Ice Fishing Gear Essentials for Every Angler

Ice Fishing Gear List and Tips

Ice fishing can be as simple as a fishing rod, some live bait, and a device to drill a hole. However, those are the bare bones when it comes to ice fishing gear. Whether you are a beginner ice angler or a seasoned pro on the hardwater, there are ice fishing essentials every angler needs.


Essential Ice Fishing Gear List

Let’s make the assumption you already have ice fishing clothing, such as cold weather outerwear and insulated boots, and your necessary license. Our focus can then be on the ice fishing equipment required to put fish on the ice. There are 9 essential items that every angler needs on their ice fishing gear list: 


  1. Jigging ice fishing rod and reel 
  2. Live bait container stocked with live bait 
  3. Terminal tackle such as line clippers, fish grabbers, pliers, hooks, sinkers, etc. 
  4. Ice fishing tip ups 
  5. Ice fishing electronics 
  6. Ice augur and skimmer 
  7. Retractable ice pick (Just in case) 
  8. Sled to tote all your ice fishing equipment 
  9. Bucket, chair or ice shanty to set up shop 

Tips On the Most Important Ice Fishing Gear

As you can see from the ice fishing essentials above, ice fishing requires a few unique items and some items with a different twist. For success on the ice, here are a few tips on the most important ice fishing equipment! 

Ice Fishing Rods and Reels 

There are essentially two different styles of ice fishing rods. One is a jigging rod, which is a smaller version of the more traditional fishing rod and reel combo. An ice fishing jigging rod is at most 3-feet in length and has an ultralight action with a small spinning reel. One good jigging rod is enough for most anglers. However, an important tip is to pay attention to the type of fishing line you use. Use as light of line as you can for what you expect to catch. Also, specifically designed ice fishing line works better than normal fishing line because it withstands cold water better, is abrasion resistant, and is less visible under the ice. 

The other style of rods anglers should have in their ice fishing gear is the tip up. Ice fishing tip ups are unique to ice fishing. They are comprised of a spool of line set just below the hole under the water, with typically some type of live bait hanging below. When the fish grabs the bait, a flag, or type of indicator, pops up to alert you of the strike. Tip ups allow you to fish multiple holes, but remember not to overdo it. You are much more successful setting fewer tip ups than having more than you can get to when a fish pops the flag. 

Live Bait Containers and the Importance of Alive Bait 

Live bait is by far the most popular fishing bait for ice anglers. The problem is, live bait has a tough time staying alive in sub-freezing temperatures. You can catch more fish under the ice if you have fresh, live bait such as minnows. However, most live bait containers fall short when it comes to ice fishing. Traditional minnow buckets are cumbersome to tote along and make it difficult to keep minnows alive. Although not exclusively designed for ice fishing, one of the best new ice fishing gadgets is the live bait container from Bait Up™. It’s small, innovative design lets you freshen water from your ice hole as well as stow it out of the elements. Both features keep your live bait alive longer which equals more fish. 


Ice Fishing Electronics and Why They Are Worth It

Fish finders and other electronics for ice fishing are not all that new. They are, however, much more advanced and helpful for ice anglers than they use to be. 

Electronics can put a dent in your ice fishing gear budget, but they are worth it. No longer do you need to drill dozens of holes before you find the sweet spot. Ice fishing electronics allow you to find fish faster and mark hotspots for future trips. 

Having the right ice fishing gear makes for a much more successful time on the water. The 9 ice fishing gear essentials outlined above are critical no matter what level of ice angler you are. Pair those with safe ice on top of plentiful lakes and you have a winning ice fishing combination. 

Ice Fishing Bait for Winter Panfish

Are You Packing the Best Ice Fishing Bait?

If you’re not used to the cold and darkness that winter brings across the northern fringe of the country, you might think it’s a depressing time of year to be around. You’d be wrong, since the frigid conditions also mean it’s time for ice fishing season! But how do you know you’re using the right ice fishing bait for whatever fish species you’re targeting? First, start by reading this live bait guide, which is a great resource for several fish species (e.g., crappies, bass, trout, and walleye) throughout the year. And if you really want to key in on panfish this upcoming ice fishing seasonstart watching ice fishing videos and keep reading below for some ice fishing tips.

Types of Panfish Bait

These days, it’s easy to get confused about which bait you should use. Take a stroll through a sporting goods store and you’ll be overwhelmed by aisles of ice fishing supplies and specialty baits that all promise to help you catch fish. Plastic worms or grubs, artificial baits, and live baits are the three basic categories of ice fishing bait used by most anglers.  

The artificial fishing baits have some benefits over traditional live bait – namely, they are durable and can often be used for more than one bite. Plastic baits can be used dozens of times as long as they’re not damaged, but live minnows or worms don’t usually hold up well past a single strike. You can also keep a package of artificial ice fishing bait inside your coat pocket very easily to stay mobile.  

But there’s nothing more dependable on any body of water than ice fishing with live bait. Of the live bait for ice fishing (especially when targeting panfish), minnows are a perfect choice. On some occasions, wax worms also work well. But if you’re into mobile ice fishing, you probably hate being tethered to a big minnow bucket – it’s just too bulky to move things around efficiently. That’s where the Bait Up™ containers really shine.


Tips for Using a Live Bait Container

Depending on which fish species you’re after, the minnow choice should also change. For example, when you’re ice fishing for panfish, you should seek out shiners or fathead minnows. Generally speaking, minnows in the 1- to the 2-inch range is the right size for catching crappies or bluegills. Any bigger, and you’re getting into a minnow size that should be used for targeting walleye. 

Likewise, your bait container should also change depending on the size of the bait you use. The Bait Up 20 container holds 20 ounces of water and small bait options (or less of the larger sized baits). The Bait Up 35 container carries 35 ounces of water and can fit either more of the small ice fishing bait or a good amount of medium-sized live bait (usually 1 to 3 scoops of average crappie minnows). The floating basket raises the bait up out of the water so you don’t have to get your hands as wet and don’t need to carry a separate net/scoop. Then when the bait needs a change of water to re-oxygenate, simply invert the container and drain the water out the bottom without losing any bait. Then submerge it into the water of the ice fishing hole to refill it.  

As for ice fishing tips for crappie, simple is usually best. Sensitive ice poles and light 2- or 4- pound test line is the perfect combination. Use a small float with a bobber stop set to the approximate depth you’d like to fish. Bait ice fishing lures for crappie or a plain hook with a minnow (hooked right under the dorsal fin). Add a split shot or two about one foot above the bait, and let it sink. If you’re using fishing electronics, you can adjust the depth to wherever you see the fish. If not, try setting your bait about 1 to 2 feet off the bottom as a starting point. Aggressive (and hungry) crappies tend to be suspended in the water column versus right on the bottom, but it’s a start. 

