Choosing the right freshwater fishing baits depends almost entirely on the type of fish you’re planning to go after. Though you might think that all freshwater fish eat pretty much the same things, there’s actually a relatively high degree of variability in their diets. What commonly attracts fish of one species might drive other freshwater fish away in a hurry. To help you figure it all out, here’s a quick briefing on the best baits for catching commonly sought after freshwater fish.
- Dough balls. Many species of freshwater fish rely heavily on their sense of smell to find prey. To take advantage of this, fishermen often choose to make their own “dough” as bait. Common ingredients include corn meal, flour, corn syrup, and other sweet gelatinous food products. You can expect to pull in healthy amounts of Carp and Catfish with this bait.
- Cut bait. Similar to the dough ball rationale, the bloody stench that pieces of fish flesh give off are irresistible to freshwater species like Carp and Catfish. Take any old fish, and cut it into roughly one inch cubes with the skin left on for hook stability. A heavy sinker is typically attached about six to twelve inches from the hook to allow the bait to suspend just off the bottom.
- Crappie Jigs. These small, grub shaped jigs are particularly made for catching Crappie, Bluegill, and other Sunfish in all seasons. Serious Panfish anglers prefer these artificial baits for freshwater fishing because they require a more intensive effort than live bait. No added weight is necessary on the rig, all you need to do is tie your line directly on the jig’s weighted head.
- Live grubs, minnows, and wax worms. These smaller live baits are perfect for the lazier fishermen who just want some Panfish to fry. Any of these three are effective for freshwater fish including Crappie, Bluegill, White Bass, and even the occasional Largemouth Bass. Typically, they’re rigged with small spilt shot to add sinking ability, and suspended at a depth of anywhere from one to ten feet, depending on where the fish are holding.
- Nightcrawlers. If you’re specifically targeting Largemouth Bass, the large nightcrawler species of worms is the live bait of choice. Though many bass angling purists prefer artificial baits, the effectiveness of a live nightcrawler is virtually unmatched in effectiveness regardless of conditions. The bait is usually rigged with a larger hook and a slip sinker, which allows the bass angler to “wiggle” it along the bottom.
- Crankbaits, jerkbaits, and topwater bait. These three artificial freshwater fish baits are used most often in Largemouth Bass fishing. They all have the same basic structure—typically a composite, minnow like body with a plastic lip in the front that provides the bait’s “action”. All three are designed to mimic a small, dying fish. Additionally, they’re known among freshwater fishermen for their versatility. All the angler has to do to adapt to a given set of conditions is fish the bait at a different speed.