Top Freshwater Baits: Best Bait for Freshwater Fishing

When we were kids and would go fishing I knew this to be true nothing was off the table when it came to bait It was that little boy in us all that certain fish love certain live baits and the more messy ugly and smelly the bait was the more it was desirable to whatever fish you were catching that day. What are the top 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 are corn, hot dogs & homemade prepared baits called dough balls In my book, Worms Are Best!

Many kids spent the night before trout season or a largemouth bass fishing trip spraying their backyard and waiting for plump nightcrawlers or worms to poke their heads up through the lawn. I was one of them.

Top Freshwater Baits

When it comes to freshwater fishing, selecting the best bait can make all the difference between a successful day on the water and going home empty-handed. Live bait often proves highly effective, with options like worms, minnows, and crayfish enticing species such as bass, trout, and panfish.

Artificial lures, on the other hand, offer versatility and convenience. Soft plastic worms, crankbaits, and spinnerbaits mimic natural prey and can trigger aggressive strikes from predatory fish.

Additionally, natural baits like nightcrawlers and insects appeal to a wide range of fish species and can be readily available for anglers. Ultimately, the best bait choice depends on factors such as the target species, water conditions, and angler preference, but experimenting with different options can lead to discovering what works best in any given situation.

How Do You Attract Freshwater Fish

Attracting freshwater fish involves understanding their natural behavior and preferences. Using the right bait, whether live or artificial, is crucial in enticing fish to bite. Additionally, incorporating scent attractants or bait enhancers can further entice fish by appealing to their sense of smell.

Fishing Bait Additive Powder - 30ml Fish Attractant Lures Baits, Classic Scent Fishing Attractant For Freshwater Fish Squid Carp Predator 100 Natur | Fruugo FR
Scent Fishing Attractant For Freshwater Fish Squid Carp Predator

Proper presentation of the bait, such as mimicking natural movements or behaviors, is essential for attracting fish. Lastly, fishing in areas where fish are known to congregate, such as near structures, underwater vegetation, or drop-offs, increases the likelihood of attracting fish to your bait

It’s not surprising that fish can be attracted to a variety of scents. Human saliva, for instance, is one scent that seems to attract fish. It’s not just human smells that can lure in fish, other items such as cheese, coffee, and garlic can be effective too, particularly when used in freshwater fishing. Alternatively, fish are believed to be attracted to the natural oils in humans. This is something to consider when deciding on what bait to use for your next fishing trip.

It’s also worthwhile noting that fish can be lured in by other fish’s scents. What makes more sense than attracting a fish with the scent of a food source it already recognizes? For this reason, it’s beneficial to use fish-infused bait where possible.

Another similar factor to consider is alcohol, believed in some circles to be a worthwhile attractant for fish. Lastly, it’s worth mentioning that while sunscreen and bug spray are useful for the angler’s comfort, they also tend to pique the interest of some fish species.

While many scents attract fish, there are also several that will send them swimming in the opposite direction. Primarily amongst these would be petroleum distillates. On a boat, these might include diesel and unleaded gas, as well as motor oil, reel oil, and marine grease. Before handling your lines or lures, you must wash your hands thoroughly if you’ve had any contact with these substances. In my fishing experiences, almost all fish fresh or saltwater are scared off by petroleum products.

Essentially, a successful freshwater fishing trip requires more than just consideration of scents. Bait presentation, weather conditions, fishing techniques, and even the time of year can all affect the success of a catch.

After all, fish use their heightened senses for much more than just locating food. It’s important to present lures that not only look and feel good, but ones that smell good, as this can help avoid repelling the fish you’re hoping to catch. If you follow these rules, you; ‘ll likely be more successful in your fishing endeavors.

Take, for instance, catfish: Not only can they detect scents and vibrations in muddy water, but your chances of a successful catch increase significantly when fishing in clear water. In clear water conditions, there is a wider selection of lures available to attract fish. It’s best to use lures that not only appeal to catfish visually like artificial frogs or shad but also include an element of scent or sound. When fishing clear water and using properly scented lures, you can have greater success with your catch.

Fish like the Smell of:

  • Human Saliva. Human saliva seems to be a fish attractant. …
  • Anything Fish. Fish definitely will be attracted to the fish scent, which makes a lot of sense. …
  • Cheese. …
  • Coffee. …
  • Garlic. …
  • Alcohol. …
  • Human Natural Oils. …
  • Sunscreen And Bug Spray.

