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Best Live Bait For Bass That Brings Most Effective Fishing

Fishing lure manufacturers have shown ingenuity in creating metal, plastic or wooden offerings that can shimmy, wiggle and quiver. However, there is no man-made bait that can present the completely vivid, frenetic movement and enticing scent that real live bait has. While many anglers choose artificial bait to fish for bass, quite a few anglers use live bait. Sometimes you have to be open to your fishing tactics and be willing to change things up once in a while. If you've been fishing for bass with artificial bait and haven't had much success, switching to live bait can turn the tide for you. There are many types of live bait for bass; however, there is some live prey that clearly stands out from the rest. Below, we will show you some live bait to answer the question "what is the best live bait for bass?".

a bass is being fished with bait


It's the circle of ocean life where big fish eat small fish, so use that to your advantage. The leader on the "best live bait" menu for bass is minnows. Minnows are essentially baby fish and are popular freshwater fishing bait; they also are excellent baits because they are commonly eaten in nature. 

A great way to use a minnow is to use one or two of them on a jighead. This creates a natural presentation with a vibrant feel. This bait is great for subtle approaches when you want it lower. There are even specific rigs that are use to present minnows in a good way. Hook the minnows upside down using the same water they were caught in. And try don’t puncture the minnow’s spinal cord so it can continue to move on its own while it is on your hook. 

You need to keep the rig enough tight if you’re fishing shallow as you don’t want the minnow drifting too close to the surface since it will appear unnatural. When the minnow starts slowing down and not moving much, it’s time to replace the old with a new one. 

Now, you'll want to sift through them, determine which ones you'll keep, and throw the rest back. When choosing, keep in mind the bass size you're planning to target. If you're targeting bigger bass, you'll want to keep the larger minnows. There are also frozen minnow options available in certain places; but that takes away from the live bait aspect in some respects. 

minnows for best live bait for bass


A Shiner is a type of baitfish, like all minnows; but they are singled out because they make such a great baitfish for bass. Shiners are basically small fish with the distinctive feature of having shiny scales. Shiners can be silver in color or it can be gold. The main feature you are looking for in these baitfish is that their scales are bright and reflective. Bass are predators; therefore, they are attracted by movement and flashes of light. The movement of the live bait and the flash of light on their shiny scales make shiners the wonderful live baitfish for the hungry bass!

shinner for best live bait for bass

In most cases, wild shiners are far superior to commercially raised shiners. This is especially true for bass fishing in Florida and the South where anglers use the Golden shiners. The key to the effectiveness of wild shiners over hatchery-raised shiners is the reaction or the response of the bait fish when the bass is nearby. Wild shiner will panic and start acting erratically; so this is the trigger that causes bass to eat in many cases. 


Shad is somewhat similar to minnows; but with one notable difference: it is a species of fish that does not grow big at all and is comparable to herring. Though commonly found in the ocean, shad has slowly moved into freshwater systems and has become a mainstay in bass's diet; then one of the best live bait for bass.

Shad is the number one offering for larger ones that roam the open water, like the striped bass. They're also great for big flathead; and don't be surprised to latch onto some hefty largemouths and walleyes with these baitfish as well. Shad is the best live bait for striped bass; if you want to target bigger bass in deeper water, this is what you need to have at the end of your line. As with the minnows, patience is key. Don’t expect to feel a hard strike or a strong blow, but rather a soft/light suck. Now hold tight, let the bass really get its mouth around the shad, and then set the hook!

shad for best live bait for bass


Another unique offering on this list is madtoms. If you have never heard of them, these are small catfish sometimes known as “stonecats". But whatever the name, these small catfish can tempt any good-sized fish. They are particularly effective on smallmouths in rivers and they are a great choice to tempt bass, especially smallmouth bass in river systems. They are small catfish that make the best live bait for bass. 