Ice Fishing Challenges

Unlike fall fishing conditions where you might have the lake to yourself, ice fishing seems to really stack people up on some waterbodies. People always gravitate towards other anglers, especially if they’re fishing in the vicinity of a known piece of structure or honey hole. While many lakes can handle that fishing pressure, sometimes it can also really reduce the fish activity. In these cases, it’s better to strike off on your own and find a new honey hole. Slip your Bait Up container lanyard over your shoulder, grab your other ice fishing equipment, and use a lake contour map to find a new spot. Weed lines in shallower water are often overlooked by almost everyone who ice fishes, but they still hold good schools of crappies, especially earlier in the year when the vegetation is still healthy. So the next time you see a village of fish houses clustered over a deep hole in the lake, try fishing the perimeter of the lake instead. 


Another challenge with ice fishing is (spoiler alert): it’s cold outside. When you leave an uninsulated container of water on the ice, it usually doesn’t take long before ice starts to form inside it. While it doesn’t really affect the ice fishing bait in the short-term, it can affect how well the basket works. To solve that issue, simply keep your container within a backpack/cooler if you’re on the move or use a portable fish house. You can usually hang it from one of the metal supports along the ceiling of a fish shelter, which keeps it off the ice and up where the heat rises. It will never ice up in that location and you can keep an eye on when the bait needs a new dose of water. 

This winter, make sure you’re using the right ice fishing bait on the water. Artificial baits are usually made to mimic live baits. So why not go right to the source, the way nature intended them to look and smell? With the portable Bait Up containers, you can easily cover a larger area faster. And that usually results in more fish on the ice. 

Kayak Fishing 101 | Tips for Freshwater Kayak Fishing

Complete Kayak Fishing Guide for Anglers

Kayak fishing is fun, challenging, and most importantly… effective! More and more anglers are choosing kayaks as a low-cost alternative to powered boats. These vessels are advanced enough to target even the biggest game fish. Yet they are at their best when fishing for the most popular fish species like bass and panfish. We have compiled a complete guide for anglers getting started kayak fishing or for those needing a few extra kayak fishing tips!

Why You Should Be Kayak Fishing

Kayaks are more than just an alternative to a powered boat. Their biggest advantage is their mobility. Some of the best fishing spots are those that are hard to get to. Kayaks get you into those fishing spots most others can’t reach either from the shore or boat. The ability to access remote river stretches, small ponds, and shallow lake flats where big fish thrive are reasons enough to be fishing from a kayak.


Types of Kayaks for Fishing

Picking up any old kayak and launching it into the closest body of water usually will not get it done. There are kayaks and then there are kayaks built for fishing. Fishing kayaks are designed with features anglers need and expect to be productive on the water. For instance, most fishing kayaks have gear compartments and rod holders that are essential for successful days on the water.


Kayak Fishing Tip #1

There are no rules on what type of kayak you have to fish out of. Choose a kayak that is comfortable and meets your individual needs no matter the trend. Each type can be outfitted with kayak fishing accessories and be successful at helping you catch fish.

There are two types of kayaks, sit-in and sit-on models. 

Sit-in Kayaks

Just as it sounds, sit-in kayaks are those where your legs are partially or fully below the inside the kayak. These types of kayaks for fishing move swiftly in the water and have the following advantages and disadvantages. 


  •  Greater control during paddling, which is ideal for fishing rivers and streams or rough water on larger lakes.  
  •  More efficient to paddle means less fatigue on longer fishing trips. 
  •  Enclosed compartments for kayak fishing gear storage, which is great for all day and overnight trips as well as fishing for multiple species. 


  •  Can take on water in rough conditions and need to be drained. 
  •  Can be dangerous if you capsize and you need to know how to safely conduct a wet exit. 

Sit-on Kayaks 

Sit-on kayaks are best suited for fishing lakes and calm following rivers. The name says it all. Your body sits on top of the kayak, leaving you completely exposed as opposed to a sit-in kayak. Sit-on kayaks are the most popular type for fishing but have their own advantages and disadvantages. 


  • Easily to launch and get on for quickly getting in and out of fishing spots 
  • More comfortable and accessible for fishing than sit-in kayaks 
  • Self-draining


  • Little to no storage compartments for fishing tackle and other kayak fishing gear. 
  • Heavier than sit-in kayaks

How to Choose the Best Fishing Kayak?

If you are getting started kayak fishing or looking to upgrade, there are several questions to ask before you purchase a new kayak. 

First, the most important question is, where will you be fishing with your kayak? Most kayaks can be used in various types of water. However, some function better than others in rivers vs. lakes. For moving waters (streams and rivers), a shorter, durable sit-in or sit-on kayak will work best. A longer sit-on kayak functions best on calm waters like lakes and ponds. Here you can trade maneuverability for stability and comfort when fishing from a kayak in these waters.


Other considerations to keep in mind when selecting the best fishing kayak include: 


  • Comfort and style: Enclosed sit-in or the openness of a sit-on kayak? Both have advantages and disadvantages depending on your fishing style. In the end, it comes down to what you are most comfortable fishing from. 


  • Composition: The material used to make the kayak (plastics, composites, etc.), impacts how costly it is and its weight. Choose one that meets your cost, weight and durability requirements based on the type of kayak fishing you plan to do. 


  • Length: The longer the kayak the more stable it will be. Longer kayaks also typically have more storage space and are more comfortable. For freshwater kayak fishing, a medium length kayak usually fits the bill for most fishing situations. However, length should also be considered from the storage and travel perspective. Will it fit in my garage or in the bed of my truck? 


Kayak Fishing Accessories You Can’t Be Without 

There are certain fishing accessories you must add to whatever kayak you plan to fish out of. These five kayak fishing accessories will add to your comfort and help you catch more fish.

1.Seat: Fishing more than a few hours strains any angler’s butt and back. To stay on the water longer, upgrade your seat. Find a seat with adjustable back support and a high-quality foam or gel seat. Although not cheap, a good seat means more comfort while paddling and fishing.

2. Fishfinder: A must have to find schools of crappies or suspended bass. Choose a model that will mount easily and discreetly in your kayak. Spend the extra money for a fishfinder and GPS combo unit to mark fishing hotspots and to navigate larger rivers.

3. PFD: Personal flotation devices (PFD) can save your life if you capsize. Seek out a fishing PFD that is designed for kayak fishing, which allows for complete range of motion while paddling and fishing. Always check local laws on which types of PFDs are required when fishing from a kayak.