Best Live Bait for Freshwater Fishing

Some of the top picks for freshwater baits among anglers include: Most freshwater fish species find worms irresistible as they’re an easy meal. They’re widely available, either in your local bait shop or on online platforms like Amazon. While there’s a variety of worms to choose from, nightcrawlers and red worms are foolproof choices for enticing any freshwater species.

Live baits, including minnows, worms, frogs, shad, chubs, grasshoppers, and cicadas, are proven to be highly effective. Fish such as catfish respond well to decidedly less appealing baits like fish guts, shrimp, chicken liver, mussels, and stinkbait. Surprisingly, everyday grocery items like bacon, hotdogs, and cheese also work as bait.

Here’s a table outlining some of the best freshwater live bait options for freshwater fishing:

Additional Tips:

  • Storage: Always store live bait in conditions that mimic their natural environment as closely as possible.
  • Handling: Handle bait gently to keep them lively and effective.
  • Local Regulations: Check local fishing regulations regarding the use of live bait, as some areas may have restrictions to prevent the spread of invasive species.

Using the right live bait and techniques can significantly improve your chances of a successful fishing trip. Happy fishing!

These live baits are popular among anglers for their effectiveness in attracting various freshwater fish species.

Anglers Top Freshwater Bait

Chicken liver is known as the prime choice for catfish bait, especially when fishing in deeper waters. Keep in mind to rebait your rigs frequently, as livers stay fresh only for about 15 to 20 minutes.
Asian carp, despite their notoriety as an invasive species in U.S. waterways, can be used effectively as catfish bait. However, do note that many states have banned their use due to their widespread proliferation.

Crawfish, though often overlooked, are potent catfish baits, whether used dead or alive. For a live crawfish, attach it through the base of its tail or remove the head and string it on the hook. If using it dead, consider adding weight for a bit of spin.
Nightcrawlers, or earthworms, are especially popular due to their easy availability. Many fish species, including catfish, are known to hit them all day.

Stink baits are popular choices for catching catfish although they must be handled with care. Catfish have a heightened sense of smell, particularly those residing in deep channels.
Shrimp, conveniently found in any grocery store, are among the catfish’s preferred meals. They are easy to hook and less messy, perfect when fishing for catfish with kids. A variety of fish are on the lookout for a shrimp dinner, ensuring a busy and exciting time fishing.

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

Anglers Top Freshwater Bait

1 Best Fishing Bait For Lakes - Need To Know About Bait
Best Fishing Bait (grasshoppers)For Lakes

What’s great about minnows is their availability. You can either catch them on your own, buy them from your local tackle store, or purchase them online in preserved condition. It’s essential to use minnows that are the right size for your target fish. You wouldn’t want to scare them off, would you?

Another remarkable freshwater bait you can consider is leeches. Leeches can commonly attract fish like the elusive walleye or panfish. Doesn’t that sound like a good catch? Interesting fact, fish are drawn to the leeches’ swimming motion. It’s a sight to behold once they stretch out and swim naturally, all adjusted to the water temperature.

Let’s not forget the insects. Freshwater fish, like trout or sunfish, find ants, beetles, grasshoppers, mealworms, and crickets irresistible. Using insects as bait during the spring could yield some surprising catches. Quite adventurous, wouldn’t you say?

Last but not least on our list of top freshwater bait picks, how about considering hot dogs? Yes, hot dogs, you heard that right. So, what are you waiting for? Get your tackle box ready and let’s get fishing!

Some of the best freshwater fishing bait include:

  • worms
  • leeches
  • minnows
  • crayfish
  • crickets
  • grasshoppers
  • marshmallow

Grubs And Meal Worms Freshwater Bait

Grubs and mealworms are two popular types of fishing bait that are effective for targeting a variety of freshwater fish species. Here’s a brief overview of each: Meal Worms Tub – Woonona Petfood & Produce

  1. Grubs: Grubs are the larval stage of various insects such as beetles. They are often used as live bait for fishing due to their natural appearance and movement in the water, which can attract predatory fish. Fishing grubs are commonly used to target bluegill, trout, bass, and other freshwater species.
  2. Mealworms: Mealworms are the larval form of the darkling beetle and are widely used as fishing bait. They are typically purchased live from bait shops or pet stores. Mealworms have a soft body and are known for their wriggling motion, making them enticing to fish. They are effective for catching a variety of freshwater species including panfish, trout, bass, and even catfish.

