What Bait is Best for Freshwater Fishing?

What Bait is Best for Freshwater Fishing?

When it comes to the best baits for freshwater fishing, you should understand that each fish has its own favorite food.

To bring you the best moment of indulging yourself when fishing in lakes, ponds, and rivers, besides a good rod & reel combo, here are the top-rated options for baits that never fail to give me the result when catching fish.

There are also some pro tips on how to retain live baits and how to use them efficiently. Don’t overlook!


Earthworms, live worms, grubs, and other worms are the tried and true baits for fishing for almost every kind of freshwater fishes. They are also easy to find – just with a few shovels of dirt in a damped, shaded area or your garden – and really inexpensive when bought in tackle stores.

If you’re a beginner, this is my highest recommendation. For panfish, trout, and sunfish, choose smaller manure worms while for bass and walleyes, night crawlers or earthworms are best to go.

Pro tips:

Take note that sunfish is the bait-stealing king. To prevent them from nibbling the bait but not biting down on your hook, thread a piece of worm on the hook until it’s covered completely.

Or with small worms, hook at least twice or four times based on their length through the center.

If you can’t touch the real things, plastic worms are another good idea.


Like a worm, minnows are an all-around bait for freshwater fishing and in this case, they’re literally baby fish. You can easily find them in bait shops or tackle stores. If it’s legal in your local, catching them on your own is also fun and economic.

Take note that minnows come in different size so for pike and bass fishing, use minnows along with bigger shiners for better rewards.

If you go fishing with a bobber, insert your hook through the top of your minnows’ back (but don’t damage its spinal cord). For drifting and trolling, cast and retrieve, it should be vertically hooked through the tail or the lip.

The reason for such different ways of minnows hooking is to keep them moving on their own, which will attract fish better.

Pro tips:

To use this bait efficiently, you must keep them alive and kicking. Place them in a shaded container with the same water from where they were caught or bought. Avoid crowding them! Sometimes, use a bobber to sustain oxygen in the water.


To catch sunfish, trout, and panfish, the best live freshwater fishing baits are crickets, ants, grasshoppers, caterpillar, and beetles.

Particularly, ants on a fly attract brown trout like a dream. If you’re going to catch small or large-mouth trout, try the immature versions of caddis, mayflies, dobsonfly larvae, hellgrammites, and stoneflies.

With insects, you can easily find them on a nearby bait shop or get the whole family involved to capture them with a net. Kids will surely love this.

Dough Ball

This is a commercially made bait that works incredibly for freshwater fishing. There are a vast of dough ball produced for specific kinds of fish, such as catfish, panfish, trout, carp, and even crappie.

To use them optimally, use a treble hook and mold stuff all around it. If needed, use a bait holder attachment.

A more budget-friendly way to catch carp and catfish with dough balls is to make them yourself. The ingredients are easy to prepare: Sugar (1 teaspoon), Yellow cornmeal (1 cup), and Flour (1 cup).

Mix all of them in a bowl and pour water into the mixture (a 1-quart container is fine) to create a hefty dough. Now, roll the dough into small balls of ½ to 1-inch diameter.

The rest of the water will be poured into a pan (on a stove), mixed with 1 cup of molasses, licorice, garlic, strawberry gelatin, anise, or other flavoring agents.

When the mixture is boiling, drop the dough balls that you’ve just made beforehand in the pan, cook for 2-3 minutes. Remember not to overcrowd them.

Finally, cool before use.

Clams & Mussels

If your area has clams and mussels, taking advantage of them for catching native fish is an excellent idea.

To keep them alive before and while you fish, simply gather them from shallow waters. When in use, crack their shell, cut out clams and mussels. To keep them stay on the hook, my tips are placing them under the sun to harden a little bit.

You can use a thread and tie them onto the fishing hook but avoid pulling too tightly.


Like other live baits in this list, there are two ways to get crayfish: buy from a store or catch with a fine mesh net/window screen in the water.

·For carp, bullheads, and catfish use dead crawdads (you should thread them on the hook)

·For panfish, use meat from the large pincers or the tail meat

·For smallmouth bass, use whole and alive crayfish (you should hook it through the tail)

To store them lively, place crayfish in a bait bucket, damp moss, or moist rags.

When in use, I usually cut long V-shaped strips along the thin belly area to simulate eel of fish. Include a pelvic or pectoral fin on the bait for more attraction to fish.

If you’re cleverer, try scaling the fish trip but take note to insert the hook through its skin, which keeps your bait intact.


Some other baits for freshwater fishing are:

•Salmon eggs: Best for steelhead, trout, and salmon
•Eels: Best for striped bass
•Leeches: Best for Northern pike or walleye
•Shrimp: Best for catfish in the water below 70 degrees
•Bread: Best for carp and catfish
•Frog: Best for largemouth and smallmouth bass


Whenever intending to go out and catch some live baits, always check if your local fishing regulations allow for that. It’s because some lakes forbid using rough fish minnows as bait for freshwater fishing.

That’s the one and only serious note to keep in mind. Anyways, hope that this article was helpful to you. Thanks for reading!

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