4. Paddle: Cheap paddles are like cheap seats; they can ruin your fishing trip. Paddles are the lifeblood of kayak fishing so a good one goes a long way. Opt for a lightweight, carbon fiber model with comfortable grips.

5. Rod Holders: Fishing kayaks typically come with some type of rod holder or holders. Types of rod holders include flush mounted, vertical and adjustable. Adjustable rod holders are the most diverse. They can be adjusted to carry rods while paddling then changed for fishing. If you add additional rod holders, make sure they are accessible while fishing and out of the way when paddling.


Kayak Fishing in Streams and Rivers

In smaller streams, you may be targeting trout or fishing for smallmouth bass in big rivers. Whatever the fish species you are after, kayaks allow you to cover large stretches of water. Simply launching your kayak and floating down the river is not going to put fish in the boat, however. You need to understand where to find fish in streams and rivers. 

 Kayak Fishing Tip #2 

Catching fish from a kayak is exciting, but think about what reeling in a fish will do to your positioning. A large bass can turn you sideways in a heartbeat, which can put you out of position or worse yet flip you over in a large river. A net to land fish adds a little extra reach and helps prevent tipping over when reaching for a played out fish.

Fish in moving water seek out areas that provide one of two environments. They are holding in areas that provide cover from predators or they are in areas that have ample forage. These are areas such as boulder outcrops or other large structures found in streams and rivers. Areas like these offer both protection from the current and forage opportunities. Paddle through long stretches of flat water and fish the structure.  

Moving water also inherently moves at different speeds as the stream or river changes direction or elevation. The differences are amplified in smaller moving water bodies but still, exists in larger rivers. Kayak fishing in these areas can be productive in addition to fishing structure. Fish, especially smallmouth bass, trout and even large river walleyes will take advantage of current changes like eddies to feed on collected baitfish.

Kayak Fishing Tip #3 

Know how to use the current to your advantage. Current in the main channel of streams and rivers can move you from spot to spot with little to no paddling. Also, use eddies to hold your kayak in place while you fish the adjacent areas.

Finally, once you have paddled to fishing hotspots in streams and rivers, you need to figure out what is the best bait to use. Live bait is the best all-around tactic for most fishing situations. Fishing with live bait is versatile and effective with many species found in these types of water. Minnows can be rigged on a simple jig or on a drop shot rig. Both techniques fish equally well around structure and in eddies. Go outside the box and fish a live crayfish in eddies for catching larger smallmouths and walleyes. The challenge with live bait while kayak fishing is how to easily carry and use it. Bait Up’s innovative live bait container, however, solves the problem. It easily allows you to select a minnow, fits conveniently in most kayak cup holders and comes in two sizes to match what size minnows you are fishing with.



Kayak Lake Fishing Tips

How to fish out of a kayak in a lake is different than fishing from one in streams and rivers. You can be less concerned about the current when fishing lakes. However, finding and catching fish is more difficult unless you follow some basic kayak fishing tips and techniques. 

Kayak Fishing Tip #4

Learn to cast and paddle with one hand. Unlike streams and rivers with current that moves you in usually one direction, winds on a lake can push you in circles. Learn how to fish out of a kayak with one hand. Use one hand to cast and one hand to paddle. Doing so allows you to reposition your kayak and keep on a spot while fishing.

The best fishing spots in lakes vary depending on the size of the lake, its composition and which fish species you are after. For panfish, paddle around in search of schools of fish on your fishfinder. Species like perch and crappies will be schooled up most times of the year and can easily be spotted on even the most basic fishfinders. Alternatively, panfish often can be caught on offshore points using simple jig tipped minnows and worms. Catching crappies from a kayak can also be successful with drop shot rigs and minnows fished in lake channels during the summer. 

Another Kayak lake fishing tip is to fish areas other boats can’t get too. In lakes with thick Lilly pads or dense grass flats, paddle your way deep into these otherwise unfished areas. Look for holes in the grass to flip a swim jig tipped with a live minnow trailer.


Kayak Fishing Tip #5

Although an anchor was not one of the top five kayak fishing accessories, one can help when kayak fishing lakes. If you find a school of panfish or it is a windy day, a small 2- to 4-lb kayak anchor can keep you on the fish. Always use a quick release system with a kayak anchor to prevent being pulled under. 

In addition, shorelines provide opportunities to catch fish in lakes. Kayak fishing along shores will target mostly bass. Bass will use shoreline vegetation for cover and to feed on baitfish. Often a simple weightless minnow rigged through the back is effective. The minnow swims freely around in the shallow water, a perfect representation of an actual injured baitfish to an unsuspected bass. 

In conclusion, kayak fishing can open up many more fishing opportunities. The experience fishing from a kayak provides a different perspective and challenge to angling. This guide supplements your kayak knowledge and adds several useful kayak fishing tips all in an effort to improve your next kayak fishing experience.

Fall Fishing Opportunities You Don’t Want to Miss!

Abundant Fall Fishing Opportunities Worth Every Cast

Fall fishing opportunities often get overlooked. Most anglers have shifted their focus to hunting and have little time to fish. However, fall is a great time to catch big numbers and big fish! Fish are transitioning back to feeding mode and are actively pursuing live bait across lakes, rivers, and streams. This coupled with several other reasons create ideal opportunities, making fall fishing worth every cast! 

Why Fall is a Great Time to Fish

As an angler, there are certain times of the year that get you excited. Spring is high on the list because most species are spawning and you have the chance to catch a big fish or two. Fall is another time on the calendar every angler should have circled. The change from warm to colder water puts fish into a feeding frenzy. Translation, the fall fishing bite can be one of the best of the year. Fall fishing opportunities are as good, if not better, than other times of the year for four reasons.


1.Cooling water temperatures. For most fish, cooler water increases their metabolism. This increase triggers a feeding response second to none for everything from bass, to panfish, to trout. 

2.Food is more available. Baitfish and other live bait forage have mostly been hard to get at until now. Vegetation in lakes, rivers, and streams is dying off leaving little refuge for baitfish to hide. Fish take advantage and react to this change by eating as much as they can before winter. 

3.Cold fronts. Cold fronts become more defined in the fall, which gets the attention of fish. The onset of a cold front accelerates fish activity that relates to more bites. These fall fishing opportunities can produce some of the best days on the water. 

4.Empty waters. Empty waters do not mean a lack of fish but rather fewer anglers to compete with. Fewer anglers on the water make it easier to figure out where to fish in the fall. Occupied stream fishing hotspots and lake producing holes are now vacant, which gives you more casts in prime fishing territory.


Species to Focus Your Fall Fishing On 

 Specifically, there are three groups of fish that you want to take advantage of as fall fishing opportunities come around. 