Both grubs and mealworms can be rigged onto hooks in various ways, such as threading them onto a hook or using them as trailers for artificial lures. They are relatively easy to store and transport, making them convenient options for anglers looking for reliable bait choices.

Clams and Mussels Freshwater Bait

Using shellfish for bait - The Fishing Website
Using shellfish (Clams) for bait

Clams and mussels are excellent bait options for anglers targeting a variety of freshwater and saltwater fish species. Here’s why they’re popular choices:

  • Natural Appeal: Fishing clams and mussels are natural prey for many fish species. Their scent and texture closely resemble the natural forage of fish, making them highly attractive as bait.
  • Versatility: These shellfish can be used in various fishing techniques, including bottom fishing, surf fishing, and even fly fishing. They can be presented whole, cut into strips, or used as part of a bait cocktail.
  • Durable: Clams and mussels are relatively tough and stay on the hook well, allowing anglers to make multiple casts without worrying about bait loss.
  • Availability: Clams and mussels can be found in most bodies of water, including rivers, lakes, estuaries, and the ocean. They can be harvested from the wild or purchased from bait shops.
  • Effective for Multiple Species: Clams and mussels attract a wide range of fish species, including striped bass, flounder, drum, redfish, trout, catfish, and more. Their versatility makes them suitable for both freshwater and saltwater fishing.
  • Natural Scent: The natural scent released by clams and mussels in the water can attract fish from a distance, increasing the chances of a successful catch.

Overall, clams and mussels are highly effective bait options appreciated by anglers for their availability, durability, and ability to attract a diverse range of fish species in various fishing environments.

Shrimp Freshwater Bait

Shrimp is a highly effective bait option for anglers targeting a variety of saltwater and freshwater fish species. Its natural scent and appearance make it irresistible to many predatory fish. Shrimp can be presented live, fresh, or frozen, offering versatility for anglers depending on availability and preference.

Whether used on its own or as part of a bait rig, shrimp consistently entices strikes from species such as trout, redfish, snook, flounder, and even largemouth bass. Anglers often employ shrimp bait in a variety of fishing techniques, including bottom fishing, drift fishing, and popping corks, making it a go-to choice for both novice and experienced anglers alike.

Cut Freshwater Fishing Bait

Cut bait is a popular and effective method for freshwater fishing, particularly for targeting larger predatory fish. This type of bait involves using pieces of fish or other aquatic creatures, which release strong scents and oils into the water, attracting fish from a distance. Cut bait is versatile and can be used in various fishing environments, from rivers and lakes to reservoirs. It’s often employed when fishing for species like catfish, bass, and pike. Using cut bait can increase your chances of landing a big catch, especially when natural bait fish populations are abundant in the area.

Popular Types of Cut Freshwater Fishing Bait:

  1. Shad
    • Best For: Catfish, Bass fishing
    • Tips: Cut into chunks or fillets; use the head for added scent.
  2. Herring
    • Best For: Catfish, Pike fishing
    • Tips: Slice into strips or chunks; keep fresh or use salted herring
  3. Suckers
    • Best For: Muskie, Catfish fishing
    • Tips: Cut into chunks; use larger pieces for bigger fish
  4. Carp
    • Best For: Catfish, Pike fishing
    • Tips: Fillet or chunk; use in areas with carp populations
  5. Bluegill
    • Best For: Catfish, Bass fishing
    • Tips: Cut into strips or chunks; use fresh or frozen
  6. Mullet
    • Best For: Catfish, Striped Bass fishing
    • Tips: Slice into fillets or chunks; use in both fresh and saltwater environments

Tips for Fishing Cut Bait:

  • Preparation: Ensure the bait is fresh to maximize scent release. Frozen bait can be used but should be thawed properly.
  • Hooking: Hook through the fleshier parts to keep the bait on longer. Using circle hooks can improve hook-up rates.
  • Presentation: Allow the bait to drift naturally with the current, or use a weight to keep it near the bottom where target species are feeding.
  • Storage: Keep cut bait cool and out of direct sunlight to maintain freshness during your fishing trip.