When looking up close, they look exactly like the traditional catfish, but there is a big difference in size. These are small catfish that love to slip into river pockets and holes. Coincidentally, this is exactly where bass (smallmouth bass) like to feast. These live madtom baits last a lot longer than minnows and shad, and they’re much bigger, therefore you won’t have to deal with the smaller bass picking apart your bait while you waiting for the big ones. 

The most vital thing to know about these madtom live baits is that they have venomous spines like a lot of catfish. Madtoms have a spine that carries a mild poison. It won’t kill you, but it can cause some shocks through your arm.  Therefore, you need to be careful when handling them as this is not something you want to experience. You need to keep madtom in a bait barrel, and hooking them is as simple as running a size 2 hook through both of their lips from the bottom.  

madtom for best live bait for bass


Crawfish, crayfish, crawdads,...whatever you call them, they’re some of the best live bait for bass. No bass can go against them since they’re so delicious. Crawfish all make excellent live bait for bass angling, and you can use crayfish or crawfish to catch both largemouth and smallmouth bass. Bass loves to eat these crunchy morsels and start eating crustaceans at an early age. Therefore, they easily recognize this bait as food. Best of all, catching them is not as difficult as you think. Obviously it's not as easy as walking in a bait shop and buying minnows, but it’s not as hard as finding Madtoms and Hellgrammites. 

When got this best live bait for bass, you’ll need to pierce the tail with a hook proportionate to the size of the crawfish. The best fishing methods would be drifting or casting near the rocks. There isn’t any special strategy here; all you need to do is drop them in the water and let them do their thing. But you need to note that this is not always the best way to do it. Sometimes you need some extra weight to make the crawfish go to where you want. You can also add some split shots that can help you target holes and areas with current. Once rigged, you need to gently pull your crawdad, then lift and pop it off to draw the attention and keep it from finding a cozy place to hide, where the bass will not see it.

crawfish for best live bait for bass


The most common and popular live bait for bass in many regions is the nightcrawler. Worms in general make up a large colony of live bait freshwater. However, nightcrawler in particular is an extremely good choice as the best live bait for bass. These are plump, long and meaty worms. This makes it a great attractant for local hungry bass. They make excellent presentations, so you do not have to worry too much about hooks' configuration. They are high in protein, easy to swallow, and have no sharp spines, bones or claws; and are easily caught. Today, nightcrawlers are the most overlooked bait by serious anglers and bass hunters.

Nightcrawlers and normal earthworms are both the best live bait for any type of bass that you are looking to fish. You can find them in the dirt in your garden or in your local bait and tackle stores. Here is a nightcrawler trick to help: to prevent smaller fish from nibbling the worm without biting your hook, place just a piece of the worm on your hook. Thread the worm into the hook until it’s completely covered; this is to prevent it from being stolen.

nightcrawlers for best live bait for bass
nightcrawlers for best live bait for bass


Hellgrammites are very strange-looking creatures that look like they belong to some prehistoric era rather than the modern one. These plant-like creatures are the larval form of the Dobson fly. At 1-3 inches, they are wonderful baits for smallmouth, largemouth, and spotted bass (and you can use them to catch a variety of fish like panfish, catfish and trout). Hellgrammites can be found in rocky areas of rivers and streams; and easily caught by lifting the rocks and scooping them up with a small net. Hellgrammites are great bait for fishing all species of bass, and the bigger the hellgrammite, the more likely you are to catch larger bass.

The best thing about hellgrammites is they are quite easy to store; and are low-maintenance. You can keep these bait alive for weeks if you store them in a container with natural brush and water. Make sure you don’t drown them since hellgrammites need air just as much as they need water. Or simply place them in a jar with some leaves and small sticks then fill the jar about halfway with water. Keep the hellgrammites in a cool location and they can last up to several days in this way.  