  • Bass – The fall season prompts bass into predictable feeding patterns mostly around baitfish. Bass follow various live bait food sources into upper reaches of lakes and around any remaining vegetation. These shallower areas in lakes warm faster on cooler days and combined with the surge of baitfish will produce giant largemouths. In addition, river smallmouth bass seek out eddies in big rivers that collect baitfish and crayfish. A very predictable spot around schooling smallmouths equates to more bass in the boat when river fishing for smallmouths. 


  • Panfish – Unlike bass, panfish are moving to deeper water during the fall. Fall fishing for panfish revolves around finding schools suspended off of lake points and steep drops below shallow flats. Search for these schools of crappies and perch using your electronics and sit over them to catch fish after fish. 


  • Trout – Warm summer water usually puts trout into survival mode, but cooler fall water combined with increased water levels has trout back in feeding mode. Often trout waters get a final round of stocking in most areas during fall so fresh fish provide additional fall fishing opportunities. Holdover trout are hungry and will aggressively chase most fall fishing lures, specifically live bait presentations, thrown at them. 

The Best Fall Fishing Lures Include Live Bait 

 Whether you are targeting bass, panfish, or trout, fall fishing lures need to include live bait if you want to catch fish. Baitfish and crayfish are targets for fish so your fall fishing tactics should focus on these live bait choices 

 The best early fall bass lures are live crayfish rigs. Fish these on the edges of current in rivers for smallmouth bass or near creek channels in lakes. Fall fishing trout lures like threaded minnow spinner rigs will entice large trout when fished in riffles. Also, try dead drifting a minnow into deeper pools for catching newly stocked fall trout. Finally, minnow-tipped jig heads provide ideal lure presentations to suspended crappies and perch in the fall. Keep your minnows in a good live bait container to make sure they are alive and fresh for better lure presentations when fishing for fall panfish. 


If you are a hunter, try to find a few days to dedicate to fall fishing. If you are not, you probably are already taking advantage of the many fall fishing opportunities. Either way, you don’t want to miss one of the best times of the year to be on the water! 

Stream Fishing 101 | Live Bait Tactics for Bass and Trout

Stream Fishing with Live Bait for Catching More Bass and Trout

Stream fishing is much different than casting a line into a calm lake for bass and trout. The constantly moving water not only affects your fishing techniques but determines where fish can be caught. Successful anglers on the lake often struggle fishing streams and rivers. This is because it is not easy knowing how to read a river for fishing. By understanding where to find fish, the best tackle setups, and successful stream fishing techniques you will have more hookups with live bait on your next stream fishing trip.

Where to Find Fish in Streams

It’s hard to catch bass or trout, regardless of your fishing tackle, if you don’t know where to find them. River and stream fishing requires you to understand how fish relate to the current and structure within the water. Good fishing spots are going to be around areas of structure such as downed trees or large rock outcrops. However, don’t solely focus on these areas when thinking about where to find fish in streams. The best stream fishing spots are those that provide fish protection from current and predators, as well as provide an abundance of forage.

The 3 Best Trout Fishing Spots in Streams

  • Undercut Banks – To avoid predation, trout seek out undercut banks for security. These areas also provide ample prey for large trout making it a prime location to fish for trout. Fish these undercut banks by casting upstream and allowing the current to push your trout fishing bait under the bank.
  • Riffles – Riffles are usually overlooked by anglers when stream fishing. However, riffles are the go-to place for trout when they are actively feeding on live bait. Fish riffles either from downstream or cross current to avoid spooking trout. Floating a minnow through a riffle downstream to an awaiting trout is also highly successful.
  • Deep Pools – All anglers head to deep pools first and for good reasons. Fast water enters pools, usually from a riffle, slows down and then leaves again at a fast rate. Focus your fishing on these two “ends”, where the water enters and leaves the pool. Look for trout in the upper two-thirds of the water column, which means they are actively feeding on live bait and more easily caught.

The 3 Best Bass Fishing Spots in Streams

  • Islands or Large Rock Outcrops – In streams with a lot of current, fish for bass on the downstream side of islands and rock piles. The calmer water here provides a resting spot for large bass and the food they prey on. In bodies of water with a lot of current this sometimes can be the only place to fish. Cast upstream on the edge where the current meets the calm water to trigger bites.
  • Vegetation – Most streams don’t have extensive weed beds like a lot of lakes. Here, vegetation refers mainly to shoreline vegetation. Overhanging trees and shrubs, especially those that are partly in the water, are bass magnets. Fishing with live bait is most effective around vegetation. Cast a live minnow to the edge and let it drift by positioned bass.
  • River Bends – Bends have it all, including both current changes and structure. These are collection areas for drifting trees and also a collection area for food. Fish for bass on the inside edge, or eddy, from a downstream position.

Stream Fishing Tackle Setups

Most stream fishing techniques to catch bass or trout with live bait don’t require heavy tackle. You are not flipping dense weed mats or pulling five pounders from sunken timber. As such, your fishing tackle should be on the lighter side.

Trout fishing rigs should be 5- to 7-foot light or ultralightweight spin casting rods. Rods with a sensitive tip but firm butt end work best for feeling bites and setting hooks. Match the rod with a small, quality fishing reel designed for 2- to 6-lb test line. Select reels that are durable and have a fast-retrieve to be able to fish a variety of live bait techniques. Finally, fishing line can make or break how successful you are. Use 2-lb test line in small, clear streams and move up to 6-lb test for targeting larger trout in big rivers. A good option is a small diameter braided fishing line with a fluorocarbon leader approximately 6-foot long. The braid will hold up well while the fluorocarbon leader will be near invisible to trout.

River or stream fishing for bass requires a little beefier setup. Step up to a 6- to 7-foot spin casting rod in light to medium action. You can also use a baitcasting rod rig (7-foot, medium weight), which is better for fishing larger minnows rigged on spinners. Again, good quality reels go a long way when casting and reeling all day. Fishing line can vary here based on the live bait fishing techniques you are using. Choose either monofilament line in 8- to 10-lb test or fluorocarbon line in 6-to 10-lb test for most situations. A braid/fluorocarbon fishing line combo similar to your trout fishing rigs is another good all-around setup for fishing live bait for bass.

Stream Fishing Techniques to Catch More Bass and Trout

Now that you know where to find fish in streams and the best tackle to use, let’s focus on successful techniques and baits for stream fishing. Once you have found the areas that hold fish, try one of these three stream fishing techniques with live bait.

