Live Bait Basics

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Published on: May. 2, 2009

Last revision: Dec. 13, 2010

Nine-year-old Kate Sebaugh watched her bobber. It twitched once, and she bent her legs to get ready to set the hook. The bobber twitched again, then dipped under water. Kate raised her fishing rod with both arms.

“You got a good one?” I asked as I trotted over to string a big bluegill caught by her older brother, Scott.

“It’s pulling hard!” Kate answered back excitedly.

Her line cut circles in the water as she worked another fat bluegill to shore.

My role on this fishing trip was to help Kate and Scott catch fish. And catch fish they did—20 nice bluegill, three bass and three channel catfish! My most important contribution to the morning’s success was setting the kids up with crickets. Like many older anglers, most of my fishing involves artificial lures, but I had not forgotten how effective and simple it is to use live crickets to catch bluegill.

In situations like the one with Kate and Scott, when I really want to make sure we catch some fish, I’ll rely on live bait. For bluegills, crickets almost always work well, but almost any live bait is easy to use and generally produces pretty good fishing. The kids seem to like using it, too.


Sifting through piles of leaves in the backyard or digging in soft dirt behind the barn has started many fishing adventures for kids. Worms are also readily available at bait shops. Pin small worms or thread pieces of larger worms on a hook. Both really work!

I like to use night crawlers, which are really just very large worms. They’re fun to collect, too. You can gather them from mown lawns in many places by searching at night with a flashlight after a heavy rain. The rain allows earthworms to come to the surface to feed and breed without the threat of drying out. You can also collect night crawlers in creek or stream floodplains by poking around in the moist piles of decaying leaves and other plant material left by high water at the base of trees and shrubs.

Night crawlers have tough skin, which is another reason anglers favor them. Hooked through the head region, the shorter of the two areas separated by the band, the worms hold well to the hook. You can also hook worms and night crawlers through the more fragile tail section. This encourages them to swim or crawl away from the hook, which adds an

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