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Aly from Alabama holding monster largemouth bass and wearing N1 Outdoors fishing shirt

Look Alive! | Best Live Bait For Bass

All over the world, anglers are flocking to waterways in hopes of catching a trophy fish. To be more specific, bass is a species being targeted for sport at a record level.

Whether it be huge largemouth in Mexico, giant smallmouth in Canada, or monstrous peacock bass in Brazil, people are doing all they can to get hooked up.

And, while most of the marketing push surrounds artificial lures, there are plenty of live bait options that do as good or better than anything you can buy in a sporting goods or online store.

largemouth bass near wood structure

While bass fishing marketing and advertising centers around artificial lures, why not go with the original… live bait!

Each subspecies of bass will differ, so knowing live bait options will help set you up for success whether you are angling from a boat or simply enjoying bass fishing from the bank.

So, let’s cover some of the best live bait for bass according to subspecies!

Best Live Bait For Largemouth Bass

West Wells holding largemouth bass wearing N1 Outdoors fishing shirt

Largemouth bass are primarily found in North America, where they are the biggest and most abundant.

Although many anglers prefer artificial lures for largemouth, live bait can be very beneficial to use.

Here are the best live bait options for largemouth bass.

  1. Shad
shad as a bait for largemouth bass

Live shad are a prime target of hungry largemouth and they are readily available at most bait shops. (photo credit: Missouri Dept. of Conservation)

Shad may be the most targeted live bait as they are the natural food source for largemouth all over North America. Especially in areas with rip rap or man-made structure, shad tends to be around.

There are a couple of ways to get shad. First, you can buy live shad at your local bait shop. This keeps the presentation fresh and effective.



Secondly, you can catch your own shad. This is a bit tricky, as you need a cast net and some skill, but with some practice, you can catch your own shad.

Finally, you can buy packaged, dead shad. Although this is not live bait technically, some bait shops will have preserved shad to use.

No matter what type of shad you pick, hook them along the back fin to provide natural movement.



  1. Worms
live worms for bass fishing

Worms, and more specifically nightcrawlers, are a great live bait option for largemouth. (photo credit: Farm and Dairy)

The imitation of worms make up a huge sect of the artificial lure market, so going right to the original source can be beneficial. Specifically, nightcrawlers are great for largemouth due to the size and scent.

To enhance the look, you may need to use a Texas rig or some sort of jig setup. This will get the worm down in the water column quickly and into the strike zone.


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  1. Bluegill
bluegill

Bluegill are a favorite of largemouth bass. Be sure to check your local game laws regarding the use of bluegill as bait (photo credit: Wisconsin Dept of Natural Resources)

Especially in the northern United States, largemouth feast on bluegill.

Stick with smaller bluegill and hook them through the mouth or back fin to let the fish move around naturally.

The more coloration the better, as this is what grabs attention.



Best Live Bait For Smallmouth Bass

smallmouth bass in hand

The largemouth’s smaller, but feistier, cousin, is the smallmouth. Smallmouth bass have a ton of fight and have slightly different feeding patterns.

Here are the top three live bait options for smallmouth.


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  1. Crawfish
crawfish as live bait for smallmouth bass

When it comes to smallmouth bass, crawfish (or “crawdads”) can entice big smallmouth bites! (photo credit: Murray’s Fly Shop)

The best live bait offering for smallmouth is crawfish.

Craws are a natural food source of smallmouth, and many artificial lures are made to imitate them. You can capture your own crawfish or buy them live at a bait shop.

Crawfish are best rigged on the back of a jig or free flow with the hook through the tail.

Throwing these in rock piles and in eddies of flowing water can harbor strong bites.

In many cases, the bigger the claws the better. This means there will be more action and a more enticing presentation.



  1. Minnows
monnows for smallmouth bass fishing

Minnows are a good live bait choice for smallmouth and can be found at just about every bait shop. (photo credit: Forum News Service)

If you are in larger lakes or other areas with smallmouth, minnows could be very useful. Minnows are baby fish and are eaten naturally by this subspecies.

Minnows are best on jigheads or dropshots as these both give the presentation a little more action and efficiency.

Minnows can be found at just about any bait shop that sells live bait. You can also gather minnows yourself with minnow traps.



  1. Nightcrawlers
night crawlers for catfish or bass

Night Crawlers are a solid live bait choice for smallmouth bass (photo credit: DMF Bait)

This is the one option that has a bit of crossover between largemouth and smallmouth at a successful level.

Nightcrawlers are naturally found in the cracks and crevices of water systems.