  • Jigging – Small 1/32- to 1/16-ounce jig heads tipped with live bait for trout work well in most trout fishing spots. Heavier jigs (1/8- to 1-ounce) can be fished a variety of ways for bass. Tip jigs with a fathead minnow for trout or large shiner for bass and work these through riffles. A football jig head works well paired with a live crayfish for fishing rock outcrops and river bends.
  • Drop Shot – This effective stream fishing technique works equally well with trout and bass. Drop shot rigs consist of a large weight tied below a hook. This technique gets the bait to the bottom and lets the current move the bait around enticing bites. Use live bait like minnows for trout or larger minnows and crayfish for bass. Make sure your live bait is alive for maximum effectiveness.
  • Upstream Casting – Current is your biggest challenge when fishing streams and rivers. Remember that the natural food bass and trout feed on are drifting downstream. Upstream casting utilizes the current to your advantage and creates a natural lure presentation. Upstream casting is effective with minnow spinner rigs. Cast upstream, let the spinner rig drift with the current, and keep the slack tight until it gets just up from you then start to slowly reel. Many times you will get bites on the drift before you even have a chance to reel.

In conclusion, the hardest part of stream fishing for bass and trout with live bait is knowing where to find these fish. Once you know where to find fish, stream fishing techniques like drop shotting live bait or upstream casting minnow spinner rigs can become effective. Take these stream fishing tips for bass and trout with you next time you hit the water.


Live Bait Tactics When Fishing for Catfish

Best Live Bait for Catfish | Tricks of the Trade

Feature: Ed Soboslay (32.4lbs)

Like most outdoor activities, most anglers can typically correlate the time of year to the species of fish they are going to chase.  In the spring, it’s generally crappie that is at the top of the list.  In the fall, its walleye or pike that make their way onto many anglers hit-lists.  However, when the doldrums of summer set in and the weather turns hot and humid that is when many anglers trade in their soft plastics and ultralights for a heavy duty bait caster, some bank poles, and hit the water to start fishing for catfish. With so many anglers heading towards the water, we want to ask…” what is the best live bait for catfish?”

Out of all the fish species in North America, the catfish is one of the most sought after during the summer months.  This is the case for a variety of reasons; first and foremost they are a lot of fun to catch.  Blue and flathead catfish can average in well within the 40-pound range and can test the prowess of even the most experienced angler.  Secondly, fishing for catfish can be both exciting and relaxing as the popular fishing methods such as tight lining does not require a significant amount of effort to complete.  Lastly, fishing for catfish doesn’t require a large volume of gear to do, and there are countless opportunities for anglers to hit the water in search of catfish.

Best Live Bait For Catfish

Doesn’t matter what part of the country you happen to find yourself in, if you find yourself in a bait shop and you make your way to the catfish section you will inevitably find a wide selection of soft dough bait or “stink bait” as they can sometimes be called.  Baits such as these are often promoted as being “the best bait for catfish”.  The primary reason is simply their ability to attract catfish.  A catfish typically finds it prey through their strong sense of smell and taste.  The iconic barbells or “whiskers” that catfish possess help them to taste food items that may be lying along the bottom of a lake, pond or river.  Also, catfish possess an extremely sensitive set of receptors along their body that also help them to taste and smell the water as it the move through it.  So, as you can imagine, something that is incredibly pungent could likely get the attention of a catfish or two, however, dough baits come with their fair share of drawbacks.  Dough baits are often hard to keep on the hook, and can be hard to keep fresh.

Photo Credit: Missouri Secrets Tackle

If you really want to be effective when fishing for catfish, you need to keep in mind exactly what a catfish’s diet consists of.  While it is true that a catfish will scavenge along the bottom, as more of an opportunistic feeder, in reality most catfish species do prefer to eat live or wounded bait.  Flathead catfish almost always forage on live bait, while blue and channel catfish will forage on both live and dead prey.

Regardless if you are fishing for catfish with a rod and reel, or bank poles and trotlines selecting your live bait is relatively consistent.  So, what is the best live bait for catfish?

The quick answer for most applications is Gizzard Shad and Brim. This live bait is easy to come by and work for an assortment of catfish species. Keep in mind, with each species of catfish, channel, blue, or flathead, some baits are definitely more effective.

Gizzard Shad – The most popular choice among hardcore catfish anglers is typically gizzard shad.  Gizzard shad are extremely common across the country and are especially common in many of our countries major river systems.  As a result, they can comprise a high volume of a catfish’s diet.  Shad are generally easy to come by, and an angler can usually find some by just throwing a seine net in the water.  If that isn’t really your style, most tackle stores will have shad for sale.

Brim – If you’re looking to branch out from the norm, utilizing a species such as green sunfish or bluegill can generally get the job done.  It is always important that you check the wildlife regulations in your state before assuming that you can use a species such as bluegill or green sunfish, so do your homework!

Other Live Bait – Other great live bait choices for catfish can include perch, skipjack, goldfish, and black salty’s. Much like any other species, the bigger the bait, the bigger the fish so if you are looking to put a “lunker” in the boat, don’t be afraid to scale up the size of the bait you are using.

Live Bait Catfishing Methods

There is popular misconception that catfish only feed at night.  While they can be more active during the night time hours, the reality is that a catfish will feed at any time during the day.  As a matter of fact, some of the largest catfish can be caught during the middle part of the day.

When it comes to fishing for catfish, especially river fishing, there are three main approaches.  The first is simply to head out with a rod and reel and tight line.  This method is extremely effective, and be just as productive from the bank as it can be from a boat.  River fishing for catfish is part tackle and part experience.  Being able to read a river can make all the difference and ensure that you are putting your live bait in the right location.  If you are electing to tack after catfish with a rod and reel, keying in on the channel breaks off the tips of wing dike can be an excellent place to throw your line.  A sandbar can typically form directly behind the dike, and catfish will stage just downstream and forage on stunned baitfish as they are pushed along by the current.  Consequently, this area can be an excellent location to set your line as well.

Live Bait Presentation for Catfish

Whether you are fishing with a trotline or a rod and reel, the presentation for your live bait is the same. Hook your bait fish through the back just under the dorsal fin.  This will allow the bait to swim naturally and appear injured.  If you are using large bait, you may elect to make a few small incisions in the side to allow for extra scent to permeate from the fish.  Once you have your line tight or the trotline set, all that’s left to do is wait.  Ensuring your bait remains fresh isn’t as critical with catfish as it can be with other species, however, it is a good practice to ensure that your live bait is well airyated and is kept in a cool location, out of the sun. If you are traveling light, or fishing for catfish out of a kayak to get to your “best spot” utilizing tools like the Bait Up live bait container can be of some use!

If you are looking for a new challenge, and something that is fun to do when the weather gets hot, grab some live bait and head to your favorite river and give catfishing a try.  You might just find yourself a new warm weather hobby!

