best bait for freshwater fishing

Best live bait for freshwater fishing

The Best Live Bait for Freshwater Fishing

Anglers who fish must decide between live bait and artificial lures. Many choose live bait, as it is very effective. THere are many live baits to choose from, but there is one that is better than the rest.

The best live bait for freshwater fishing is a nightcrawler. There are several reasons for this. Most importantly, nearly every freshwater game fish species that swims will devour a live nightcrawler. They are also widely distributed, affordable, and easy to keep alive. These are the reasons why a live nightcrawler is the best choice for freshwater anglers fishing with live bait.

best bait for freshwater fishing

Nightcrawlers are very convenient to use as fishing bait. They are widely distributed and are available at just about every freshwater fishing bait store. Several major chains that sell fishing equipment keep them in stock as well. In many areas, nightcrawlers can be purchased at convenience stores and gas stations as well.

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Nightcrawlers are fairly easy to keep alive. This is the main reason that they are so widely available to anglers fishing in freshwater rivers and lakes. As long as they are kept cool and slightly damp, nightcrawlers will live a long time. Most anglers keep them in the refrigerator. Nightcrawlers usually come packaged in some type of dirt or topsoil.

best live bait for freshwater fishing

Anglers can certainly catch their own nightcrawlers as well. This is best done in the early evening at night. They will come out after a fresh rain but anglers will also water the lawn just before dark. Then, using a flashlight muted some darker clear paper, angler search for them in freshly cut lawns. These rascals are quick and it does take some practice to learn to capture them!

Live bait freshwater fishing with nightcrawlers

Nightcrawlers can be hooked in several ways. They can be hooked right through the the front. This allows the nightcrawler to swim and undulate very naturally in the water. Many anglers feel that this leaves too much of the bait exposed away from the hook. However, most game fish, especially larger ones, will inhale the entire nightcrawler. This should result in a good hookup.

Anglers bottom fishing for catfish and other species will often thread the nightcrawler on a hook. Since in many instances the bait is in a fixed position, this is an effective technique. Hooking the worm in this fashion allows the juices and sense to dispersed into the water. This will hopefully attract a catfish or other species that feeds on or near the bottom.

While I anglers have been using special harnesses to present nightcrawlers for many years. These come in a variety of designs. All of them are meant to present the nightcrawler in a very slow but natural swimming motion. Most have multiple hooks and some have spinners and other devices to help attract fish. They are used in conjunction with special bottom bouncing sinkers.

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best freshwater live bait

Techniques for fishing with live nightcrawlers

Nightcrawlers can be fished effectively in a wide range of environments. In most instances, the best approach is to hook the nightcrawler as lightly as possible with as little weight as required. This will result in a more natural presentation. Nightcrawlers can be fished under a float, free lined with little or no weight, and fished on the bottom.

Fishing with live nightcrawlers in rivers

Nightcrawlers work very well for anglers fishing and rivers. They will catch a wide variety of species including largemouth and smallmouth bass, pan fish, trout, catfish, walleye, and more. In swift moving streams and rivers, the best approach is to allow the nightcrawler to drift naturally with the current. Deeper holes and slower moving areas are usually best. Smallmouth bass and trout will be caught by anglers using nightcrawlers in these faster moving waters.

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Many anglers pursue catfish in larger slower moving rivers using nightcrawlers. In this application, most anglers do well by bottom fishing. Some amount of casting weight is needed to both get the bait out far enough from shore as well is keep it on the bottom. Anglers fishing in boats use special sinkers to hold the bottom. Bass and panfish will also be caught in these warmer, slower moving rivers.

While I anglers certainly catch their share of fish and rivers using nightcrawlers as well. The most common approach is to either drift with the current or troll very slowly. Special bottom rigs with nightcrawler harnesses and spinners work very well.

Fishing with live nightcrawlers in lakes

Nightcrawlers certainly work very well in lakes, too. Largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, walleye, catfish, trout, and panfish are the primary species being sought. However, just about every other species that swims will take one.

In shallow water, anglers free line baits near cover. Weed edges, sloping points, docks, bridges, ledges, submerged rock piles, and submerged weed beds are just a few examples of good fish holding cover. Anglers can use a float to suspend the nightcrawler just above the structure. This both reduces snags and gives anglers a visual reference when a fish takes the bait. Anglers fishing for panfish will do well just using a small piece of a nightcrawler on a small hook.

Anglers fishing with nightcrawlers in deeper water will usually choose to use some type of sinker. There are quite a few different designs of fishing sinkers that anglers can use to keep their baits on or near the bottom. This applies to rigs as well. Species such as catfish and sturgeon are found very close to the bottom. Rigs that present the nightcrawler on the bottom will do best.

Slow trolling with a live nightcrawler is an extremely effective technique for walleye and smallmouth bass in deeper portions of lakes. Using special bottom bouncing sinkers, the nightcrawler is hooked on a Lindy Rig or other set up that allows the nightcrawler to swim naturally in the water. Precise boat control keeps the bait right in the strike zone.

Live bait for freshwater fishing; species that will hit a nightcrawler

The list of species that will take a nightcrawler is very long. It includes just about every game fish in North America. There are a few subtle differences in location a presentation that will help anglers catch more fish.


Both largemouth bass and smallmouth bass will take a live nightcrawler. In fact, the most popular lure for largemouth bass is a plastic worm. There is good reason for this! Too many anglers today overlooked the effectiveness of a live nightcrawler when targeting largemouth bass. However, smallmouth bass anglers are quite familiar with how well these baits work.

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A live nightcrawler cast out towards a weed line, dock, rock pile, or other structure in fairly shallow water will catch both largemouth and smallmouth bass. Anglers specifically seeking smallmouth will do well to fish it on a drop shot style rig on submerged rock piles and weed beds in 15 to 30 feet of water.


trout fishing blue ridge

Trout will certainly take a live nightcrawler as it drifts in the current. All of the major trout species, rainbow, brook, brown, and others all feed on worms at one time or another. They can be particularly effective when the water levels are high and stained. In those situations, the scent of a live bait can be the best choice. Generally, slower, deeper pools are the best spots to catch trout on a nightcrawler.


tailwater fishing tips and techniques

Many catfish have been landed over the years by anglers using nightcrawlers for bait. Most often, they are threaded on the hook and fished on the bottom. Anglers seeking trophy catfish will often use several nightcrawlers at once on a large hook. Deeper outside bends in river channels are excellent spots to try. Catfish in lakes will be caught on channel edges and around submerged structure such as fallen timber.


walleye fishing

Nightcrawlers are a terrific live bait for walleye! Anglers have been using them successfully for many decades. Most often, they are fished on or near the bottom using specially designed harnesses. Both trolling and drifting are effective depending on the prevailing conditions.


best bluegill lures

Nightcrawlers work very well on panfish. They are very economical bait as only a small piece of the worm is needed. This results in a dozen nightcrawlers producing a lot of bluegill, sunfish, shallow cracker, and other species. The piece of nightcrawler can be fished on a small hook with a split shot and allowed to free fall through the water column. Many anglers fish the piece of nightcrawler under a small bomber.

In conclusion, this article on the best live bait for freshwater fishing will help anglers achieve more success!

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