Cured Fish Roe Freshwater Bait

Cured fish roe, also known as fish eggs or fish spawn, is a highly effective and popular bait for  fishing freshwater salmon, trout, and steelhead fishing. Here’s some information about using cured fish roe as bait:

  1. Curing Process: Fish roe is typically cured to preserve and enhance its appeal to fish. The curing process involves treating the roe with a mixture of salt, sugar, and other additives. Curing can also involve the addition of scents or dyes to increase attractiveness.

    Pink - 2 Dozen Cured Salmon Spawn Egg Sacks Steelhead Trout Salmon Bait | eBay
    Cured (Roe) Salmon Spawn Egg Sacks
  2. Natural Appeal: Fish roe is a natural food source for many fish species, making it highly attractive to them. The bright color and oily texture of cured roe mimic the appearance of natural fish eggs, which can trigger feeding responses in predatory fish.
  3. Versatility: Cured fish roe can be used in various fishing techniques, including drift fishing, float fishing, and bottom fishing. It can be presented on its own or used in combination with other baits or lures.
  4. Seasonal Availability: The availability of fish roe for bait may vary depending on the spawning season of the target fish species. Anglers often harvest roe from spawning fish or purchase commercially cured roe from bait shops.
  5. Storage: Cured fish roe should be stored properly to maintain its freshness and effectiveness. It can be kept refrigerated or frozen until ready for use.

Overall, cured fish roe is a proven bait option for anglers seeking to target salmon, trout, and steelhead, offering a natural and irresistible lure for these prized freshwater species.

What is the Best Bait for Saltwater Fishing?

Some bait is common to the waters where predatory live or travel & some bait has universal appeal. Saltwater fishing bait falls into one of three different categories:

  • Live bait- shrimp, eel, pinfish
  • Dead bait-clam, shellfish, squid
  • Cut bait-bunker, clam.………………………………………………………… more

Eels Freshwater Bait

Eels are a popular bait choice for anglers targeting a variety of freshwater and saltwater species. Here’s some information about using eels as bait:
  1. Versatility: Eels are effective bait for a wide range of  freshwater fish species, including fishing striped bass, bluefish, cobia, snook, tarpon, and more in salt water, and freshwater species like catfish, pike, muskellunge, and largemouth bass in freshwater.

    Gettin' Bait: The Rugged Life of an Eel Man - The Fisherman
    Freshwater Eel Bait
  2. Natural Appeal: Eels have a natural scent and appearance that can attract predatory fish like Bass fishing. Their long, slender bodies mimic the movement of injured fish, making them particularly enticing to predators.
  3. Live Bait: Freshwater live eels are commonly used as bait, either rigged on a hook or presented using a live bait rig. They can be fished near the bottom or allowed to swim freely in the water to attract strikes.
  4. Cut Bait: Eels can also be used as cut bait, with sections of the eel’s body cut into chunks or strips and rigged on a hook. This bait method can be effective for species that are less selective in their prey.
  5. Availability: Freshwater Eels can be purchased from bait shops or caught by anglers using traps or hook and line. They are typically available year-round in areas where they are abundant.
  6. Storage: Live eels should be kept in a well-oxygenated container or live well to maintain their health and vitality. Frozen eels can be stored in a freezer until ready for use.

Overall, eels are a versatile and effective bait option for anglers targeting a variety of freshwater and saltwater species, prized for their natural appeal and ability to attract predatory fish.

Crayfish  Freshwater Bait

Crayfish bait is highly effective for enticing a variety of freshwater fish species, including bass, walleye, catfish, and panfish. These crustaceans are natural prey for many freshwater predators, making them an appealing option for anglers.

Crayfish can be presented live, with their natural movement attracting predatory fish, or as cut bait, which releases scent into the water to attract fish from a distance. Anglers often mimic the natural behavior of crayfish by rigging them on jig heads or Texas rigs and bouncing them along the bottom. Their availability in many freshwater ecosystems and their ability to trigger aggressive strikes make crayfish bait a favorite among anglers seeking a successful catch.

Freshwater Fishing: Catfish-Bass-Fishing

When it comes to freshwater fishing, an artificial plastic or rubber worm tops the list as being amongst the most universally effective and efficient lures. A versatile tool in any angler’s box, a soft plastic worm can be used for slow-presentation fishing. It can be crawled along the floor or swum through grass, making it an easy-to-use bait for anglers of varying skill levels.