3 Tactics for Catching Summer Crappies with Live Bait

Tips for Summer Crappie Fishing with Live Bait

The summer bite is on! Many anglers have just spent the last two months trout fishing and are looking for a new target now that the streams are warming and trout are becoming scarce. One option is grabbing a few rods, a container full of live bait and heading out to the water to find some crappies. Luckily wherever you may live, you can probably find a lake or pond full of crappies within a 15-minute drive. Crappies are one of the few fish species that are plentiful, can be caught throughout the year and make a great choice in your fish fry.

The crappie spawn is over so no more slab filled shallows, but rather big schools have broken apart to seek out submerged cover and steep drop-offs. Unlike during the spawn when just about any crappie fishing techniques worked, live bait will be your go to heading into summer. Live bait fishing for crappies is one of the most reliable lure presentations to catch crappies in warming lakes during hot days.

Summer crappies are still very much catchable but like other fish species, their patterns have changed since the spring. They are still feeding but have spread out and are no longer found in shallow water. To catch them during the summer months, start by following these three tactics for fishing for crappies.

Fishing with Live Bait for Summer Crappies

As the water temperatures rise, crappies will move deeper in search of creek and river channels. These areas have a little cooler water and typically hold more baitfish for forage than other warmer parts of the lake. To find these spots, use your electronics to locate the channels then look for submerged cover like flooded timber alongside them. Paired together, channels and nearby structure will hold both big crappies and lots of them.

Fishing with minnows for crappie is one of the most common and successful tactics in the summer. The best crappie jig is one tipped with a minnow. Crappies suspended along a channel will be stacked one above the other so you need a fishing bait with the ability to move vertically in the water column. Use a large enough jig head to reach the bottom, typically 1/8- to 1/4-ounce with a short shank. Rig the minnow through the mouth and slowly jig and reel it to the surface.

Follow the Weather to Find the Crappies

Weather plays a big factor in summer crappie activity. Typically, if you know the forecast you will have a good idea where to find schools of crappies. High sky and hot days push crappies close to cover and tight to channel bottoms. However, on days when clouds blanket the sky and the wind picks up, crappies will venture away from structure and disperse more making them easier to catch. These are the best days for crappie fishing with minnows and bobber with youngsters or from the bank because crappies will be less docile and more reactionary to live bait moving nearby.

Hot, sunny days are tough to keep minnows alive but with a good live bait container, you are better able to have a fresh, lively minnow to rig up. Fishing for crappies on these days requires you to take your bait right into the middle of thick structure and fish vertical. If the weather is cloudy and windy, find the same structures you would fish on sunny days but back off of it and use a live minnow hooked in the back on a drop shot rig. Finally, for days when there is an approaching front (check the barometric pressure stats), you will find schools along pronounced drop offs near shore and steep lake points. Cast the same drop shot rig here and work it from shallow water down off of the drop.

Cover is Always Key for Summer Crappies     

Besides the spawn, crappies can always be found around some type of cover. In the summer, they will be looking for any type of submerged cover they can find. Not all cover is equally desired, however. For instance, docks will be used by crappies if no other option is available but they are less preferred than submerged stumps, flooded timber or bridge piers. Crappies will also be found in deeper grass if no good structures are available or they have all been taken by other fish. Knowing the differences in cover will help you prioritize spots to fish, especially during times of high fishing pressure when all the other anglers head to the stumps and you head to the grass. Crappies will even move to grass cover on cloudy, cool days to find baitfish. Running live bait like minnows through the grass on a spinner rig or dropping one in on a jig can produce some large crappies in areas that many others anglers have passed by.

For those choosing artificial lures over live bait fishing for crappies, your arsenal should include a variety of small crankbaits in natural colors for fishing near sunken rocks and bridges. In addition, keep a collection of soft plastics (twister tails, tubes, etc.) in various colors and sizes (1-3 inches) for jigging structures in heavy cover. Vary speeds of retrieve and jigging as deep summer crappies can be slow to bite and changing speeds may be all is needed to trigger a reaction bite.

Bonus Crappie Fishing Technique for the Summer

Some anglers are either going to be live bait fishing or throwing artificial lures on any giving day on the water, but there is a benefit to fishing both. Crappies are highly sensitive to color, which means you can often trigger bites by using flashy colors and changing baits often. Having artificial lures with you gives you more options when various live bait choices like minnows and worms may not be producing. This is the only way how to catch crappies in the summer when schools are dense. They quickly catch on to the jig tipped minnow and throwing something different every few casts will let you stay on one school longer and catch bigger fish.

The easy times are over for crappie fishing, but you can still fill your frying pan trip after trip if you focus in on the above tactics when trying to figure out how to catch crappies in the summer. Live bait, a few artificial lures and good electronics are all needed when fishing for crappies in these next few months to consistently land slab after slab.



Live Bait Guide | Live Bait Selection by Fish Species

Live Bait Selection Guide for Various Species


Fishing with live bait is where it all starts. No fancy, expensive lures but only a worm or a minnow on a hook tied on the end of your rod. Almost every angler has used live bait in the past and still does today either when teaching kids to fish or going after a particular species of fish. Live bait selection is just as varied as fishing with artificial lures. To be successful, whether on the shore for panfish or downrigging for walleyes, you have to decide which bait is your best choice for the situation and the fish species you are targeting.


Catching Panfish with Live Bait


Panfish are some of the more common and easy to catch fish out there. They are found in nearly every lake, pond or stream across the country. With panfish, we are lumping in all species of sunfish, crappies, and perch. Besides making great table fare, panfish are the category of fish species where fishing with live bait makes the most sense.


When panfish are tight to banks of lakes and ponds, among all the different types of fish bait the best live bait selection is a worm. You want to choose a small worm such as either a red worm or trout worm so that the small mouths of these species can actually eat it. Hook the worm on a small single 8- to 10-size hook with the worm wrapped a few times through the hook so it stays put even after a few light bites. Add a small spilt shot about 12-inches above the hook so the worm sinks. Bobber or no bobber? It comes down to preference in most instances, but bobbers are great for kids or if you are fishing multiple lines at the same time. However, fishing without one gives you the ability to jig your worm or cast in tight cover.


If you are offshore fishing for panfish, like suspended crappies or schools of perch, your best fishing bait will be a small minnow. One option is to use a small painted jig head and hook the minnow through the mouth. This rig lets you work drop-offs over suspended fish and also allows you to cover ground until you find these fish. Another successful setup for fishing with minnows for crappies is one hooked in the back with a ½- to 1-ounce egg sinker attached about two feet up your line. Your minnow is free to move off the bottom and swim around areas where crappies may be hiding such as in submerged trees or shallow stumps.


