What Bait Is Best for Freshwater Fishing?

What Bait is Best for Freshwater FishingLive bait will usually catch more fish than artificial lures. After all, it's the real thing and fish can tell the difference. The more you know about fish behavior, the better your choices will be. Since it's wasteful and expensive to buy many types of bait for every fishing trip, base your choice on the natural diet of the species of freshwater fish you're targeting.

Bluegills and Sunfish

These fish prefer small earthworms but they have a knack for stealing the bait without taking the hook. You can avoid this by threading a worm onto your hook from one end to the other, until it's completely covered. sunfish and bluegills also like to small crickets, grasshoppers, caterpillars and white grubs.


Crappies favor minnows that are 1.5 to 2.5 inches long. Bait your hook by running it through the back of your minnow at a spot that's just in front of the dorsal fin. You can also hook both lips, starting with the bottom one, the tail, or behind the head. If you don't have minnows, crappies will also eat earthworms, crickets and hellgrammites.

Yellow Perch

Two-inch minnows ring the dinner bell for yellow perch. The best way to rig them is by running your hook through both lips, starting with the bottom one. An earthworm or two that's hooked through the side in several places can also be effective.

Bullhead Catfish

Catfish love earthworms and night crawlers so they're the best bait to use. Hook a few earthworms through the side in several places or thread your hook from one end to the other with a large night crawler to completely cover the hook.


Largemouth bass like minnows and small frogs but they also go for large night crawlers. Hook your minnow's back just in front of the dorsal fin or hook your frog's leg so that it's still able to swim. If you use a night crawler, hook its head and allow the body to dangle from the hook. Smallmouth bass will take the same bait but they prefer crayfish and hellgrammites. You should hook hellgrammites under the collar and crayfish in the tail. Don't drop them to the bottom or they'll find a hiding place and crawl under it.

Northern Pike

Pike have razor sharp teeth but wire leaders can keep them from biting the line. Since wire leaders can also reduce the number of strikes, you'll have to decide when to use them. Active 4-inch minnows are the ticket for northern pike and you should hook them through the back, in front of the dorsal fin.


Pickerel have the same diet as bass, so minnows and small frogs are ideal. Hook your minnows through the back and your frogs through the leg as you would if you were baiting a hook for bass.


Walleyes prefer live minnows and fat night crawlers but you'll have to go deep to find them. Use a heavy sinker to get your bait on the bottom or just above it. Run your hook through a minnow's back near the front of its dorsal fin or hook a worm through its head with the body trailing behind.


All three types of trout have a weakness for earthworms, grasshoppers and crickets. You can hook an earthworm by piercing the body in several places. Bait a grasshopper or cricket by putting the point of your hook between its eyes and threading it through the body and out the other end. Always cast upstream and let the bait come back to you.

Article Written By Dan Eash

Dan Eash began writing professionally in 1989, with articles in LaHabra's "Daily Star Progress" and the "Fullerton College Magazine." Since then, he's created scripts for doctor and dentist offices and published manuals, help files and a training video. His freelance efforts also include a book. Eash has a Fullerton College Associate of Arts in music/recording production and a Nova Institute multimedia production certificate.

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