Best Bait for Saltwater Fishing

If you have ever been saltwater fishing you know the best way of finding out what the fish are biting on, just ask the guys fishing there or the Bait and Tackle shops in close proximity to docks,  piers, or beaches where everyone is fishing because baits change for each fish, time and season. What is the Best Bait for Saltwater Fishing?

  • Shrimp: redfish and trout
  • Pilchards: larger predators-tarpon & snook.
  • Mullet: tarpon & kingfish
  • Squid: bottom-dwellers like snapper
  • Crabs: Striper & sheepshead
  • Cut Bait: Sardines & mackerel work well for various species
  • Soft Plastics: Mimic shrimp & minnows
  • Jigs: great for bottom species-grouper & flounder

Bait fish are small fish caught for use to attract large predatory fish, particularly game fish species, and are typically common to native water where the predatory fish are found. They breed rapidly, making them easy to catch and in regular supply.

Best Bait for Saltwater Fishing

When it comes to saltwater fishing, selecting the best bait is crucial for a successful catch. Live bait is often considered the most effective, with shrimp, pilchards, and mullet being top choices due to their natural appeal to various saltwater species.

Shrimp, in particular, is versatile and attracts fish like redfish, trout, and flounder. Pilchards and mullet, being schooling fish, are excellent for larger predators such as tarpon and snook. Artificial lures can also be effective, especially those that mimic the movement and appearance of live bait.

Soft plastic baits in the shape of worms or minnows can be particularly enticing. Additionally, cut bait like squid or sardines is another reliable option, releasing scents that attract fish from a distance. For bottom-dwelling species like grouper and snapper, cut bait is especially effective.

Crabs are another fantastic choice for targeting species like permit and Sheepshead. Ultimately, the best bait depends on the specific type of fish you’re targeting and the conditions of your fishing environment.

  • Shrimp

Shrimp is a go-to bait for saltwater anglers. This all-purpose bait works because shrimp are common in saltwater environments and fish are attracted to the scent and movement. Dead or alive shrimp can be used to catch fish onshore or offshore. Just pinch off the tail or head, hook it on the line, and cast it out to attract the fish to the scent. Also known as Ghost Shrimp because of their translucent properties, these tiny baitfish actually live in the sand.

  • Shellfish

Lots of different species of fish eat shellfish like clams, mussels, or crabs. Anglers like the versatility of shellfish as bait when trying to catch a fish. Anglers often catch shellfish to use as bait, Blue Crabs are an irresistible primary prey item. Present a whole, small blue crab in clear waters or half of a crab in murky conditions.

  • Cut Bait

Cut bait has a strong aroma and oils which is a key way to attract saltwater fish. Cut bait can be made by cutting up bait fish or smaller fish you have caught throughout the day. You can hook a bunch of fish with cut bait, like sea bass, mahi mahi, bluefish, and striped bass. Cut bait is effective for all saltwater fishing, whether you are offshore, on shore, or surf fishing.

  • Menhaden- (Peanut Porgy) work well in live form, cut into chunks, or as chum. East coast fishermen target Striped Bass, Bluefish, and large Fluke with live Menhaden.
  • Mullets

are fantastic natural bait that can be used live or cut.  Mullets bait fish travel in big schools and can be found in virtually any habitat, making them excellent bait fish. Use Mullet with better water quality. Mullet can be purchased frozen and used to catch a wide variety of other fish, as well.

  • Bait Fish

Eels, ballyhoo, and pilchards are commonly used to catch saltwater game fish. Anglers often choose this bait, since fish are naturally drawn to the movement and scent of their prey. Baitfish can be caught with a cast net and kept alive in a livewell or with frozen packs available at your local bait shop. Keep in mind some fish will only eat live bait. Grouper and amberjack find a five-pinfish hard to resist.

  • Sand Fleas

Popular with surf fishermen, Sand Fleas work great for pompano, Redfish, croakers, and more. Also called Mole Crabs, Sand Fleas can be pulled out of the sand along the beach’s waterline by hand or with a rake.

  • Squid

Squid is probably the most universal saltwater bait type available. Anglers all over the country use squid in one form or another to tempt a wide variety of fish species. Striped Bass, Bluefish, and Redfish find the whole squid hard to resist. Gulf Coast fishermen often use frozen squid, cut into long strips, to catch Tuna, sharks, mackerel, kingfish, and numerous other types of fish.