Hellgrammite for best live bait for bass


The bluegills are part of the freshwater Sunfish family and are sometimes called American Bream. They have a rounded body compared to the longer shiners. Bluegills operate in the shallows of dams and lakes and can be easily captured with soft plastic dusts or small spinnerbaits as well as smaller crank and recoil baits. They are well suited for live bait fishing for a number of reasons. First of all, they’re very easy to find. Second, they easily cling to the side of your boat. And third, bass are naturally attracted to them, and they create their own presentation, so that’s unquestionable.

bluegills for best live bait for bass

Bluegills are another type of baitfish that need a special mention separate from the general baitfish category. These small fish are quite common among bass anglers because they are very lively, energetic and active, and they are much harder than shiners. The best way to put together a portfolio of bluegill is to capture them yourself. Make sure you’re using light tackle because you want to catch small bluegill, and you don't want to attract anything else at the moment.

Fishing bluegills as baitfish can almost be as much fun as fishing for bass. Bluegills are very attractive to bass, and you’ll want to feed them with both a split shot and a bobber and fish them suspended. Make sure your split shot is a good distance from the hook depending on the depth of the water. You’ll need to drop them in and troll with your boat slowly to create the presentation. Remember that the slower, the better.


Salamanders are another species overlooked one for top best live bait for bass. They are not commonly used as live bait for bass fishing. The most popular forms of live bait are baitfish, crustaceans, and worms. However, if these traditional baits don’t work, trying the more exotic food could change your luck. You can find these at local tackle shops, and what you’re looking for is the aquatic species known as “water dogs”. These have the appearance like tadpoles, which are a common food for all bass types.

It is a fact that salamanders are not only food for bass, but bass also sees them as a threat as the salamanders often attack the egg in the breeding grounds of the bass. Therefore, bass will attack the salamander not only for food but also to protect their breeding grounds.

salamander for best live bait for bass
salamander for best live bait for bass

Once you’ve gotten salamanders, you’ll need to thread your hook through the nostrils or the tail and use a sinker about two feet from the hook. Instead of tossing or drifting, simply drop the salamanders into the water and release your line. They will normally attract larger bass owing to the fact that salamanders are generally fairly large bait (in the region of about 7 inches).

However, you will have to keep your line moving with this lure, since the salamanders tend to sink to the muddy bottom and settle into the mud or dig into it. You need to force them to swim by using a rope to lift them off the bottom. If you don’t get much, you can slowly troll your boat. Keep in mind that if you go too fast, you will be taking control of the presentation instead of letting the live bait do what it does best.


Frogs are one of the best live baits for bass but also the most underrated. They especially perform really well in dense cover and anywhere you have heavy vegetation. Bass love frogs, and the larger bass will easily catch swimming frogs from the ambush position. You can find a good supply of frogs at your local bait store, but you can also quite easily find them near the water’s edge at your fishing spot. If you want to catch frogs on your own, just go out after/during heavy rain and walk along country roads. Now you can easily find frogs that you can use for underwater cleaning here.  

frog bait for bass

Besides, we don't recommend this bass fishing technique for beginners. As it requires a bit of experience and dexterity when you're hooking frogs. However, for bass anglers who understand how to fish in dense vegetation, there is no better strategy. Making a frog truss might seem a bit difficult, but it won't be so bad if you go through the forelegs. This does not interfere with their mobility, so they can still swim freely and naturally. Use a wide-spaced hook and a split stroke about a foot away from the hook. 

Throw the frog over the side of your boat. Then they will often swim right to the bottom, immediately attract attention. We suggest a tip that if you’re not getting any takers, tug the stick very quickly and that will cause the frog to behave erratically, which will get more attention from neighboring bass. In addition, one of the advantages of using frogs as best live bait for bass is that frogs are easy to keep as live bait. Just put them in a damp pillowcase, and they will pretty easily last through fishing days.


Top best live bait for bass is among the list we recommend above. These best live bait for bass will help you get a better chance to catch bass; whether it is largemouth or smallmouth bass. What's more, these live bait that we recommend can be used with other fish for example trout, walleye,... If you’re looking to branch out; shad and minnows are solid as well. And frogs also work great if you know what you’re doing.

Don't be afraid to experiment! Protection Status