How To: Bait a Hook

By MDC | May 1, 2022
From Xplor: May/June 2022

Forget all those fancy fishing lures. The easiest way to catch fish is to follow the K.I.S.S. Method: Keep it simple, skippy. Here are three simple ways to fill your stringer with only a hook and some bait.

Know the Rules

Fishing doesn’t have many rules, but it does have a few, and it’s your job to follow them. Learn about permits, length limits, and other rules by picking up A Summary of Missouri Fishing Regulations. This free booklet is available at Conservation Department offices, bait shops, and online at


When it comes to bait, a wiggly earthworm is tough to beat. It will catch panfish, like bluegill, and larger fish, like bass and catfish.

Where to Get ‘Em

Sure you can buy worms at bait shops, sporting goods stores, and even gas stations, but it’s just as easy — and cheaper — to find your own. Look under layers of leaves in the woods. Or dig down into shady, damp soil. On rainy nights, you can even go outside with a flashlight and pick up worms right off of the sidewalk.

How to Use ‘Em

To keep worms wiggly — fish like them fresh — store them in a cool, dark container with a little damp soil. When you’re ready to toss out your line, hook the worm several times so it makes a tight, squiggly ball. To make your worms last longer, you can pinch off a short section of a worm and thread it onto the hook.


Crappie, bass, and many other big fish say “mmmmm” to minnows.

Where to Get ‘Em

It’s easiest to buy minnows from a bait shop, but you can also catch your own. To learn how to build a minnow trap out of 2-liter plastic bottles, go to

How to Use ‘Em

Keep your minnows in a bait bucket filled with cool, fresh water. An aquarium dip net is handy for catching the tiny, darting fish.

There are a couple good ways to put a minnow on a hook. The easiest is to thread the hook through the middle of the minnow’s back. Since predatory fish often eat prey headfirst, some anglers think you’ll miss fewer strikes by hooking the minnow through its mouth.

Heads Up!

Never dump minnows in the water where you’re fishing. Some kinds of minnows reproduce quickly and crowd out other fish. Always throw unused bait in the trash.


Nothing makes a hungry fish happier than when a grasshopper falls into the water and lies twitching on the surface.

Where to Get ‘Em

Look for grasshoppers in pastures, fields, and grassy roadsides. You can catch them with a net (easy), a ball cap (harder), or your hands (hardest, but fun). Keep them in a coffee can or potato chip tube. Bang on the lid a few times before you open the can or all the hoppers you’ve caught will escape.

How to Use ‘Em

While holding the grasshopper firmly, thread the hook just behind the head so it comes out in front of the wings.


This Issue's Staff

Artist - Alexis (AJ) Joyce
Photographer – Noppadol Paothong
Photographer – David Stonner
Designer – Marci Porter
Designer – Les Fortenberry
Art Director – Cliff White
Editor – Matt Seek
Subscriptions – Laura Scheuler
Magazine Manager – Stephanie Thurber