What are the Best Baits for Freshwater Fishing?

Worms or Nightcrawlers are the kings of freshwater fishing bait there are many live baits worthy of using like leeches, minnows, crayfish, crickets, & grasshoppers for bottom feeders like catfish & carp, there is corn, hot dogs & homemade prepared baits called dough balls In my book, Worms Are Best ……………………………………………….. Read more

Best Artificial Bait for Saltwater Fishing

Selecting the best artificial bait for saltwater fishing can significantly enhance your chances of a successful catch. Soft plastic baits are a top choice due to their versatility and lifelike movement. These baits often mimic the appearance of shrimp, worms, or small fish, making them highly effective for species like redfish, sea trout, and flounder.

Another excellent option is the jig, which is particularly useful for bottom-dwelling fish such as snapper and grouper. Jigs can be tipped with soft plastics or left bare, depending on the target species.

Hard-bodied lures, like crankbaits and topwater plugs, are also popular among saltwater anglers. Crankbaits mimic injured baitfish, attracting predatory fish like snook, tarpon, and striped bass. Topwater plugs create surface commotion that can entice aggressive strikes from species such as bluefish and mackerel. Metal spoons are another effective artificial bait, known for their flash and vibration, which can attract a variety of saltwater fish, including bonito and Spanish mackerel.

For those targeting larger game fish, swimbaits are an excellent choice. These baits have a realistic swimming action that can fool even the most cautious predators, such as kingfish and barracuda. Additionally, popping cork rigs paired with soft plastics or live bait can be highly effective in shallow waters, creating sound and movement that draw fish in from a distance. Ultimately, the best artificial bait depends on the specific species you’re targeting and the fishing conditions, but having a variety of these reliable options will increase your chances of success.

Most popular Artificial Baits:

  • Paddle Tail-the paddle tail soft plastic is undoubtedly the most versatile of all lures for saltwater fishing. These lures can draw strikes from pretty much all predator fish that eat smaller baitfish
  • Gold Spoon- usually a teardrop-shaped piece of metal with a hook attached comes in a variety of metallic finishes such as gold, copper, silver, and brass.
  • White Bucktail Jigs-they have a small, painted lead head with a trailing molded-in hook. Attached deer hair flows behind the head and disguises the hook. Bucktail lures come in many colors and weights that correspond with the most commonly used sinkers
  • Topwater/Shallow Water Popper- Explosive strike response-topwater plugs come in several different styles including Walk-the-Dog, Poppers, and Prop baits. #1 Super Spook Topwater Fishing Lure by Heddon.

What are the Advantages of Using Artificial Bait Over Live Bait

Using artificial bait for saltwater fishing offers several advantages over live bait:

  1. Durability: Artificial baits are more robust and can withstand multiple casts and bites, reducing the need for frequent replacements.
  2. Convenience: They do not require special storage conditions like live bait, making them easier to transport and store.
  3. Variety: A wide range of colors, sizes, and types allows anglers to tailor their selection to specific fishing conditions and target species.
  4. Cost-Effectiveness: While the initial cost might be higher, artificial baits can be reused, making them more economical in the long run.
  5. Versatility: Artificial baits can mimic various prey and be used in different fishing techniques, such as trolling, jigging, or casting.
  6. No Mess: Unlike live bait, artificial baits do not create a mess or produce odors, making them cleaner to handle.
  7. Control: Anglers have more control over the action and presentation of artificial baits, which can be critical for enticing strikes.
  8. Availability: Artificial baits are always available and ready to use, whereas live bait can be seasonal or difficult to obtain.

