Live Bait Basics

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Published on: May. 2, 2009

Last revision: Dec. 13, 2010

enticing action to the bait.

Fishing with worms is simple. You can suspend them beneath a bobber or fish them on the bottom by adding a small sinker or two to your line.


Crayfish are an ideal bait for fishing in rivers and streams. They comprise much of the diet of Ozark stream game fish, including smallmouth bass and goggle-eye.

The problem with crayfish is their pincers, which look formidable when crayfish raise them in a threatening manner. They won’t hesitate to use them, either. The pinch they deliver, however, is not that painful and seldom breaks the skin. If you pick them up from behind and grasp their upper body between your thumb and forefinger, they’ll be unable to pinch you.

Often, the best way to catch crayfish in clear creeks and streams is to turn over rocks and grab them, or you can use a small hand net to avoid being pinched. Usually it’s best to divert the crayfish with one hand, while trying to capture it with your hand or the net. Kids love to catch crayfish almost as much as they like fishing with them.

The best way to present crayfish is tight-lining with no bobber. Depending on current, a sinker or two may be needed to hold your crayfish where you want it. Hook a crayfish through the lower edge of the tail so that the hook point faces up. Your first cast with a crayfish often offers your best chance of catching a fish, for the crayfish is fresh and more likely to swim, triggering fish to strike.

You can keep crayfish healthy by storing them in a cool place. A bait bucket with an inch or two of water and a generous supply of tall grass works for me. The grass allows the crayfish to crawl in and out of the water. If left in standing water, crayfish will deplete the oxygen and suffocate.


I’ve become good friends with one of the farmers on whose ground I turkey hunt. A few years back he invited me to come out and fish with him at one of his ponds. When I pulled up, he was swishing a homemade net to capture grasshoppers from the tall grass by the barn. He placed them in a coffee can with a lid. We then hopped on his tractor and headed to his back pond.

I fished with 1/16th-ounce horse-head jigs, fitted with a spinner and

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