When you are out fishing, there is a lot out of your control. You can’t control the weather that particular day; rain or shine, cold or hot, that is what the day will bring.
You also can’t control the time of year, nor can you control the water conditions or the migratory patterns of the fish you hope to catch. Still, not everything is out of your control. Actually, it is those few elements that you do have some control over that make the biggest impact on your ability to catch fish when you go out.
Perhaps the most crucial decision you can make for a successful fishing outing is choosing the right bait. Your bait is what will attract fish to your hook. If your bait isn’t bringing in the fish, you might have the wrong bait. Choosing the right bait starts with a little bit of research.
Let’s get started: First of all, what is bait? How do you choose bait that will work? What are the different kinds of bait? How is bait different from a lure?
Read on for everything you need to know about fishing bait and when to use it for a successful fishing trip.
What Is Bait?
Fishermen use two main things to attract fish towards their hooks in the water: bait and lures. We will get to lures in a minute, but let's start with bait.
Bait is the term to describe living creatures used as a temptation for fish. Standard fishing baits include earthworms, crayfish, and minnows. Other insects or animals your targeted fish may normally eat as part of their diet can be bait as well. Insects like grasshoppers, crickets, and nightcrawlers could end up hooked on your fishing line.
What Is a Lure?
Lures are the other type of attraction for fish that anglers use. However, lures are not real live creatures. They are artificial bait, meaning they are copies of less common types of fish food that can be difficult to keep alive as bait.
Lures are typically made of soft plastic and, depending on their cost and quality, can feature many types of decoration or other features. These can give them an effective appearance or behavior in the water to entice fish to take a bite.
Different types of lures can be useful depending on what attracts different fish. For example, soft bait lures might attract fish wanting an easy dinner, while hard bait lures are for more aggressive fish looking for a chase.
Other types of lure include:
- Jerk baits
What Kind of Bait Should I Use?
This question is perhaps the most critical question for fishermen of all levels. Aspects of fishing, like the weather, day, and number of fish in the water, are out of your control. So you need to make the most of the choices you do have control over, like your fishing gear.
Choosing the right bait is all about figuring out what will effectively entice the fish you’re after. This will vary depending on where you are fishing, what you are fishing for, and your own personal preferences.
The good news is that no matter what type of fishing you like to do or the type of fish you hope to reel up, you can find both live bait options and lures that can be effective.
Identify Your Target Species
First, you should think about the fish species you want to target based on your specific fishing destination. There are many fish species, and while you may feel like you’d be happy catching anything, narrowing down your target will help you catch more fish more frequently.
Here’s a list of some popular freshwater fish species you may want to target:
Some fish will respond aggressively toward live bait, while the artificial lures entice others. You can have luck with most fish species with both, but keep an eye out for picky fish species.
Artificial lures will be your best bet if you are looking for largemouth bass. On the other hand, certain categories of panfish will be much more inclined to bite on live bait. Do your research and see what other fishermen have discovered before you make your trip.
Think About Your Fishing Spot
Once you have identified your target species, research your fishing spot. Each area has slightly different animals, ecosystems, and environments that impact how fish behave, where they live, and what they are most likely to eat.
You may also find that your first time fishing in a new spot, you prefer using live bait. Live bait, in general, attracts more fish since it is real food. Throwing live bait can give you a clearer idea of where the fish truly are. Then, when you decide it’s time to switch to lures, you already know where to be aiming.
What Are the Differences Between Bait and Lures?
The obvious main difference between live bait and a lure is just that bait is living (or once was at least), and a lure is simply designed to simulate a real-life creature. This has some impact on the routine of your fishing experience and how you can most effectively catch fish.
Here are a few of the advantages and disadvantages that separate bait and lures to help you decide:
Bait Is More Effective
As a general rule, live bait will be more effective for catching fish than lures. Each fish responds differently, so this rule can differ for specific fish species. On the whole, you will catch more fish with live bait.
Since live bait is, well, live, it is real food for fish to eat, and their natural predatory skills will take over. Lures just can’t fool every passing fish, which can leave you waiting a while between bites.
Lures Are Reusable
Lures are reusable since they won't (or shouldn’t) be eaten by the fish you are trying to catch. This means that you can use the same lure repeatedly without having to put a new piece of bait on your hook, which can save you time between castings and help the environment.
Live bait, on the other hand, can only be used once since the fish you are trying to catch means to eat your bait. This can add time to your fishing preparation as you will need to bait your hook after almost every cast.
Bait Requires More Intense Storage
Bait also comes with another slight disadvantage relative to lures: storage. Your lures will be mainly plastic and can be stored in a tackle box or a lure kit pretty easily. Unless they get jumbled up, lures can stay very well organized without much work.
Live bait has to be recently purchased or caught and kept alive and fresh. As soon as your bait dies, fish will be far less interested in it. Then, you’ll need to swap it out for a more enticing menu item.
It’s vital to regulate the storage temperature so that the bait stays fresh. Depending on the type of bait that you are using (shrimp, minnows, worms, leeches, etc.), you will need to keep the water temperature or soil temperature low. That will require a cooler with proper insulation.
Hard Coolers are the perfect solution for fishermen hauling live bait. Our hard-sided cooler walls are made out of rotomolded plastic and high-quality insulation, which can keep ice frozen for five days. With this level of insulation, you will be able to keep your bait fresh all day or all weekend for those long fishing trips.
With three-inch-thick walls, our coolers are durable and can withstand drops or any rugged
adventure you throw at them. Coming in both 20QT and 50QT sizes, we have the perfect fishing cooler for you.
At Patriot Coolers, everything we make is built to withstand whatever you (and nature) can throw their way.
Lures Are More Complicated
There are thousands and thousands of fishing lures out there that replicate fish, bugs, critters, worms, and other strange and fascinating fish foods. This gives you the advantage of having many choices at your disposal.
Lures can come with a range of features and settings, which require proper setup to function and give your lure the appearance of a live animal on the hook. You also can’t know how useful a lure will be to you until you get the opportunity to test it out on the water. Unfortunately, you might end up collecting dozens of essentially useless lures.
At least with bait, you know that you’ve got a live animal on the hook and that once it’s tossed out there, you know it will behave like a live animal.
When To Use Bait vs. Lures
Curious about if your catch will be most enamored with bait or lures?
Consult this starter list:
You should use lures when:
- The water is warmer.
- You are fishing for a particularly predatory and aggressive species.
- There are a lot of non-target fish in the area that will go for live bait.
- When your target fish prefers lures
- You are in an artificial-only fishing zone.
You should use live bait when:
- The water is murky or muddy and unclear.
- Nighttime fishing.
- When it is cold outside.
- When you really need a catch.
Fishing Bait: Takeaways
You don’t have control over everything about your fishing adventures, like the weather, volume of fish, or what fish you have available to you at any given fishing spot. But one of the things you do have control of is your bait.
Bait is a live creature used to attract fish to your hooks like worms, minnows, or shrimp. Lures are artificial pieces designed to work as reusable and specialized bait alternatives.
Knowing whether you should use live bait or lures is a crucial decision that will impact your success on the water. You should base your choice on the desired target species of fish, weather, rules and regulations where you are fishing, and your skill level.
If you are using live bait, make sure you have a high-quality cooler for storage. Your hard and soft coolers should keep your goods chilled for long stretches of time. A fisherman wants neither warm bait nor a warm beverage.
Grab your Patriot Coolers loadout and your tackle box. Return home at sunset, warmed by the sun and with a belly full of fish.