Smallmouth just so happen to live and feed in these areas. So, use some weight or a jig to get that worm down and into the strike zone.



Best Live Bait For Striped Bass

man holding striped bass

Striped bass are the largest of the subspecies and can be found in freshwater and saltwater.

Here are the best live bait options for striped bass:

  1. Shad
shad as live bait for striped bass

Shad aren’t just for largemouth bass… they are a desired food source of striped bass as well. (photo credit Mass.gov)

Shad is the most popular live bait, especially when targeting freshwater striped bass.

These bait fish are naturally eaten, so you are tapping into the normal diet of a striped bass.

The big perk of using shad is the availability. They can be caught yourself or found at a majority of bait shops. Hook these behind the back fin to allow the fish to swim naturally.



  1. Eels
an eel on a bait hook for striped bass

Eels provide action that striped bass have a hard time resisting.(photo credit: American Eel Farm)

One of the more unique baits is eel. Especially for the coastal, saltwater stripers, eel can make a great presentation.

Eels are a bit harder to catch yourself and a bit more expensive at bait shops. And, although they may not seem like an ideal bait, stripers cannot get enough of the taste.

Eels can be rigged on a jighead to add weight. This will move the eel down in the water column and into an area of dense bites.

  1. Minnows
monnows for smallmouth bass

Minnows can be fished on jigs or free-lined for striped bass. (photo credit National Park Service)

Live minnows do a good job targeting both freshwater and saltwater striped bass. These are easily found or bought, so fishing with them is easy. Minnows make great baits on jigs or free swim rigs.



Best Live Bait For Peacock Bass

man holding peacock bass

The most interesting of the four is the peacock bass. These are only found in Hawaii, South Florida, and the Amazon River. So, the fishing opportunities are a bit limited for most people. However, if you can target peacock bass, here are the best live bait options.



  1. Shiners
shad for peacock bass

Shiners make the list as a fantastic live bait option for peacock bass. (photo credit: Missouri Dept. of Conservation)

If you ask any peacock angler what their go-to bait is, the answer is usually a shiner.

Shiners are bait fish that peacock eat naturally and can be bought at bait shops as well as caught yourself.

They can be fished like shad, so hook it around the anal fin to allow for natural movement.



  1. Minnows

As with many other subspecies of bass, peacock bass will eat minnows (as well as other native small fish). Due to the availability of minnows at most bait shops, these can be a great live bait option as well.



Conclusion

As you can see, there are some similarities in the live baits that work well for the various subspecies of bass.

man holding musky

Find That bite! | 6 Musky Fishing Tips For Fishing Glory

Musky fishing is one of the most challenging forms of freshwater fishing there is. Musky are apex predators with a very low-density population in most cases.

Musky (“muskie”, or “muskellunge” as they are also referred to) are more likely to follow your lure to the boat, inspecting it instead of attempting to eat it.

man holding a large musky

Musky can be difficult to catch, but if you put in the time following some basic tips, you can increase your chances of a big payoff!

There are times when a musky angler could spend days without contacting a musky and possibly weeks between catching them. But, using certain tips and tactics coupled with experience gained on the water, you can drastically increase your catch rates of this elusive predator.

Let’s take a look at some of the most important tactics to catch muskies.

Find the Food, Find the Fish

You cant catch a musky if you aren’t throwing your lures in areas where muskies are present.

Being a good musky angler means that you have great knowledge of the locations and habits of all other species such as panfish, walleyes, pike, and others.

bluegill fish

Locating the panfish (like bluegill) is a great way to determine where muskies might be feeding. (photo credit: Ohio DNR)

You need to know the patterns and movements of prey species to best determine where muskies might be.

A good way to determine where a musky food source might be congregating is to pay attention to panfish anglers. Because panfish anglers will often congregate in areas where panfish are in abundance, this can be a good areas to consider locating musky as well that might be feeding on panfish like crappie, perch and bluegill.

Using the visible clue of other anglers, you can also then see what structure is in that immediate area on your GPS/sonar unit or map, and start probing the deep water while respecting the space of the other fishermen in the area.




Find the “Spots on the Spot”

It’s important to cover a large amount of area on the water to find actively hunting and feeding muskies, but it is also important to find the small precise locations commonly used by a musky to ambush prey.

While a weed line that ends with a steep drop-off is perfect musky hunting grounds, on many lakes they can be hundreds of yards if not miles long.

