How to Choose Bait for Fishing

How to Choose Bait for Fishing

When it comes to deciding how to choose bait for fishing, there are key distinctions between natural bait vs artificial that new anglers should learn. While using bait that is more appropriate to the kind of fishing you are planning to do is important, the good news is that fish like both artificial fishing bait and natural fishing bait.

Fishing: Natural Bait vs. Artificial Lures

One of the most efficient and productive methods of sport angling is to use natural baits, or live bait. Natural baits are effective because of their familiar texture, odor, and color, and require a relatively simple presentation. They are generally most effective when acquired locally, outweighing any hassles involved in obtaining them.

The common earthworm is a universal bait; almost every fresh water species will hungrily gobble an earthworm. Grubs and maggots are excellent bait along with grasshoppers, crickets, bees, aquatic snails, small frogs, tadpoles, crayfish, and even ants. Many anglers believe that roe—fish eggs–is superior to any other bait. Some of the more popular natural baits include:

  • Worms: good bait for nearly all freshwater fish and you can find all you need in a few shovels of dirt from a shaded, damp area.
  • Minnows: store in a bucket with plenty of cool water to keep them alive. Never crowd them.
  • Crickets, grasshoppers, beetles: many varieties all make good baits, particularly later in the summer and autumn.
  • Leeches: excellent bait for many fish when hooked through the sucker in the tail.

The Challenge of Using Artificial Baits and Lures

Some anglers prefer to use artificial baits or lures, made to imitate prey or prey characteristics such as color, flash, or shape, that fish find attractive. A quick look down the aisle at your local tackle shop will tell you that artificial baits come in a bewildering array of styles, shapes, strategies, and colors, ranging from massive, shiny silver spoon-like devices trolled for big lake fish to wispy dry flies, tiny bundles of feathers and fur delicately cast to flighty trout.

Seasoned anglers usually carry more than one kind of lure and try to cover all three zones of the water column: surface, subsurface and bottom. Specific lures for each zone and species enables you to get attractive baits to the fish regardless where it is holding. There are hundreds of different types of artificial lures, but most fall into one of seven basic categories: crank baits, plugs, poppers, spoons, jigs, spinners, and flies.

  • Crankbaits look like small fish and are classified as surface, medium diver, and deep diver. They are cast and retrieved by reeling—cranking–the line back in.
  • Plugs mimic small fish. Some float, some dive, and some shimmy, shake, gurgle, and splash to imitate prey.
  • Poppers imitate bugs floating on the surface of the water and, when jerked, make a sound that attracts certain kinds of fish.
  • Spoons look something like teaspoon and imitate a speedy minnow flashing and darting.
  • Spinners have small blades or propellers that spin and flash when reeled, attracting fish by the motion and vibrations sent through the water.
  • A jig is simply a small hook with a lead ball near the eye of the hook, often decorated with feathers, artificial eyes, rubber legs, and tinsel.
  • Flies are artificial imitations of the aquatic and terrestrial insects and other prey creatures found in and near trout streams. Fly fishing is different than spin casting, using different equipment and techniques. Flies weigh only a few grams and are constructed—tied–from a range feathers, fur, thread, tinsel, and even foam and other space-age materials. Because they weigh next to nothing, casting a fly is more complex than other artificial lures or bait.

How to Choose The Right bait

Throwing baits is one of the most effective ways to catch bass throughout the year. They catch numbers of bass, they catch big bass, and they do it under almost any conditions. Their effectiveness is tied to the fact that crankbaits can imitate almost anything a bass feeds on – making them a good option whether the bass are feeding on shad, bluegill, or even crayfish.

Because crankbaits are so effective, there are literally hundreds of different models on the market. If you take a walk down the aisles of your local tackle shop, you can easily become overwhelmed by all the available options.

Should you use a deep diver with a big lip? How about crankbait with a round bill or a square bill? How big of a body should you be throwing? What color? It’s enough to overwhelm even the savviest angler.

