BlogDecember 2022

What is Good Bait for Freshwater Fishing?

What is Good Bait for Freshwater Fishing?

By Debbie Hanson

Dec 29, 2022

Learn about good bait for freshwater fish, which live baits that are most often used by freshwater anglers, best baits for panfish, how to rig live bait for bass

If you are interested in learning how to fish in a lake or river, you might be wondering what is good bait for freshwater fishing? While the answer to this question can depend on the type of fish you want to catch, there are five live baits that are most often used by freshwater anglers.

Before capturing or fishing with live baits, make sure you have a valid fishing license and always check the local fishing regulations. Laws can include limitations on the types of baits that can be possessed or used for fishing. Certain laws and regulations may be in effect to prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species or harmful organisms.

If you’re wondering about good bait for freshwater fish species, check out these five popular live baits for panfish, bass, walleye, catfish and more.


1. Worms

Nearly every freshwater game fish will eat worms. Worms, like nightcrawlers or red wigglers, are affordable baits that are easy to keep alive. Live worms are good bait for freshwater fish species such as largemouth bass, catfish, rainbow trout, crappie, and yellow perch. You can buy worms at a bait shop or gather them up from your garden. At bait shops, they come in paper cartons or plastic containers that contain some dirt or topsoil. If you store worms in a cool environment, they can live for up to a month. When rigging a worm, run the hook through the worm, slide it up the shank, and then run the hook through three to five more times depending on the size of the worm.


2. Leeches

What’s good bait for freshwater fishing if you want to target walleye? The answer to this question is leeches. Since leeches come in several sizes (medium, large, extra-large, jumbo), you’ll want to know which size leeches to use based on the average size of the walleye in the lake where you plan to go fishing (larger walleyes prefer larger leeches). If you’re fishing a lake that you haven’t fished before, get a mix of medium, large, and jumbo leeches. Rig a leech by inserting the hook into the sucker on its tail. Once the point of the hook is in, rotate the leech so you can run it all the way through the tail. From there, you can insert the hook through the leech’s midsection to make sure it won’t come off.


3. Minnows

A small live minnow is a good bait for freshwater fishing when targeting crappie, although large bluegill and trout will eat them as well. Medium sized minnows are the best size to use when targeting smallmouth bass, largemouth bass, or larger trout. Large minnows, like shiners or gizzard shad, are preferred by muskies and pike. You can buy minnows at most freshwater bait shops. When rigging a minnow on your fishing hook, run the hook through the lower lip of the minnow and into the upper lip.


4. Crayfish

Crayfish are good fishing bait for freshwater fish like largemouth bass and smallmouth bass during the spring and summer months. Smallmouth bass are particularly fond of these crustaceans, but catfish have been known to eat them too. Crayfish are found in rocky areas along lake or river bottoms. You can easily make or buy a crayfish trap and put chicken liver inside to attract the crayfish. Leave your trap along the shore for several hours and you should have plenty of crayfish to use as fishing bait. To rig a crayfish, insert the hook about a half inch from the end of the tail which allows it to move naturally.


5. Crickets


What bait is good for freshwater fishing if you want to catch bluegill or sunfish? Live crickets can be especially effective if you want to catch big bluegill during the summer and late fall months. The key is to learn how to hook a cricket so that it stays lively. You’ll want to carefully push the point of your hook into the spot near the rear of the cricket's head using a slow and steady motion (avoid pushing it deep into the body). Hungry bluegill will find it hard to resist a lively cricket.


Now you don’t have to ask the question, “What is good bait for freshwater fishing?” You already have the answers and know which baits to use when targeting different freshwater fish species.

Debbie Hanson
Debbie Hanson
Debbie Hanson is an award-winning outdoor writer, women’s sport fishing advocate, IGFA world record holder, and freshwater guide living in Southwest Florida. Hanson’s written work has appeared in publications such as Florida Game & Fish Magazine, BoatUS Magazine, and USA Today Hunt & Fish. To learn more about her work, visit or follow her on Instagram @shefishes2.