Best Live Bait for Bass and How to Fish Them

When it comes to bass fishing, live bait is often overlooked. But the truth is, using live bait is one of the best ways to catch bass!

Live bait is perhaps one of the best baits for beginners to start out with as the presentation is performed by the bait itself, as opposed to the angler doing the work.

In this article we'll go over the best live baits to use when fishing for bass.

Types of Live Fishing Bait

Live bait, as the name implies, is simply a living and breathing creature that fishermen use to catch fish with. When it comes to bass fishing the most common live baits used are:

  • Worms such as the popular Nightcrawlers and Redworms
  • Minnows, Shad, Shiners
  • Crustaceans such as Crawdads, Crawfish, Crayfish or whatever you prefer to call them.

However, bass will also eat plenty of other living critters such as salamanders, frogs, lizards, snakes, crickets, grasshoppers, and other live insects.

A Note On Fishing With Live Bait

While using live bait is legal in many places, there are some states that prohibit it for freshwater fishing either statewide or in specific waterways.

Some areas might allow the use of nightcrawlers while prohibiting the use of using live minnows, shad, shiners or other live baits. So make sure to check your local fishing regulations for the body of water you plan to fish with live bait in as it could save you from a hefty fine.

Catching Bass With Live Worms

The nightcrawler is a staple bait for catching all kinds of fish, including bass. I think it's safe to say that most of us grew up learning to fish using a worm.

How To Fish For Bass With A Worm

Fishing with nightcrawlers is a great way to learn how to catch bass for beginners. There isn't a whole lot to it really.

As far as gear goes, you really only need light fishing tackle. A spinning reel, ultralight or light fishing rod, 6-lb test mono fishing line, a hook, and some split shot will work.

Thread the end of the worm onto the point of the hook and up the shank. I like to use a worm threader, but you don't have to. For bass I use the whole worm, but when I fish for small gamefish like panfish or perch I'll sometimes split them in half to get more use out of them.

When it comes to retrieval methods to lure bass, you really just need to jig it above the grassline or across the bottom. Still fishing works too, and if you're not focused exclusively on bass you can let the worm sit still and let the bluegill, perch, and other small game fish munch on it.

Where To Find Worms To Fish With

Nightcrawlers are one of the most readily available fish baits as you can pretty much walk into any bait and tackle shop in America and expect to find a fridge filled with styrofoam containers containing red worms or nightcrawlers.

Heck, you can even find and collect worms in your own backyard.

If you have kids and want to teach them how to fish for bass, include the process of gathering their own bait to fish with. It's a great bonding experience and will also teach them some life skills. Plus, catching bass with the bait you've collected somehow makes it that much more rewarding.

How To Keep Worms Alive For Fishing

Worms are a convenient live bait that's easily stored. Most often when buying worms they'll come in a styrofoam container with some type of worm bedding. If you want to store worms short term, this works fine. Keep them cool (I put mine in the fridge) and sprinkle some corn meal and fresh bedding in from time to time.

If you fish with worms regularly you might consider picking up a dedicated worm box to keep them in, or if you're the more DIY type, start your own worm farm to save some money.

Catching Bass Using Minnows, Shiners, and Shad

Arguably one of the best baits to catch big bass with are minnows, shad, and shiners. Fishing with live bait fish is known as one of the best ways to produce some absolute hogs.

How to Rig up and Fish With Live Bait Fish for Bass

When baiting a hook with live minnows, shiners, or shad, make sure to match the hook to the bait fish and not to the intended size of bass you're targeting. Some popular types of hooks for rigging up live bait fish are Circle Hooks, Octopus Hooks, and Kahle Hooks.

There are 3 primary ways to bait a live fish: through the lip, dorsal fin, or gills.

How To Keep Minnows, Shiners, and Shad Alive While Fishing

The goal when using live bait fish to fish for bass is well, to use live bait! Having your bait die on you isn't going to do you much good. You want these little fish to swim around to attract bass. These little fish just aren't that tough yet. But there are things you can do to prolong their life before you trade them out for a bass.

Keep The Water Temperature Cool

Minnows don't do well in extreme temperatures. If your bucket of minnows are baking in the sun they're going to struggle to survive.

Not only is it just too warm for them, but as the water temperature rises it holds less oxygen.

Besides keeping them in an insulated container out of the sun, on those really hot summer days you can carry some ice with you to cool the water temperature. This will also help increase the oxygen levels and keep the minnows alive and kicking (or swimming I guess) longer.

Don't Overcrowd Them

Cramming a bunch of minnows in a bucket causes them to compete for oxygen. If you plan on using a lot of bait fish that day, bring a couple extra buckets to hold them so they can swim around and breathe.

While these little fish are bait they are alive, which means they produce waste and dirty the water. So make sure you're changing out the water while your fishing every so often.

Where To Get Minnows, Shiners, or Shad To Use As Bait

Some tackle shops carry them so check with your local bait and tackle store. However, these are usually hatchery fish. It's said that wild fish you catch yourself are the best as they're more likely to panic and try to swim away from the bass to stay alive, which is exactly what you want. When they do this, it entices the bass to chase them down for a quick meal.

You can catch minnows and other bait fish yourself by setting traps or using a net.

Bass Fishing With Live Crawfish

Bass love eating crawfish. It's why there are so many craw imitation lures! They're an irresistibly tasty presentation that bass just can't resist.

How to Rig up and Fish for Bass Using Live Crawfish

The simplest and most common way to rig up a crawfish is to hook it right through the tail. Use a hook proportionate to the size of the crustacean that's large enough to penetrate the tail and also hook into the bass's mouth.

When fishing for bass with a crawfish, it's best to let the craw do the work for you. Gently tess them out into the water and let the craw sink to the bottom and start doing what craws do while patiently waiting to set the hook on a bass.

Where to Get Crawfish to Use as Bait

Unfortunately most tackle shops, or the ones I've been to, don't often carry crawfish like they do worms or minnows. Your local shop might, so it's always worth a peek, but you'll most likely have to gather them on your own.

To find and catch crawfish to use as bait you can check along the shorelines. Flip over rocks and logs and look inside small holes and pockets along the bank. Crawfish like to hide so often times you'll find them buried in the mud. If you're patient, you can use a minnow trap and bait the craw with a piece of meat like bacon, chicken, or even a fish carcass.

When grabbing a crawfish, make sure to pick it up by its backside to avoid getting pinched. You can also place a net behind the crawfish and push it backwards into the net with a stick to catch it.

Frequenty Asked Questions

What Is Better: Live Bait or Lures?

While there isn't a definitive answer to the question, it's important to note that lures are designed to mimic live baits. Live baits are often cheaper and are highly effective for catching bass, but lures are convenient, easy to change, and less messy to use.