Baits and Baiting Your Hook
As you learn more about fish behavior you'll learn more about how to choose the best bait for different situations. Several types of live or natural bait will help you catch fish. Always check the fishing regulations to make sure the bait you choose is legal for the body of water you are fishing.
Some of the best baits for freshwater fishing include worms, leeches, minnows, crayfish, crickets and grasshoppers. Good saltwater baits include sea worms, eels, crabs, shrimp, strips of squid, and cut-up pieces of fish.
Worms are good bait for nearly all freshwater and saltwater fish, although sea worms are often used in saltwater fishing. You can find enough worms for fishing from a few shovels of dirt in your garden or from a shaded, damp area. Worms can also be purchased in fishing tackle stores and bait shops.
If you have small worms, thread the hook through the side of the worm at several places along its body. For bait-stealing fish such as sunfish, thread the worm on the hook until the hook is completely covered.
Minnows must be stored in a minnow bucket with plenty of cool water to keep them alive. Never crowd them. One way to hook a minnow is through both lips, beginning with the bottom lip. You can also hook a minnow through the tail, behind the head, or through the back.
Crickets and Grasshoppers
Both land and water insects can be used for bait. When using small insects, you should use hooks made of thin wire.
Leeches are excellent bait for many fish. They should be hooked through the sucker in the tail.
Clams, Mussels, and Sea Worms
These baits are good for perch, drum, sea trout, and rockfish. Completely remove their shell and thread onto the hook.
Shrimp can be used either alive or dead for saltwater fish. Hook the shrimp through the tail. You can also peel off the shell and thread cut up pieces of shrimp on the hook.
For bottom-feeding fish like carp and catfish, bread, small pieces of cheese, and canned corn are good. You can buy commercially made baits. Many anglers, however, like to make their own bait for these fish. Below are two recipes for bait to catch bottom-feeding fish.
- Mix 1 cup of flour, 1 cup of yellow cornmeal, and 1 teaspoon of sugar in a bowl.
- Take a 1-quart container of water and pour just enough of it into the mixture to make a heavy dough.
- Roll the dough into balls about 1/2 inch to 1 inch in diameter.
- Mix the rest of the water with 1 cup of molasses and pour it into a pan.
- Put the pan on the stove and bring the molasses and water to a boil.
- When the mixture is boiling, drop in several doughballs, but don't overcrowd them. Cook them for 2 to 3 minutes.
- Cook the rest of the doughballs, a few at a time, in the same way.
You can store the cooked doughballs in the leftover water and molasses. When using doughballs or stinkbait (a smelly catfish bait) use small treble hooks. A treble hook has three points. Some have a spring wrapped around the shank to help hold the bait. Many manufacturers make a variety of "stinkbaits." Homemade stinkbait can be made using the following recipe.
- Fill a jar with pieces of a forage fish like shad.
- Cover the jar with the lid, but leave the lid loose so gases will escape.
- Put the jar in direct sunlight for a day or two.
When you open the jar, you'll know your catfish "stinkbait" is ready to use.