One question anglers have wrestled with since the dawn of fishing is choosing the right lure. Nowadays, with the wealth of knowledge we have acquired, it’s easier to identify the best freshwater lures and how they are to be utilized. Determining the best freshwater bait, however, can still pose a challenge due to the plethora of choices available.

Here’s a list of some of the best lures for freshwater fishing targeting catfish and fishing bass:

For Catfish:

  1. Dough Baits: Specially formulated dough baits designed to attract catfish with their scent.

    Berkley PowerBait Natural Scent Trout Fishing Dough Bait -
    Berkley PowerBait Natural Scent Trout Fishing Dough Bait
  2. Stink Baits: Baits with strong odors that appeal to the keen sense of smell of catfish.
  3. Chicken Liver: Fresh or preserved chicken liver is a classic catfish bait that’s highly effective.
  4. Cut Bait: Pieces of fish, such as shad or bluegill, can be excellent bait for fishing catfish.

For Bass:

  1. Plastic Worms: Soft plastic worms rigged in Texas or Carolina style are versatile and effective for bass fishing.
  2. Spinnerbaits: Spinnerbaits with flashy blades can attract aggressive strikes from bass.
  3. Crankbaits: Diving crankbaits imitate injured baitfish and can lure bass from a distance.
  4. Jigs: Bass jigs with trailers can be bounced along the bottom to mimic prey and entice strikes.

Using these lures with proper techniques and presentation can greatly increase your chances of success when targeting catfish and bass in freshwater environments.

Imitation lures such as soft bait plastic worms blur the lines between artificial and real, that is, they not only look but also feel and sometimes smell just like real worms making them the optimal bait choice minus the hassle of digging.

Catfish are generally regarded as apex predators. Species from flathead to blue are renowned for their aggressive pursuit of live, wriggling baits. Catfish’s bodies being wholly covered with olfactory sensors make them apt at detecting highly pungent artificial baits, quite successfully.

Before your catfish-catching summertime adventures, it’s advisable to do some research on the most productive baits for catching catfish in your locale. Below, we provide an eclectic list of the top-rated catfish baits popular with anglers nationwide.

When it comes to topwater lures, many argue there are none more effective than Buzzbait Lures and Baits. Their quick-acting ability and skill to cover a large water area greatly enhance your chances of finding your next big catch.


In conclusion, fishing is a popular and enjoyable outdoor activity that offers a rewarding experience for anglers of all skill levels. By understanding the basics of fishing equipment, bait selection, and fishing techniques, anglers can increase their chances of success on the water.
Additionally, being knowledgeable about fishing regulations and conservation practices helps ensure the sustainability of fish populations and the preservation of natural habitats for future generations to enjoy. Whether fishing for relaxation, sport, or food, the thrill of the catch and the connection with nature make fishing a timeless pastime cherished by millions around the world.

JimGalloway Author/Editor


Best Fishing Baits for Lakes


  1. What type of bait should I use for freshwater fishing?   The best bait for freshwater fishing depends on the target species. Popular options include worms, minnows, crayfish, artificial lures like soft plastic worms and crankbaits, as well as natural baits like nightcrawlers and insects.
  2. What is the best time of day to fish?  Generally, the best time to fish is during the early morning or late afternoon when fish are most active. However, this can vary depending on the species and the specific body of water. Some fish may also feed at night or during periods of low light.
  3. What equipment do I need for fishing?  Basic fishing equipment includes a fishing rod and reel, fishing line, hooks, weights, and bait. Additional gear may include tackle boxes, pliers, scissors, and a landing net. The specific equipment needed can vary depending on the type of fishing and target species.
  4. Do I need a fishing license?  In most places, yes, a fishing license is required to legally fish. The regulations regarding fishing licenses vary by location, so it’s essential to check the requirements for the area where you plan to fish. Licenses are typically available for purchase online, at bait shops, or from government offices.
  5. How do I find good fishing spots?  Good fishing spots can be found by researching local lakes, rivers, and streams, asking fellow anglers for recommendations, or hiring a guide. Look for areas with underwater structures, such as rocks, vegetation, or drop-offs, as these are often productive fishing spots.

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