Freshwater Fishing Bait

Last Updated: 13.07.20


Crankbaits, flies, jigs, and plastics are some of the popular artificial bait choices, while clams, mussels, crayfish, eels, and insects are usually preferred from the live bait alternatives. The chosen bait needs to fit the type of fish and conditions you are going to deal with before taking your fishing canoe into a new location. 

As you are getting started as a fisherman, you will most probably fill your tackle box with many different types of bait in order to see which one works for each situation and type of fish. Since fishing is a diverse activity that can take place almost anywhere around the world and on different types of water, baits come in a wide range of sizes, shapes, colors, and types. 

While having many options is usually a good thing, it can also lead to some confusion as to what you should use and therefore making a decision on what bait to bring along on your next trip. For this reason, we thought it would be a good idea to look at how some of the live and artificial baits can be used, for what types of fish, and also when. 

Artificial freshwater bait 

As you can imagine, there are several options you can choose from when it comes to artificial freshwater types of bait, and one of these is known as crankbait (or plugs). These items are made of hard plastic and they are specially designed to be cast out and then retrieved in quick, repeated, and aggressive strikes. 

They do have some particularities in the way they can be used, and they come in four different alternatives, each one suitable for a certain use. You can use diving lures for trolling and deep retrieving, or swimbaits that can wriggle left and right when you pull them through the water. 

Furthermore, thin minnow lures can replicate the look of a minnow when you want to fish on or under the water, while topwater lures (also known as wobblers or poppers) can be used when you want to fish on the surface of the water. 

However, crankbaits are not the only artificial freshwater baits that you can use, so you may want to take a look at flies as well. These small items are specially made to replicate the way natural insects look like, and they can be tossed into the water using a fly line. 

In this case, as well, there are several types of such baits that you can choose from, including dry flies, terrestrial bugs, wet flies, streamers, attractors, or nymphs. Jigs, on the other hand, are usually considered an affordable year-round type of bait, and depending on the water’s situation, they can be retrieved differently. 

What makes jigs a very good choice is the fact that they can be used in both cold and warm water. Plus, they have proven to be more than once a solid bait even in difficult conditions that include rocks, brush, and weeds. If you retrieve them straight instead of using an up-and-down motion, then they can mimic a swimming movement. 


Plastics and artificial baits 

It may not sound like something very appealing for those who are not used to fishing (in the end, who would want to ingest something made of plastic), but plastic baits have been around since the 1950s and they have proven to be quite effective at getting the job done. In the early 1950s, the plastic worm was marketed for the first time, and things started to change after that. 

These small items have revolutionized many fishing aspects and, of course, led to the creation of more types of plastic baits such as grubs, crayfish, or salamanders. Given this material’s versatility that has led it to be used in almost every type of industry and human activity, plastic baits come in a wide variety of sizes, colors, and shapes. 

Some of them are suitable for use around weeds and rocky conditions, and they can also be an excellent bait for those times when you are trying to catch a Largemouth Bass. 

There is another type of artificial bait that you can use, namely spinnerbait. Also known as safety pin spinners, these items get their name from the way they look. If you take a closer look at home, you’ll see that it comes with either one or more spinners, a weighted end, and a single hook. 

You should consider using spinnerbait in areas with brush or weeds, where normally other types such as crankbait would not work. Since they are extremely flexible, these baits can be used in deep, murky, shallow or clear waters. 


Other types of artificial baits 

Spoons, on the other hand, trick fish by swaying from side to side when they are retrieved, and they can work for a wide range of freshwater fish species. However, smaller spoons work better for fish such as trout, while larger ones are efficient in catching bass or walleye. 

If you give these baits a try, you’ll see that they are flexible, but you should know that they are normally used for fishing beneath the water’s surface, as they can be quickly retrieved. 

We know we’ve talked about many types of choices when it comes to artificial bait, but one thing you may want to keep in mind is that you should consider the conditions you are going to fish in, very carefully. If it’s sunny and the water is clear, then baits in bright colors that resemble natural patterns should be used. 

On the other hand, if the weather is cloudy and the water is rather murky, then baits in darker colors are better suited, especially if they make any noise or vibrate in order to attract the fish. 

Live freshwater bait

While you can surely give artificial bait a try, especially since it can be used on multiple occasions, you should not forget about live bait either. Clams and mussels might be the first options that come to mind since they are excellent live bait alternatives, especially if they are native to where you are planning to cast your line. 

They should always be gathered fresh if you plan to use them, and you can usually find them in shallow waters. Once you do this, you must crack the shell and, after they are removed from it, you can let them harden for a short while in the sun, just to make sure that they are going to stay on the hook. 

Another type of live bait that is pretty popular among experienced fishermen is crayfish. This can be used either alive or dead, depending on what type of fish you are targeting. For example, for smallmouth bass, you will want to use the bait alive, while for catfish, the other alternative is better. 

You can either catch it directly in the water, or you can simply purchase it from a specialized store. Once you know where and how you want to use the bait, you can simply hook them through the tail and you are all set. 


Other types of live bait 

For those times when you want to troll for bottom fish, eels are the type of bait you should go for. On the other hand, if you are simply looking for an affordable live bait, then grubs and mealworms might be just what you need. These can be bought from any local bait shop, or you can oftentimes simply find them in the dirt. 

Certain types of fish, such as smallmouth Bass or trout, are known for preferring insects, so you should bring some caterpillars, ants, crickets, or other bugs along and see which type of bait is going to spark your target’s interest. 

For Walleye, on the other hand, hardy leeches should be the winning solution, and all you need to do is make sure they move as they naturally swim. 



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