The Great Fishing Bait Debate: Part 1

Which is better: live bait or artificial bait?

All artificial fishing baits (lures) strive to imitate some form of live bait. Live bait is so efficient at catching fish that it is prohibited in most tournaments and banned on many waters. Despite its effectiveness, live fishing bait does have some limitations.

Keeping Live Fishing Bait...Alive

First of all for maximum success, considerations need to be made to keep the live bait, well, “live.” For example, shiners, shad, or other bait fish require a continuous supply of fresh, cool, oxygenated water. On a hot afternoon, even in an insulated minnow bucket, bait will stress quickly without a portable aerator, ice, or change of water. There are optimal ways to hook live bait too. Between trips, live bait such as nightcrawlers will last longer if kept cool. However, not all spouses are willing to give up even a tiny portion of refrigerator crisper space.

Secondly without altering your casting technique, live bait casts off. Because it is softer than artificial baits, the cast technique should be more of a broad sweeping action and not a quick wrist snap. Fishing Lures can be reused for many casts and will travel further, but for live bait, that one cast may be the only one you need.

Live Bait - The Squirming Alternative

Finally, although merely facilitating the inevitable ecological food chain, live bait is not always for the faint of heart. If your young daughter just wants to play in the minnow bucket and make them pets in the home aquarium, so be it. It isn’t worth the drama, and you want her coming back. Try fishing with live bait on another trip. And she may be right; some live bait like meal worms or leeches is a little “gross.”

If you can overcome those issues, fishing with live bait just plain works. But you don’t want to become “bait dependent.” Next week, I’ll comment on how fishing lures are superior to live bait.

Do you use live bait? Be sure to check the regulations in your state.

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Andy Whitcomb

Andy Whitcomb

Andy is an outdoor writer ( and stressed-out Dad has contributed over 380 blogs to since 2011. Born in Florida, but raised on banks of Oklahoma farm ponds, he now chases pike, smallmouth bass, and steelhead in Pennsylvania. After earning a B.S. in Zoology from OSU, he worked in fish hatcheries and as a fisheries research technician at OSU, Iowa State, and Michigan State.