To help you out, we’ve put together the following guidelines regarding crankbait selection, something that should help you catch more bass this coming season.


Many anglers are afraid to fish crankbaits because they are scared to lose them. Unfortunately, that’s also why they don’t catch many fish when they do throw them. To most effectively fish a crankbait, you need it to periodically contact structure. To do that, you should whenever possible opt for a crankbait that runs slightly deeper than the water you are fishing.

If you’re fishing a breakline that drops into 5 feet of water, you should choose a crankbait that runs 6 feet deep. If you’re fishing a point in 10 feet of water, choose one that runs 10-12 feet deep. You may get snagged a few times, but you’ll catch a lot more bass and have a lot more fun on the water.

Pro Tip: Invest in a good plug knocker. It will allow you to fish snaggier cover and recover more crankbaits when you do get hung up. A good plug knocker will more than pay itself off if you’re a crankbait fisherman.


Because bass are cold blooded, their bodies (and metabolism) are linked to the temperature of the water. The colder the water, the more they slow down. Because of that, anglers should use the water temperature to determine the type of wiggle and bill shape when choosing crankbaits. The rule of thumb is that the colder the water, the tighter the wiggle.

Crankbaits with narrow profiles and round bills produce the tightest wiggles, and baits wider profiles and square or coffin lips have the most erratic actions and work best in warmer water.

Traditional cold water favorites include baits like the Rapala Shad Rap, the Strike King Lucky Shad, and the Storm Wiggle Wart, all of which have slender rounded bills.

In warmer water, baits with erratic actions like the Castaic BD Square Bill, Strike King KVD 1.5, and the LiveTarget Bluegill are most effective.


Once you’ve got the depth and action right, the last thing you should consider when selecting which crankbait to throw is the profile and color.

Pay attention to the size of any shad or bluegill you’re seeing and try to match the hatch. You can also downsize to try and generate more strikes, and upsize to specifically target bigger bass.

Color also becomes important in the general sense of “what are you trying to emulate”. In the spring, crawfish colors are most effective because the bass are primarily feeding on crawfish. In weedy, shallow lakes, bluegill patterns are most effective, and in deep, clear, reservoirs, shad patterns take top billing. Water color also becomes important in color selection, as the dirtier the water, the brighter the colors you should choose.

Know where you are fishing and what time of fish

Fishing in texas versus fishing in Ohio is going to be very different depending on the type of water you are fishing in and the type of fish you are looking for. Looking at conditions such as the weather, clearness of the lake, or whether it is saltwater or freshwater all play a role in how you choose the right bait for fishing.

Catfish bait is going to be different from other types of fish bait, and you need to be exactly sure of what your fish eat in a given ecosystem. Research the body of water you plan to fish and the type of fish in that water and what they eat. Again, experience is going to be your best teacher when fishing. Weather conditions can change fast and may cause you to change your bait due to the muddying of the water. That’s okay; always have a backup.

Using Fishing Bait Tips

There are a number of fishing bait tips out there depending on what you would like to catch while fishing.

  • Keep the water type in mind when fishing. Different baits are used for salt water compared to fresh water. You will have a better chance catching a fish by using the right bait.
  • Make artificial bait look and smell more natural when fishing with it. If the fish finds out it is not an actual fish that they can eat then they will not touch it.
  • Select the right fishing time. Depending on the fish you’re trying to catch, you want to ensure that you use the right fishing time that their primary source of food comes out to play.
  • Use the correct bait. Whether you use artificial or natural bait, you want to make sure it is the right kind for the fish you’re going after, and there are many kinds to choose from.

Extra information on fishing bait and tackle or choosing a fishing bait guide can be found throughout the internet. Finding good sources for your fishing needs provides you with a platform to start fishing the right way.


The main lesson is to work out what bait is best suited to the fish you’re trying to catch – as the old adage goes: “match the hatch”. Once you’ve worked out this element of learning how to fish, your catches will undoubtedly increase dramatically.

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