Although it is not the primary way to target bass for some anglers, live bait can be super effective at hooking into a giant. If live baits are not for you then we have an ultimate guide to crankbaits which will be more your style. Depending on your area and local regulations, there are limits as to what live bait can be used and when. Today, we will be laying out some of the best live bait for bass.
Best Live Bait for Bass
There are many options, so we will break down as many as we can. Each one has strengths and weaknesses that will also be discussed. Here is the best live bait for bass!
The most common and popular live bait for bass in many areas is the nightcrawler. Worms in general make up a big sect of freshwater fishing with live bait. However, the nightcrawler specifically is an incredibly good option.
These are plump, long worms that are quite meaty. This makes it a great attractant for the local hungry bass. They make excellent presentations, so you do not have to worry too much about how to configure the hook.
These could be used under a bobber or on a small jig. The best part of the nightcrawler presentation is that they can be bought almost anywhere. Even gas stations and grocery stores sell them. You shouldn't have a hard time finding them.
The other very large sect of live bait for bass is the minnow. Minnows are excellent baits because they are commonly eaten in nature. Minnows are baby fish and can be applied to a rig in a number of ways.
A great way to use a minnow is by using one or two of them on a jighead. This creates a natural presentation with a touch of flare. This bait is great for subtle approaches when you want it to be more lowkey as well. There are even specific rigs used to present minnows in a good way.
Now, these are a little harder to find as you will probably have to go to a bait shop to get them. However, if you can find them, they are worth looking into. There are frozen minnow options in certain places, but that does take away from the live bait aspect in some respects.
Buying minnows is pretty common, but you can absolutely catch your own. This will save you some money, but you do have to dedicate some of your time catching them. Thankfully, there are specific nets and strategies that anglers use to catch minnows in nature.
Crawfish are very fruitful baits for bass. However, a majority of anglers use artificial crawfish rather than real ones. Although that tactic is a great one, if you can find and legally use live crawfish, that is an excellent option.
Especially with smallmouth bass, crawfish are top dietary options. Using these can be super beneficial. However, the biggest challenge is finding some to use. Depending on the area, some bait shops will have them to buy, but many won't. You may have to find them in the wild, which can be even harder. So, although the crawfish is an excellent option, it may not be a realistic approach for some people.
There are a couple of ways to present live crawfish. One of which is by drifting the crawfish with just a hook and no weight. This helps present the bait in the most accurate way possible. However, this is not always the best way to go about it. Sometimes you need to add some weight in order to make the crawfish go where you want it to. Adding some split shot can help you target holes and areas with current.
One sect of the live bait world is shad. Shad is somewhat similar to minnows, but there is a difference that is worth noting. Shad is a species of fish that does not grow big at all and can be compared to a herring. Although normally found in the ocean, shad have slowly moved into freshwater systems and have become mainstays in the diet of some bass.
Whenever there is a sect of the artificial lure space dedicated to imitating a certain live bait, that usually says something. Shad swimbaits are quite popular, and using the real thing can be quite fruitful when you use the real thing.
They are a bit bigger and shinier than minnows. The key to fishing with live shad is finding an area that has them naturally. This is the big issue, because fishing an area without them could be difficult to get a bass to bite. They like to eat what they are familiar with.
One of the more unique offerings on this list is madtoms. If you have never heard of them, madtoms are also known as stonecats and these are tiny catfish that make perfect live bait. More specifically, madtoms are great for targeting smallmouth bass in river systems. This is because they can naturally be found in a lot of these areas.
When looking up close, they look identical to the traditional catfish, but the size is the big difference. These are mini catfish that love to slip into river pockets and holes. Coincidentally, this is exactly where smallmouth bass love to feast.
You can absolutely go about catching your own to use rather than buying them. Look under rocks and structure, because these are hotspots for finding madtoms. If this is not something you are interested in, certain fishing shops should have live options for sale.
Similar to regular catfish, Madtoms do have a spine that carries a mild poison. It will not kill you, but it could send some shocks through your arm. So, be careful when handling them, because this is not something you want to experience.
Fishing madtoms is super simple in the sense that it does not require fancy rigs to get it done. Simply hook them through their lips and let them go. Because they love to borrow and locate at the bottom of the water column, the work is done for you. There is no need for weights or rigs.
The final live bait on our list is small sunfish. Especially in freshwater lakes with clear water, sunfish are quite popular meals for the wandering bass. The key part of this section is keeping it fairly small. The bigger the sunfish, the more likely that a bass will pass on taking a bite.
Some panfish options include bluegill, perch, whitefish, and many more. Many of these can be found in the area in which you are fishing. In fact, you want to match the natural population as much as possible. The best way to do this is by catching the panfish you will use at the site of fishing for bass.
As we have already mentioned, bass eat what they are used to. If you can present panfish that live in the area, you are in a great position. The best way to present a live sunfish is by hooking it either in the lips or in the tail. Then, let the fish swim around on its own.
These are some of the best live bait for bass fishing from my experience! Although artificial lures can be successful, sometimes it is good to kick it old school and use live bait. The key with all of these is matching what can be naturally found in whatever body of water you are working. This will take a bit of planning, but the attention to detail will pay dividends down the line. Good luck, and happy fishing!