Fishing With Live Bait

Posted by nick under Fishing Beginners Guide

Fishing with bait can be simple or it can be complicated. Personally, I prefer simple. If the idea of handling worms bothers you, you should skip directly to the post on lures.

Worms

Worms can get swept into lakes and rivers during a strong rain or storm. They are a tasty protein-rich treat for any fish, and most fish would be glad to snack on one if presented with the opportunity.

 

 

worm
[photo by schizoform]

You can purchase your worms at a bait shop, they are not too expensive, or as with all of the live bait, you can catch them yourself. There are a few variety of worms.

Catching Worms

Look for worms in parks, your backyard, or at your fishing spot.  A great time to collect worms is after it rains: just pick them off the street or grass. If you are looking for worms at night, use a lens cover on the flashlight (in yellow or red), because worms are very sensitive to bright light and will try to burrow back into the ground. A piece of colored plastic wrap works well.

 

When you spot a worm on the ground, it will almost always only be partially exposed. Grab the worm by the part that is closest to the ground. Don’t try to grab it by the head. Hold on to it, but don’t squeeze it. Have a little patience and allow the worm to begin to contract before slowly (and carefully) pulling it out of its hole. Twisting to make it easier.

Caring for Worms

To keep your worms healthy, keep them away from heat, light and vibration. Try to recreate their natural environment: cool and dark. They like moisture, but you shouldn’t drown them. Bait containers for worms can be purchased at tackle shops, but you can easily keep them in an old coffee can as long as you perforate the top so they can breathe.

Hooking Worms

There are several ways to hook a worm. For small fish you can cut a worm into pieces and thread the pieces onto a small hook. Large worms can be hooked through the collar once, or if it’s a big worm it can be hooked through the body a few more times. Be sure to bury the hook and barb in the worm, to keep it from sliding off. Small worms can be treated the same as worm worm pieces; hook several on the same hook.

hooking worm through collar

Maggots

Also called spikes or grubs, maggots are a great bait to use for panfish like bluegill. Spikes have a bad reputation among non-anglers. But, you should know that maggots are one of the cleanest baits available. Maggots purchased in U.S. are the larval form of the blowfly. Like worms, they will catch almost any freshwater fish.

maggots

Catching Maggots

Hmmm. As sanitary as they are, I leave maggot breeding/catching to the professionals. Do yourself a favor and just purchase these at the bait shop. They come in a small Styrofoam container, like worms.

Caring for Maggots

Caring for maggots is easy. Keep them cool and out of the sun while you’re fishing. You can store any left-overs in your refrigerator. The cold will make them inactive and they should keep for week or two.

Hooking Maggots

Because of their small size, maggots are much easier to thread on a small hook. This is great way to fish them because you can hide the entire hook in the bait. You can also put several maggots on one hook by piercing them through the middle. For best results, be sure to hide the end of the hook in this rigging too.

Hoppers

Grasshoppers & Crickets

Hoppers make great bait for summer fishing, and they can be fun to catch. Children especially, can have a great time trying to catch these for you.

 

 

grasshopper
[photo by Mark Maclean]

Catching Hoppers

Grasshopper and crickets can be caught from almost any grassy field, use your hands, a hat or baseball cap, or a small net. You can also make a hopper trap by laying out some sugary bread on the grass and covering it with a piece of cardboard, cloth or newspaper. Leave it overnight and carefully lift the cover in the morning to collect your hoppers.

Caring for Hoppers

Hoppers are easy to trasport. Keep them in a coffee can, a store bought bait box, or a water bottle. The advantage of using a water bottle is that you can shake one out at a time. Be sure to punch a few small air holes in the bottle.

Hooking Hoppers

You need to use fine wire hooks with hoppers. You can hook them right behind the head through the collar, or if you want them to last longer you can avoid hooking them altogether; Use a fine wire and twist it around the shank of the hook, then very gently twist it around the body of the hopper. A small rubber band would work too.

grasshopper fastened to hook

grasshopper hooked through collar

Minnows

Minnows are small baitfish usually found in freshwater systems. They make excellent bait, as long as they are lively.

minnows

Catching Minnows

Minnows can be purchased in a bait shop on your way to your fishing spot.

 

If you want to catch your own, you have a few choices. Just be sure to check that the method is legal in your state.

You can catch Minnows with a dip net. If you’re having trouble with that, use a bigger net and lay it down in shallow water. Place some small pieces of bread or dog food kibbles on the net and lift it straight up to capture the minnows when they swim over the net. They also sell commercially available minnow traps in tackle shops.

Caring for Minnows

Minnows need cool, clean, oxygen rich non-chlorinated water. Invest in a one of those minnow buckets with a battery operated aerator. Keep it out of the sun. If the day is very hot, put the whole bucket in your cooler with a little ice to keep the water temperature comfortable.

Hooking Minnows

Where you hook a minnow depends on how you plan to fish it. If you’re going to use a float, then a hook the minnow through the back, be careful not to injure the spine or you might kill or paralyze it. If you are going to allow the minnow to swim freely without weights, for maximum natural action, hook it through the tail. If you are going to cast and retrieve or troll it (drag it behind your boat) hook it through the lips.

minnow hooked through backminnow hooked through tail

minnow hooked through lips

There are other live baits you can use like leeches, some people even use frogs. Look around underneath rocks and around your fishing area for likely candidates. But, remember to check on the legality of your bait, because some baits are illegal in in some waters and bait is always a no-no on “artificial-only” or “fly-only waters.”

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8 Responses to “Fishing With Live Bait”

  1. Daisy Says:

    I can’t find anywhere on the internet how to actually tie the tackle on–I mean, jillions of sites on how to tie knots, but no one tells you tie the sinker on, then come up 2 feet or so on the line and tie on the hook using a swivel etc., , then come up a foot or so and slip on the bobber…or whatever. I haven’t done this since I was a kid and I didn’t know how to do it right even then. Can you help?

  2. nick Says:

    Hi Daisy,

    What you are looking for are called “rigs.” I have instructions for a very basic rig here:
    How to tie an egg sinker rig

    You can google for:
    Fishing rigs
    Bobber Rig
    Catfish rig
    Bass rig
    Trout rig
    Freshwater rigs

    You can also check out these rigs here:
    Basic rigs

    Hope this helps!

    -Nick

  3. dorothy Says:

    thank you, nick. very helpful.

  4. Johnny Says:

    I hook crappie minnows through the eyes. I have had very good luck with this method and my bait seems to stay livelier longer.

  5. Robert White Says:

    Very informative ane easy to read. I am a beginner and this in the best I have found that is easy to read.

  6. Christina Says:

    Daisy, The length of line you leave from your hook to your bobber, depends on the depth of the water. how deep do you want the worm/bait to sink? to the bottom, mid way down? it wont go any lower than the gap between it and the bobber. I adjust my bobber on my sons pole, constantly, depending on the depth of the water he’s casting into. If you’re in DEEP water, dont use a bobber at all. you can buy the clip on “bells” to the end of your pole, if you’re not sure by the tug on the pole, and want the visual/sound to let you know when something has it.

  7. Keith Says:

    Red worms are easy to raise and multiply on household scraps. Mealworms are also very easy to raise.

  8. Fishy Says:

    Hello

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