Live Bait Selection for Targeting Bass


Bass, both smallmouths and largemouths, can be reliably caught using live bait techniques. For largemouths, there are several live bait options that work consistently better than the many types of artificial bait options. Instead of using plastic worms, replace them with large nightcrawlers. A nightcrawler hooked up on a drop-shot rig when fishing suspended bass on deep drop-offs is deadly. Nightcrawlers are also good live fishing bait for bass when targeting shallow spawning beds. Attach one to a jig head and slowly bounce it off the bottom to trigger reaction bites.


The best fishing bait for bass is minnows. Big shiners attract trophy caliber largemouths. Do not be afraid to go big either as bass will take minnows anywhere from 3- to 6-inches long. The bigger the minnow the bigger the bass in most cases. Depending on minnow size, use a 3/0 to 5/0 hook to rig a live minnow through the back if you are free-line fishing without a bobber over submerged grass flats or through the mouth for fishing with a small bobber near shore. It is important to keep your minnows alive as a dead minnow will seldom be taken by a bass.


Smallmouths love crayfish and if you can get your hands on some, you will crush them in big rivers. Have a hook as long as the average tail length and then hook them weedless by putting the hook through the end of the tail and up underneath the tail like you would rig a long plastic worm. The crayfish will crawl across the bottom naturally and you will stay snag free until a big smallmouth swims by and picks it up.


Live Bait Techniques for Trout Fishing


Fishing with live bait is one of the best ways to catch trout. For this fishing bait guide, the focus is on going after trout in streams. Fishing for trout in moving water, especially if you are wading, adds a whole new set of challenges beyond trying to catch fish. Wading, carrying live bait, pulling something squirmy out and rigging it up is all but impossible without a good live bait container. The first live bait technique for trout starts with a minnow. Thread one using a needle and a loop in your line through the mouth and out the back end with a split treble hook in size 14 or 16 to secure it. Cast it into moving water and slowly reel and jig as it comes in. This tactic works well in swift water in small creeks for rainbows and browns.


Without question, the worm is also a popular live bait selection for trout. The best technique for catching trout with worms is to hook one on a size 8 to 10 single hook with a part of the worm dangling off the shank. Add enough split shot to get it on the bottom and drift it naturally from upstream to downstream. Additionally, trout will take crickets and meal worms drifted in slower pools near the shore. Try floating these with no weight during the summer in streams that have a lot of pressure or in creeks that hold native trout.


Fishing with Live Bait for Walleyes


More and more walleye anglers are switching from one of the many types of artificial bait and coming back to live bait for catching walleyes. Reason? Because live bait is much more productive in various situations and conditions than artificial lures.


First, if you are trolling for walleyes, you want to ditch everything but the nightcrawlers. Get your depth and speed right then rig up a large nightcrawler to a spinner rig. Bottom bounce this setup for deep walleyes or add a snap weight to target suspended walleyes. The second best live bait selection for walleyes is the minnow. Similar to panfish, hook a small minnow on a painted jig head. Jig over deep structures and along the edges of grass. Lastly, leeches are effectively used as a trailer with artificial lures for walleyes. Bucktail jigs paired with a live leech are perfect for deep river walleyes around large rocks or shelving.


Live Bait Fishing


What fish likes what bait gets simplified when sticking with live bait. Live bait selection comes down to primary choices like worms and minnows and several other specialized choices such as crayfish, mealworms and leeches. Although by no means comprehensive, this live fishing bait guide should give you the basics when it comes to fishing for panfish, bass, trout and walleyes with live bait.

Live Bait Fishing | Keeping Minnows Alive Longer

Tips for Extending the Life of Minnows in Live Bait Containers


The benefits of using live bait are numerous but the most convincing fact is that fish, whether they be trout, crappies or bass, are used to eating natural forage. Fishing with live bait takes all the guesswork out of trying to mimic natural food in the water. Often the most prolific live bait to fish with is minnows or some other type of baitfish. Few anglers use minnows or baitfish because most live bait containers fall short when it comes to keeping them alive.


Minnows are used less and less by anglers for three simple reasons. First, it is becoming more difficult to find bait shops who carry minnows. Second, there is additional time required to keep them alive before and during your fishing trip and third most live bait storage containers are hard to use efficiently while fishing.



The last reason is one of the biggest drawbacks to using minnows. Transporting them with traditional live bait containers is ineffective and limits you when you are on the water. Most strap-on bait containers are clunky and are not designed for easy access to minnows, both of which leads to angler frustration and dead minnows.


4 Tips on Keeping Minnows Alive While Fishing


Alive minnows and baitfish are much more effective at catching fish. They provide more action by swimming naturally, which tricks a fish into thinking it is just another passing meal rather than a trap. Here are four tips on keeping minnows alive for your next fishing trip.



  1. Constantly replace the water. Fresh water is the most important tip when it comes to keeping baitfish alive for extended periods of time. Stale water is warm, poorly oxygenated and contains toxins, all of which will reduce the lifespan of your minnows. Replace the water in your live bait storage containers regularly like every hour while fishing or as needed depending on its coloration or temperature. Be careful when replacing water so as not to lose any minnows. Bait storage containers like the innovative ones from Bait Up make it simple to change water without having to worry about losing any minnows.


  1. Not all water is the same. Avoid tap water as much as possible when filling your live bait containers because it can have additives that can be toxic to baitfish. Use water from a local stream or lake and if neither are convenient for you to access then buy natural spring water.


  1. Know your maximum capacity. Overfilling bait storage containers limits the amount of space each minnow has available to survive. Crowded live bait containers mean less oxygen for each minnow and more toxins they are exposed too. An overfilled minnow bucket will have more dead than alive minnows once you reach your fishing destination. For long-term storage, limit your containers to no more than two layers of minnows. When fishing, minnows can be crowded in more than two layers if you plan to fish through them in a single day.


  1. Minimize stress. Stress on baitfish can be caused by poor quality water like mentioned above or it can be from trying to grab one unsuccessfully time and time again from a poorly designed bait container. Most live bait containers are designed for transport, think bucket style containers, but those are not so great when it comes to pulling out a minnow to put on your hook. A good live bait storage container will reduce the time spent trying to net or grab a minnow and keep them alive longer.


From Live Bait Containers to Hooks


Fishing with live bait, especially minnows is relatively easy if you hook them correctly. A properly hooked minnow will do all the work for you by swimming around naturally enticing whatever it is you are fishing for.


