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Who Needs Live Bait?

I will be the first one to tell you that no baits or lures are magic, nothing catches fish all the time.  And, I will tell you that every bait or lure every made will catch fish if used at the right place and the right time.  The challenge is knowing the right bait for the right place and right time.  Presentation theory and selecting the right baits for the right time and place is a whole topic worthy of several blog posts.  I am not going to dive into all of that right now.

What I am going to suggest is that I find myself fishing with live bait less and less all the time.

Do not get me wrong.  For some species and some fishing situations, I still fall back to live bait.  In some cases, some form of presentation using live bait will simply be THE BEST way to catch fish.  But, in a lot of situations where I used to fish live bait, I am discovering that there are other alternatives, artificial alternatives, that will work just as well if not better.  And I like that because those artificial alternatives often are less expensive and involve less hassle because you do not have to worry about keeping them alive.

There are many walleye fishing presentations that combine live bait with some form of attractor–spinners and nightcrawlers fished behind a bottom-bouncer being the classic example.  There are times when a person has to slow down and present a lively live bait in front of a walleye in order to get them to bite, but there are a lot of times when anglers drift or troll, cover water, and catch lots of walleyes.  In those situations a person very well may be able to catch just as many fish with an artificial bait on the spinner rig rather than a live ‘crawler.

I have experimented with a variety of Berkley soft baits for situations where I previously would have fished some type of live bait.  If you look at their website, you will find an almost infinite variety of PowerBaits and GULP! baits that can be adapted to many fishing situations, Berkley soft bait .  I have used a variety of “Power Nightcrawlers”, “GULP Nightcrawlers” and “GULP! Alive Leeches”.  For presentations where the baits are moving, drifting or trolling, I believe those baits can be just as effective as live ‘crawlers or leeches.  Berkley is even making a bait specifically for fishing on spinner rigs or with the “slow death”, spinning hooks.


I am sure that bait will be a winner.

Want another example?  Let me give another walleye fishing situation–jigs and minnows.  Jigs and some type of live bait, usually a minnow but it can also be a ‘crawler or leech are often used to catch walleyes and are the classic walleye presentation in rivers and streams.  Again there will be times when the fish simply prefer the real thing, but there are also times when a jig and a “GULP Alive Minnow” will work just as well.

Tri-county canal sauger caught on a jig and GULP! Alive minnows.

One last example and I will quit.

I seldom fish real, live nightcrawlers for trout anymore.  I have discovered that other baits work just as well or better, and offer the advantage of not having fish swallow ‘crawlers to the point where they are poor candidates for catch & release.


This is not a paid advertisement for Berkley and their products.  There are other similar baits on the market like Trigger X, http://www.rapala.com/Walleye/triggerx-walleye,default,sc.html , but I will tell you that Berkley has the most extensive line of those products that I know of.

I could go on.  There are a lot more examples of artificial baits on the market today that can be substituted for live bait in many situations.  I am not suggesting that you swear off fishing with live bait, but I am suggesting that if you experiment, if you venture out of your comfort zone and try some alternatives, in many situations you will never go back!

Thanks Ron for the tip on the “killer crawlers”.

About daryl bauer

Daryl is a lifelong resident of Nebraska (except for a couple of years spent going to graduate school in South Dakota). He has been employed as a fisheries biologist for the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission for 25 years, and his current tour of duty is as the fisheries outreach program manager. Daryl loves to share his educational knowledge and is an avid multi-species angler. He holds more than 120 Nebraska Master Angler Awards for 14 different species and holds more than 30 In-Fisherman Master Angler Awards for eight different species. He loves to talk fishing and answer questions about fishing in Nebraska, be sure to check out his blog at outdoornebraska.org.

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