How Do I Choose the Right Color for Artificial Bait

Choosing the right color for artificial bait in saltwater fishing can significantly impact your success. Here are some guidelines to help you make the best choice:

  1. Match the Hatch: Select colors that mimic the local prey species in the area you’re fishing. For example, if the fish are feeding on shrimp, choose baits in shades of pink, brown, or translucent.
  2. Water Clarity:
    • Clear Water: In clear water, use natural colors like green, brown, silver, or white to mimic the natural appearance of prey. Translucent baits can also be very effective.
    • Murky or Stained Water: In murky water, brighter colors such as chartreuse, bright orange, and hot pink can help the bait stand out. Dark colors like black and purple can also be effective as they create a strong silhouette.
  3. Light Conditions:
    • Bright, Sunny Days: On bright days, natural and lighter colors tend to work best. Reflective baits that shimmer can also be effective under these conditions.
    • Cloudy or Low-Light Conditions: On overcast days or during dawn and dusk, opt for darker colors like black, blue, or purple, as they create a more defined silhouette that fish can see better against the dim light.
  4. Depth:
    • Shallow Water: In shallow waters, natural colors that resemble the bottom and local prey are ideal.
    • Deep Water: In deeper waters, where light penetration is limited, brighter and more reflective baits can help attract fish from a distance.
  5. Seasonal Changes: The effectiveness of certain colors can change with the seasons as prey species and water conditions vary. For instance, during spring, when fish are more active and the water is often clearer, natural colors may work best. In the fall, when water can be murkier, brighter colors might be more effective.
  6. Experience and Local Knowledge: Local anglers often have valuable insights into which colors work best in specific areas and conditions. Don’t hesitate to ask for advice at local bait and tackle shops.
  7. Experimentation: Fish can be unpredictable, and what works one day might not work the next. It’s always a good idea to have a variety of colors on hand and be willing to experiment to see what the fish are responding to on any given day.

By considering these factors, you’ll be better equipped to choose the right color for your artificial bait, increasing your chances of a successful fishing trip.


In conclusion, while both live and artificial baits have their unique benefits, artificial baits offer distinct advantages that can enhance the saltwater fishing experience. Their durability, convenience, and versatility make them a practical choice for many anglers.

The variety of options available allows for precise targeting of different species and conditions, while their reusability and ease of storage make them cost-effective and hassle-free. Moreover, the control and cleanliness associated with artificial baits can lead to a more enjoyable and successful fishing trip. Ultimately, the choice between live and artificial bait will depend on personal preference, target species, and specific fishing scenarios, but incorporating artificial baits into your fishing arsenal can provide significant benefits.

When is the Best Time to Go Fishing?

The best time to go fishing is either early morning or late evening when all fish are active
Within an hour of sunrise
Within an hour after sunset
Between a new Moon and a Full Moon
Two to four hours just before a front arrives
During cloudy weather conditions
When the wind is down
When the water is calm ……………………………………………………………….. Read more

JimGalloway Author/Editor




  1. What is the best type of artificial bait for saltwater fishing?
    • The best type of artificial bait depends on the target species and fishing conditions. Soft plastic baits, jigs, hard-bodied lures like crankbaits and topwater plugs, and metal spoons are all effective choices for various saltwater fish.
  2. Can I use freshwater lures in saltwater?
    • Some freshwater lures can work in saltwater, but it’s essential to rinse them thoroughly after use to prevent corrosion. However, saltwater-specific lures are designed to withstand the harsher environment and are usually more effective.
  3. How do I maintain my artificial baits?
    • Rinse baits with fresh water after use to remove salt and debris. Store them in a cool, dry place to prevent rust and deterioration. Regularly check for any damage and replace worn-out hooks or split rings.
  4. What size of artificial bait should I use?
    • The size of the bait should match the size of the prey that the target fish typically feed on. Smaller baits (2-4 inches) are good for species like trout and flounder, while larger baits (5-7 inches) are suitable for bigger fish like tarpon and snook.
  5. Do artificial baits work as well as live bait?
    • Artificial baits can be just as effective as live bait, especially when used correctly. They offer the advantage of being reusable and can be more convenient to store and transport.
  6. How do I use a jig for saltwater fishing?
    • Cast the jig and let it sink to the desired depth. Use a sharp, jerking motion to make the jig hop off the bottom, mimicking injured prey. Vary the retrieve speed and pattern to find what works best for the target fish.
  7. Are there any special techniques for using topwater plugs?
    • Yes, topwater plugs are most effective when used with a “walk-the-dog” retrieve, which involves a side-to-side motion. This creates surface commotion that can trigger aggressive strikes from predatory fish.
  8. What species of fish can I catch with artificial baits?
    • Artificial baits can catch a wide range of saltwater species, including redfish, sea trout, flounder, snapper, grouper, snook, tarpon, striped bass, bluefish, mackerel, bonito, kingfish, and barracuda.

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