Within these long drop-offs or weed lines, there will be spots that consistently hold muskies, and these spots may be several yards in size down to the size of a vehicle.

man holding a large muskie

Musky fishing often requires an angler to cover large amounts of area on the water to locate fish that are actively feeding. How to efficiently do this is key…


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Points, inside and outside corners, sections of the drop-off that are significantly steeper than the rest of the drop-off; these spots will hold musky on a regular basis, because they are perfect ambush points for large predatory fish.

Once you find several of these small precise locations on the overall spot, you can skip fishing countless yards of structure and focus on fishing them with pinpoint precision and purpose.

Other key spots can be mid-lake structure such as humps, ridges, spines, saddles, or even areas in the open water basin.



Figure-8 Discipline

neon sign of number eight

When it comes to tips for musky fishing, it’s hard to think of a number that’s more important than the number 8…

Lack of figure-8 discipline is probably responsible for more lost fish for beginning anglers than anything else.

You need to focus on doing a proper figure-8 at the end of every single cast. Even if the water clarity is incredibly high and you don’t see a musky following your lure, you should still do it every time.

Muskies can follow far below and behind the bait, and you might not see them, or they could have followed up on a previous cast and are lurking beneath the boat, watching your lures approach again and again. Many seasoned musky anglers will attest to catching a musky boat side on a figure-8 while having zero clues that the fish was ever there.



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How to “figure 8” for musky

When you do attempt to figure-8 a musky that is following your lure, you should do it with large sweeping “curves,” and when the bait crosses the center of the invisible 8 you should plunge it deeper in the water, and bring it near the surface on the outside of the curves while increasing your speed.



You can also mix it up by doing big circles instead of figure-8’s and adding pauses or bursts of speed to entice a violent reaction.

Too many times we have witnessed a new musky angler making figure-8s on an active musky that are so small that the musky can’t follow or chase the lure.


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Don’t Leave Fish to Find Fish

Another common mistake of the beginning angler is leaving fish to find fish.

Many beginners, when fishing a large area and contacting fish in the form of missed strikes of follow-ups, but not successfully catching any, will leave the area in search of a fish that will strike.

man holding a musky

Whether you are catching them yet or not, don’t leave an area where you know muskies are to search for them elsewhere.

In many cases, this is the wrong move, and anglers should stay in the area and fish it in an attempt to trigger one of these active or semi-active fish to strike.

If you do leave, you need to return to the area throughout the day to see if the activity has increased, and especially during moonrise, moonset, majors, minors, and any changes in weather.

 It is not uncommon to have the same musky show themselves to you 4 or 5 times in a short amount of time.



Make a Mental Checklist

When determining where the active fish are located on any given day when you are trying to establish a pattern, you should have a mental checklist of the places you search and meticulously fish them.

A simple way to do this is to fish your shallow spots where you think there are muskies and work your way out from the shallow areas.

man releasing musky near the boat

You need to meticulously fish spots as you work your way out for shallow areas to transition areas and then to deeper water.

Starting at shallower depths, work around weed lines and areas of moderate depth, also known as transition areas from shallow and deep water.

After checking these transition areas, you can search deep spots.

When you do this in combination with the “spot on the spot” tactic, you will eliminate large areas of less productive water and fish with great efficiency.



Change Lures Often

bucktail for musky fishing

Don’t get stuck on one particular lure presentation. Mix things up for those finicky muskies. (photo credit muskyshop.com)

Some anglers will fish a bucktail all day and nothing else, even when they are getting little to no action on that type of lure. Don’t fall into the “one lure rut” because it’s a lure you favor, or because it has caught fish in the past.

Switch lures on occasion and chooses the best ones for the situation and spot you are fishing.



Final Thoughts

The musky fishing community, while it has grown substantially over the last decade, is still incredibly small compared to other species-specific fishing like bass fishing, much of the reason for this is the challenge it represents and the time and dedication involved to catch a single fish.

At the end of the day, there is no substitute for time on the water pursuing these predators, so just get out there and fish!

two men holding two catfish

Hook ’em and Cook ’em! | Best Baits For Catfish

One of the best species out there that can bring an incredible fight, and even a tasty meal, is the catfish. Although often overlooked by the bass fishing space and others, catfishing can be super fun and create lifelong memories.

We will be breaking down the best baits for catfish. So, whether you are a new angler, or just want to learn more about catfish presentations, this is for you.

Knowing what the best options are will put you in a spot for success. Here are the best baits for catfish!

Nightcrawlers

night crawlers for catfish

Night crawlers and worms are affordable and easy to find, making them a great live bait for catfish. (photo credit: DMF Bait)

When it comes to catfish bait, it doesn’t get any more traditional than worms and nightcrawlers. These baits can be super effective in many circumstances.

