What Bait to Use for Freshwater Fishing?

By Richard | Fishing Advice

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Fishing is an activity that has been with us since the beginning of humanity, and here we are now, in the 21st century, with it being more popular than ever. Still, the main idea has changed and although once fishing was seen as a way to ensure a proper meal, today, people do it as a hobby and for competitive reasons.

Instead of killing the fish, sports fishing includes only catching the trophy, taking photos with it, and releasing it back to the water. This is much more humane and doesn’t hurt the biodiversity of rivers, lakes, and seas. However, nature enthusiasts who enjoy camping will catch fish as their dinner, which is not a problem as long as no overfishing takes place.

While saltwater fishing is also quite popular, freshwater fishing is much more common, and that is for two reasons. First, lakes and rivers are more accessible for a regular fisherman. Additionally, fishing equipment for the freshwater environment is much cheaper than if you were to engage in a saltwater fishing trip.

Apart from a proper fishing rod and a good real, there is one more thing you will need — bait. Whether you are into live or artificial bait, there are a number of ideal options for a freshwater fishing environment. Let’s take a look at a few of the most common baits that you can take on your freshwater fishing adventure.

Things to Consider

Before we get into what bait to use for freshwater fishing, there are a few things that you need to consider in order to have a successful session. First, without a proper fishing reel, you shouldn’t expect good results — aim for the one that has at least four ball bearings, a stainless steel core (or at least aluminum), and a tight anti-reverse bearing that will allow you smooth and accurate reeling.

Additionally, proper lures play a huge role, and without these, your good bait will mean nothing. Depending on what fish you are aiming to catch and the environment you will be fishing in, you will need to decide between plastic worms, crankbait, or spinnerbait. All of these have their pros and cons, and it is up to you to decide on the perfect one for your needs.

Baits You Should Use for Freshwater Fishing

While artificial lures may be good on their own, investing in proper live bait is always a good option. Keep in mind that most artificial lures are created for bass fishing, which means that they will not suit your cod or trout needs.

One of the least expensive and most effective baits (especially for larger fish) are fish cuts. Cut them into different shapes and sizes and be sure to scale it off. However, leaving the skin on is ideal as that way it is more likely that fish like carp and catfish will be attracted.

Along with that, leeches are great if you want to catch northern pike. While they have suckers on both ends, poking them with a hook through the tail is the best method. Don't forget, shrimp are a great option if you plan to fish in freshwater that is under 70° Fahrenheit. Many species are easily attracted to shrimp, and as long as you remove the shell and tail, you are good to go.

If you are looking to use an effective bait that doesn’t include live shrimp, leeches, or scaled fish cuts, dough balls can go a long way. Use a mixture of regular flour, cornmeal, sugar, and add some spices like anise, garlic, and licorice. This will contribute to the texture and the smell that dough balls will give off, attracting fish. Cook them for a few minutes before you head out.

On the other hand, trout enjoy grubs and mealworms. Getting back to fishing for bass, they enjoy minnows, so putting a few on your hook is going to yield some great results. Last but not least, you can always go fishing with freshwater mussels, clams, or worms, as long as you have easy access to them, and you are not hurting the biodiversity of the lake or river.


Fishing in a freshwater environment can be quite fun, especially if you are aiming for larger fish including bass and catfish. While artificial lures can work quite well, having proper live bait or dough balls seems to yield the best results. Do your research, decide on the fish you want to catch, and choose the bait accordingly.

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