One of the biggest decisions you will make as you head out fishing is choosing which bait you will use. The whole idea behind bait is to attract a fish and entice him to eat that bait. So, making the right bait choice can often mean the difference between success and failure on the water.
Bait comes in a variety of forms, but we will just break it down into three simple categories: live bait, dead bait, and artificial bait.
When and how to use each bait in these categories is what makes some anglers better than others at bringing in the fish.
How to Choose Fishing Bait
As the name implies, this bait is actually alive. It could be anything from a live blood worm to a small, live fish. Crabs, shrimp, menhaden shad, greenies – whatever the local favorite live bait is, it will usually help you be more successful.
Some anglers catch their own live bait, either with a trap, cast net, or with Sabiki rigs. Substantial live wells in the larger boats can accommodate enough live bait for a full day’s fishing. Smaller boats have smaller live wells or even small, battery operated live bait buckets.
Your local bait shop can help you choose which live bait is best – it varies by season, by location, and by the species of fish you plan to catch.
As this name also implies, this bait is dead. The array of bait will be the same as the live bait, but it will be far less expensive and easier to keep on a day’s fishing. Again, your local bait and tackle shop can help you choose which bait is best.
Some dead baits are fished whole – particularly when you are after a larger sized fish.
But, cut bait – bait that is partitioned into smaller chunks – is the preferred way to present it. The smell of the bait will be released into the surrounding water, attracting the fish. The size of the chunk is dependent on the fish you are after. The general rule is to use a big bait for a big fish. That’s not to say that a big fish cannot be caught on a small bait – it can. But, it’s awfully hard to catch a small fish on a bait that is as big as they are!
The name tells the secret with this bait. It is not a natural bait. This category encompasses everything from a topwater plug that imitates a wounded fish to a hairy, plastic, creature-like object with a hook in it. The artificial bait industry is a huge part of the fishing economy and every year they come out with some “new and improved” artificial bait that is “guaranteed to catch fish”.
Artificial baits have their place – I fish with them most of the time. And I am willing to try something new from time to time. But, the truth is that artificial baits are more about catching the fisherman than catching the fish in my opinion. Slick marketing and enticing packaging can cause a fisherman to buy an artificial bait he might otherwise avoid. I have quite a number of these items in my tackle box that have never been fished and probably never will be fished. But – they looked good when I bought them!
The “how to” part about artificials can go on for pages. Every lure has its place and the lure maker tells you on the package how to fish them.
Don’t get me wrong – I use all three types of baits depending on the day and the circumstances. I usually don’t use all three on the same trip, but I have been known to take all three with me on a given trip. I find the best bait is the one that works for you. And finding out which bait works is all about fishing. It takes experience and experimentation to help you find the best bait in a given circumstance. So, it you are just starting out learning to fish, let your tackle shop guy get the best bait for you. They won’t steer you wrong because they want your return business.