some makers of pork rinds can make these Fishing Baits look like real living water creatures, so the fish you are after will eat them. These Fishing Baits are used when fishing for pike, pickerel, and some bass species. To a degree, the use of pork rinds as Fishing Baits is a practical thing, since the pork rinds are tough, they can be used again and again for the next Fishing trip.

A nifty little trick using Pork Rinds to catch fish

Fish Scents

Baitmate Live Gamefish Fish Attractant, 5-ounce

 Fish Scents are not Fishing Baits, however they are made to put odor to various Fishing Baits and Fishing Lures. Fish scents are made from different ingredients that are believed to attract fish. There is a presumption that your worm, when smeared or sprayed with a fish scent, will be eaten by a fish faster than a worm without scent. This can work to a certain degree, but since the Fishing Bait is under the water, the odor will probably wear off after a considerable amount of time.

Choose your bait based on the type of fish you are trying to catch.
be sure to visit Our What Fish Eat What Page
If you just can't decide which bait to use, a worm is always a good bet for most types of fish.

The more natural the bait the better. 

However, sometimes the fish are not actively feeding. These times call for lures that will cause the fish to "strike" just out of instinct. Some flashy lures (spoons, jigs, spinner baits, and crank baits) are designed to make fish bite even when they're not feeding, due to sound, motion, and color.

We'll discuss Lures and Artificial Bait on the next page.
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It is important that people who fish follow all fishing rules and regulations.
These rules help conserve fish populations and also help anglers be successful.
Regulations may limit the size of, number of, and season that a type of fish may be caught, and may require a license to fish. In some cases, only “catch and release” fishing is allowed, which means the fish must be let go. Some bait is illegal in certain areas.
Contact your state wildlife agency by visiting Our Rules and Regulations Page.

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