The first reason why nightcrawlers are a great option for catfishing is that they are easily accessible. Nightcrawlers can be bought at any bait shop and can also often be found at many gas stations that are near fishing locations.

You can even dig them up in the backyard if you want.



So, having affordable and easy access to worms and nightcrawlers is a big reason to use them.

The other reason is that they work, plain and simple.

Nightcrawlers are awesome baits because catfish love munching on them. The scent and action of a nightcrawler is unmatched in the catfishing world.

Chicken Liver

magic bait chicken livers for catfish

Chicken livers for catfishing can be easily found at most grocery stores… and catfish love them! (photo credit: Walmart listing)

One really unique catfish bait is chicken liver.

Chicken livers have a very strong scent that does a great job of enticing bites from big catfish. These can be bought in bait shops and grocery stores, so you shouldn’t struggle too much to find them.

Amongst a sect of catfish anglers, this is the only bait they will use. This is a strategy that anglers fall in love with when they can find some success with it.

The key is keeping the livers cold and fresh for as long as possible. This is easy with a cooler, and as long as you replace the chunks often, you’ll be set up for success.


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Stink Bait

smokey's catfish stink bait

If it stinks to you, chances are, catfish will love it… which is exactly the case with stink bait. (photo credit: Smokey’s Listing)

Catfish find food with their sense of smell. So, when you use something like stink bait, there is a good chance that you can get hooked up with a trophy. Stink bait is usually man-made and can be bought in a bait shop or made yourself.

The key attribute to stink bait is the smell, as the name implies. It is infused with natural scents that will grab a catfish’s attention. Although it is not an enjoyable smell to humans, it does a really good job in the water.

Stink bait is pretty affordable and reliable. And, because you can just go pick some up at the store, the convenience is there. If you want to get creative and save money in the long run, you can learn to make your own at home.




Bluegill

bluegill fish

Bluegill can be a great live bait option for catching catfish, as long as it’s legal to use them in your area. Be sure to check your local fish and game regulations. (photo credit: Ohio DNR)

Although live bait is not a preferable catfishing method in many cases as it is with bass, bluegill can and do get eaten by catfish. Especially with blue cats and large channel cats, they will eat bluegill, as long as it is affixed the correct way.

In some areas, hanging trotlines is legal and very popular. Trotlines are fixtures of rope or line that have hooks and bait on them. So, it is a way to passively fish.



Where it is legal, bluegill are fantastic bait options as they will still be alive and can be a good snack for a hungry catfish.

If you cannot use trotlines, bluegill can still be a good option. The key is to either hook them through the mouth or right behind the back fin to let them move around in a natural way. This keeps the presentation as real as it gets.




Shad

shad

Whether live or frozen, shad can be used for bait to catch catfish. (photo credit: Game and Fish Magazine)

Shad and minnows are two baits that can bring some huge bites. Whether they be alive or frozen, shad can be an especially interesting bait. Especially with big catfish in big water bodies, shad can be a majority of that fish’s diet. The key to using shad is targeting an area where they are found naturally.

If you can find an area where shad are naturally swimming around, this is an obvious choice for bait. If you want a more lively approach, you may be able to buy live shad. But, if buying live shad is not an option, you can buy packaged or frozen shad at bait shops.




spencer hardin holding big flathead catfish

Patience when catfishing can pay off BIG time!

Tips for catfishing

  1. Take your bait selection seriously

All of the above bait options can yield some great results on the water. So, you should really take your selection seriously. This means “matching the hatch” and doing research about specific waterways. (by “matching the hatch”. we mean using baits that resemble what the fish in the area are already naturally feeding on), When you can zero in on baits that are native to the fish’s body of water and time of year, the bites will increase.



  1. Bring more than enough bait

A popular way to catch catfish is sitting out all night and trying your luck. If you are going to play the waiting game and fish for longer periods of time, you should bring extra bait. The more bait the better. The thing you want is to get into a mess of fish and not have enough bait to keep catching them! Better to bring too much than too little.



  1. Patience is a virtue

Unlike other freshwater fishing, casting and being active with the approach is not always the best way to fish for catfish. Try casting your rig and waiting for a bite to happen rather than constantly moving around and recasting. The more patient you can be, the better. This increases the chances of you catching a monster.



Closing Thoughts

Fishing for catfish can be a great way to feel the power of a big cat. And, although some anglers look down on catfish, they are tons of fun to catch, put up a great fight and can taste really good.

So, give these bait options a shot. Each one excels in certain situations, so toying and experimenting with your presentation is part of the fun. Good luck, and happy catfishing!

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