Now that you have some tips to keep your minnows alive, there are a few different ways to hook one so it stays alive long enough to catch a fish. One way is to hook the minnow through its lips. The minnow can swim freely with this rig, but it will eventually die from the reduced water intake with its mouth being hooked shut. Another way to hook a minnow is through its back just in front of the dorsal fin. If you do not hit the spine, a minnow rigged this way will stay alive longer than one rigged in the mouth. Finally, you can hook a minnow through the tail. Even fishing with live bait, there are times when you encounter finicky fish. Hooking baitfish through the tail will let them swim more naturally and help to get more bites when fish are reluctant to commit.


One of the best ways to start fishing with minnows is threading or sewing a minnow.

Check out this video on how to fish with a minnow, going over exactly how to thread a minnow:


Extending The Life of Your Baitfish


Sometimes you may be planning a fishing trip that lasts several days or you may have to buy or catch minnows well in advance of when you plan to fish with them. Bait shops have the luxury of large commercial live bait tanks that most anglers do not have available. In those cases, you will have to replicate that environment without all the fancy equipment to keep them alive for an extended period of time.



How to keep baitfish alive at home is more than a five-gallon bucket with clean water every day or day. If you are going to keep minnows for more than a day, you will need some type of bait aerator system, a cooler and access to clean untreated water. Fill a cooler approximately two-thirds of the way full with spring water or water from a local stream. Start up your battery powered bait aerator to oxygenate the water before putting in the minnows. Add your baitfish and change about two-thirds of the water each day to keep them alive. If you plan to store them for more than 3 days you should plan to feed them once a day with generic fish food flakes.  Once you are ready to fish, simply fill your Bait Up live bait container full and hit the water!


Live bait containers have a lot to do with how alive your minnows are when you go to reach for one for your hook. However, without effort on you part, you could be left with a few dozen dead, less attractive minnows when you hit the water. Use these tips on how to keep minnows alive to reel in more fish when you hit the water fishing with live bait.

Why Fishing with Live Bait Makes Sense

Choices Between Fishing with Live Bait or Lures This Season

Lure choice, one of the biggest and most challenging choices for anglers, is more complex than ever. There are aisles of fishing lures at sporting goods stores and anglers are toting overflowing tackle boxes with them on each fishing excursion. In reality, all these artificial lures are only trying to mimic live bait.

Live bait fishing has many advantages, first and foremost you are fishing with exactly what the fish are feeding on. Whether it is worms, insects or minnows, fish are used to consuming natural bait. Instead of trying to pick through tackle box after tackle box, all you need for fishing with live bait is a few hooks, some weights and a good live bait container.

Natural bait has received a bad rap over the last decade or so. Philosophically, live bait techniques for catching fish are thought of as reserved for younger and beginner anglers. In fact, many of us have landed some of our first fish ever using worms and minnows. Fishing with bait should not be thought of as a separate form of fishing, one left for those younger or less skilled, but rather it should be thought of as just a different approach to fishing, with its own benefits and challenges.

No One is Ignoring Artificial Lures

The choice to use live bait when an angler is heading out to the water is often an afterthought. Clearly, there is a push in fishing society to move towards artificial lures and for several good reasons.

fishing with live bait makes sense


First, technologies in fishing lure manufacturing and design have made them highly realistic in replicating just about any type of food fish are feeding on. From minnows to frogs, the variety of lures available provides seemingly unlimited options in your tackle box, which is a big advantage when finicky fish are not biting. An angler can simply change lures until one finds which lure is enticing bites. Second, unlike fishing with live bait, lures can be used repeatedly to catch fish. Bait fishing is almost always a one and done. Catching a fish on a minnow means to catch another fish you usually need to dig into the live bait storage container for another. Finally, many lures have enhanced features added to them such as attractant, rattles and action. All of which can aid in getting fish to bite when natural bait fails to catch a fish.

Live Bait Fishing is Rooted Among Us as Anglers

There is no coincidence most of us have started our fishing careers casting worms and fishing with minnows. Fishing with bait is a technique with its own benefits. For example, learning to fish with live bait teaches us what and how fish actually eat. An important concept that only improves how we evolve as anglers in terms of lure choice. Also, fishing with bait is somewhat rewarding. Being able to gather bait from the ground or the stream rather than buying it and ultimately catching a fish brings a sense of accomplishment more so than tying on a purchased lure.

Reasons to Fish with Live Bait

Fishing with live bait is extremely effective because you are presenting a fish with an option they are already used to eating. It is natural, from the smell to the texture, to what they actually eat day in and day out. Here are three reasons to fish with bait:

  • Bait is cheap or free. Natural bait, like the name suggests, can be obtained by yourself for free and doing so can be rewarding. If you have to buy bait, either at a bait store near you or buying live bait online, it can still be significantly less expensive than the $5-$10 dollar artificial lures on the store shelves.
  • You will catch something. Almost no fish will turn down live bait. In just about any waterway or for any species, natural bait will increase your chances of catching something.
  • Fewer lure choices. Fishing with lures can have you spending all day tying on lure after lure trying to figure out what the fish are biting on. With bait, you know fish like trout or panfish feed on other small fish so it is only a matter of time until you hook into a few when fishing with minnows.


When Fishing with Live Bait Excels

Live bait techniques are no different than other fishing techniques, there are no guarantees to catching fish. There are, however, times when live bait fishing can excel over artificial fishing lures.

  • Fishing at night. Species like trout and walleyes will consistently feed throughout the night and can be caught more frequently on natural bait after daylight hours.
  • Discolored Muddy and murky water forces fish to rely on their senses other than sight to find food. The natural scents and movements you put in the water when bait fishing will bring more bites in stained water.
  • Waters that are overfished. In areas that see high fishing pressure, another artificial lure is just noise to a fish. Fish may have been fooled before by spinnerbaits or plastic worms but overfished waters quickly go tight-lipped to many lures. The best fishing bait in these waters is live bait.

Why Not Fish Natural Bait All the Time?

Live bait fishing excels in a variety of conditions and for many reasons, so why not fish with it all the time? Because there are a few disadvantages to bait fishing. The first is supply. Fewer bait shops are around, with most of them giving way to large retailers that often do not carry bait like minnows. It can be hard to just buy bait. Second, fishing bait that is alive requires care. Worms need to be kept cold and minnows need to be in good live bait containers that keep them alive but allow you to access them. Not every angler wants to put out this effort each fishing trip. Lastly, certain areas do not allow fishing with live bait. Tournament fishing is usually limited to lures and also certain waterways are artificial lures only for various reasons.


It is not an either-or question when it comes to live bait or lures but rather which fishing technique makes sense for your situation. Lures will be advantageous in certain conditions but live bait will win out in others. The main point is live bait fishing should not be left to the kids, but instead kept as a fishing technique to catch more fish.