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What's the best live bait for bass fishing?

So you're fishing at a new spot and the fish just aren't biting on the lures you're throwing. This happens sometimes in bass fishing when the fish get really picky and don't want anything to do with your hard plastics or soft lures. One strategy some anglers use is to change it up and try using live bait to get the interest of the bass.

While most bass anglers prefer using lures to catch bass, using live bait can be a good option especially for beginners. Artificial baits tend to create an added challenge and many anglers enjoy the satisfaction of outsmarting the bass, but this isn't for everybody. In this post, we'll answer the question many people ask, "What's the best live bait for bass fishing?"

Smallmouth Bass on River Bed

Live Bait Smallmouth Bass and Largemouth Bass Usually Eat

  • Creek Minnows

  • Shiners

  • Chubs

  • Crawdads

  • Salamanders

  • Worms

  • Frogs

  • Lizards

  • Insects

  • Larvae

  • Baby Bass

  • Mice

  • Other Baitfish

This list is meant to give you an idea of the feeding habits of bass. While some of these will work better than others as live bait, any of these creatures will technically work as bass bait. Bass are opportunistic feeding fish that will eat about anything that's smaller than them. You also want to take into consideration what body of water you're fishing, and what the bass are used to eating in your specific area.

With that being said, there are two popular live bait choices for bass fishing that have been time tested and are sure to catch fish. Crawdads and Baitfish are extremely effective bait options for catching bass. Both of these are live bait that bass regularly feed on.

Minnows or Baitfish as Live Bass Bait

When people say "minnows" or "baitfish", they're talking about the same thing. There is a huge variety of baitfish, with over 200 species in just the United States alone. If you're targeting bass, the two that are going to get you the best results, however, are minnows called "shiners" and "chubs".

Red Shiner
Northern Leatherside Chub

Now, depending on where you live you might have different varieties of these fish. Not all shiners have the red coloring to them, and you'll frequently see larger varieties of shiners and chubs. These fish can be purchased at many tackle stores that offer live bait, and are a great way to catch bass. You'll want to make sure you keep them alive when you're out fishing, so make sure you have the right equipment.

If you're buying them from a bait store, they will often also offer styrofoam containers to keep your fish in. You can also spend a bit of extra money on an aerator machine to keep your fish active. If you plan to be out on the water for a long period of time, this could be a good option for you. I'll include more information about aerators for live bait below.

Crustaceans: Crawfish, Crawdads, Crayfish as Live Bass Bait

Crawdads are the second most popular live bait to use for bass fishing. If you're an angler from North America, we have a large amount of these crustaceans in most of our freshwater lakes and rivers. This is one of the main sources of food for both largemouth bass and smallmouth bass, and they've proven to be an extremely effective bait for catching fish.

Crayfish (Crawdad/Crawfish) On River Bed

There are two methods of using crawdads as live bait. You can either keep them alive and bit them on the hook as they are, or you can take the tail meat out of them and just use that. If you use them as live bait, it would be a good idea to remove the claws before putting it on your hook. Especially if it's a larger crawdad, they tend to have big claws that might scare the bass away.

If you want to just use the tail meat, you can either break off the tail and put it on your hook, or you can remove the shell and just use the meat inside. Using just the meat is a better option, but it can be difficult to remove the shell. If you've ever eaten crawdads, you might be thinking it's easy to take the shell off, but that's because it's already been cooked. When the tail meat is still raw, it sticks onto the shell making it an added challenge to get the meat out.

You'll want to let your line loose if you're casting with a live crawdad. Let the crawdad crawl along the bottom as it would naturally to get the best presentation. If a bass picks it up though, you'll want to be ready to set the hook. You can't just set your rod down and walk away from it, because the bass will eat the crawdad quickly and then spit the hook out if you're not careful.

Live Bait Optional Equipment

This is an aerator that helps keep your live bait alive. You can attach it to any bucket or container, and it has an easy to use on and off switch. This particular model has 4.5 stars on Amazon and is a great value. You don't need a whole expensive setup to keep your live bait alive. You can find it on Amazon here.

This is a large 3" foam bobber. If you plan on using a bobber to help you watch your line and indicate when you get a strike, you'll want something a bit larger. The traditional red and white bobber that you're probably using now is meant for catching panfish like bluegill and sunfish and isn't great for live bait fishing. Since you've already got a minnow or crawdad on your hook, it will be hard to tell whether your bobber is moving because there's a bass on your line, or if it's just your bait's just swimming around. This foam bobber has 4 stars on Amazon and is one that I would recommend. You can find it on Amazon here.

Hey, you made it this far... Check us out!

We hope you learned something about what live bait to use when you head off bass fishing. Feel free to send us an email if you have any other questions, we'd love to help you answer them! Here at BassTackleLures, we have many resources available for all you bass anglers out there. We have tabs at the top of this page that will take you to our home page, reviews, top lists, and our education section. You can also click here to get to our home page and check out our most recent content. Have a great time out on the water and go get em!


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