Best Bait For Largemouth Bass

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Hey there my fellow fishing enthusiasts and welcome to my post covering the best bait for Largemouth Bass to chow down on this year. Now I have to admit to being a traditional bait user for most of my fishing life as I like to find a good spot and then see what I can attract. Of course there is maybe not the excitement of attracting and working a fish as there is with lures, however it can be just as much fun for sure.

There are however other aspects to it such as matching the bait to the location and presenting it in a manner that will make it attractive to the fish as well. The thing then is that there are so many different factors to consider that it can all get a bit confusing after a while. So let’s check it all out …

What is Livebait?

For the purposes of this post I am going to give the name live bait to anything that is, or has at some point been alive (often referred to as ‘natural bait’). This means that it can actually be alive (often kept in an aerated cooler for example), fresh but dead or even frozen. This is opposed to lures, which are artificial creations designed to mimic live bait.

Obviously the type you choose will vary based on local conditions however when it comes to using live bait, I would stick to the following two rules:

  1. Use local bait if possible – Largemouth Bass can be found and trapped in lakes and rivers all over the North America (and via introduction to many other countries as well) so there can be a variation on what is available to them within their local habitats.
  2. Go to a local bait shop – In most cases, the local bait shop will sell bait that is good for local conditions. If in doubt, ask the shop keeper or a local.

Examples of commonly used live bait for Largemouth Bass includes:

  • Yellow perch
  • Shad
  • Minnows
  • Bluegill
  • Crayfish

Largemouth of course will also eat frogs, mice, snakes, insects and like many predatory carnivores, anything else they can find as well. However, the baitfish above are generally easier to acquire and hook as opposed to anything else – apart from insects on a fly rig of course.

Bait Pros

  • You can match exactly to what fish eat naturally
  • Generally easy to use
  • Often cheaper than lures
  • Most fish will take a bait
  • You can cast and let the bait sit in the water (i.e. no need to cast and retrieve)
  • Bait is great for kids (meaning they can at least catch something)

Bait Cons

  • It is smelly and gets all over your clothes, tackle box and everything else take with you
  • Will deteriorate in the sun
  • Fish tend to swallow the hook more with bait (making catch and release more difficult)
  • You can lose a lot more to smaller or vermin species
  • Bait can come off hook easier in faster moving water
  • You need to make more tools with you such as a knife and cutting board

My recommended livebait options for Largemouth Bass

Let’s have a look at the main 5 options I have listed above in more detail:

Yellow Perch

Best Bait For Largemouth Bass - Yellow Perch

Although considered a good sport and eating fish in their own right, juvenile Yellow Perch are also a great live bait for Largemouth Bass as well. They are native to the northern region east of the Rocky Mountains, the Great Lakes, St. Lawrence River and Mississippi River basins and extending throughout Nova Scotia and Quebec north to the Mackenzie River.

They spawn once a year in spring in large schools found within shallow areas of a lake or low-current tributary streams making them a very popular livebait for chasing Largemouth Bass preparing for their own spawning behaviours at these times.

American Shad

Best Bait For Largemouth Bass- Shad

As the name suggests, American Shad is another species native to North America. These are actually ocean based however as the waters warm inland, they return to freshwater rivers to breed. This occurs in a south to north pattern along the east coast of the U.S. commencing in Georgia in January, the waters tributary to Pamlico and Albemarle Sounds in march, the Potomac in April and northern streams from Delaware to Canada in May and June.

As with Yellow Perch above, full-grown Shad are a good catching and table fish in their own right however as they school as juveniles, they make good livebait for Largemouth in the months covering Spring and Summer as above.


Best Bait For Largemouth Bass - Minnow

Unlike the first two options above, Minnows are a genuine baitfish with a very high tolerance for variable water qualities making it a common species in many locations shared with Largemouth Bass. Variations include:

  • Bluntnose Minnow
  • Common Shiner
  • Emerald Shiner
  • Top Minnow

Due to their abundance in many areas, Minnows are a favourite for Bass fishers year round.


Best Bait For Largemouth Bass - Bluegill

Bluegill is another popular livebait for those chasing Largemouth Bass due to the fact that again, they not only share natural habitats, but can also be found in shallow and deep water alike – making them a good option for summer when the big boys head to cooler, deeper waters or winter when they come shallower.

They are found naturally in the United States east of the Rocky Mountains from coastal Virginia to Florida, west to Texas and northern Mexico, and north to western Minnesota and western New York. This range makes them a common live bait across a number of regions as well as for those chasing Smallmouth and Striped bass, Trout, Northern pike and Yellow Perch as well.


Best Bait For Largemouth Bass - Crayfish

And finally, the last on this list is Crayfish. These are popular due to the fact that they form a massive part of the natural diet of Largemouth Bass in a good number of locations. They feed on these predominately in the spring when they move to shallower waters during the pre-spawn and spawning phase of their year.

Crayfish work best when they are used live meaning an aerator box or cooler is probably necessary here as well.

What should you be looking for?

As you look to source and use your own livebait, below are some things that you may want to consider when using bait for Largemouth Bass:

Where the fish are – We have touched on this above however the type of bait you choose can depend on where you are trying to catch your fish. For example if you are working in shallow waters, then crayfish would wok well. Keep in mind here that unlike lures, you are generally not casting and retrieving a bait so you will need to match your bait to the species that are found in that area.

Weight requirements – Bait weight, usually determined by the size or amount of bait you use, is important for a number of reasons including:

  • Heavier baits can be cast a little further – this may include rigging with a sinker.
  • Heavier baits will anchor and drag on the bottom more effectively (which is good if you are in a kayak or on a boat).
  • Lighter weights are easier to jig and ‘flick’ around.
  • Lighter baits will float better than their heavier counterparts – which is where insects can work.

Again, do your research into the environment that you are fishing in. If you are working in shallower waters, then a light weighted bait will work very well. Heaver options may be needed in deeper areas however they will ‘catch’ on the bottom a lot more often and fall off if you are drifting.

Rod specifications – The next consideration (and a very important one) is to ensure that any bait size you use fits within the specification details of your Bass fishing rod. In some cases, rod specs include a tackle weight which is the highest designated weight that the rod can handle.

In most cases, however, you are going to be looking at this from the power rating of the rod. This is effectively a measure of how ‘bendy’ it is. Light power rods bend with little force and heavy ones need a lot of pressure to bend. So, in short:

  • Light – very bendy – even whippy – will bend a lot with even the smallest fish. Use these for light baits only.
  • Medium – needs a bit more pressure to bend – In general, this is a good measure for all-round use with light to medium-weighted baits for Bass fishing.
  • Heavy – takes a lot to make it bend – I would probably avoid these for Bass fishing unless you are working in particularly deep water.

Tackle Requirements

In general, the main rule of thumb when it comes to using bait is to match your hook to its size. As Largemouth have big mouths I would err on the side of a larger hook as well meaning you will avoid getting caught up with smaller species.

Stick to a 2/0 to 6/0 hook with a bait size to match with the hook set through the snout (or head of crayfish) on a running sinker or running float rig.

Seasonal influences – When it comes to Bass fishing, seasonal behaviors can also determine the types of bait that they will take. For example, in summer, Largemouth Bass tend to go deeper to avoid the warmer waters on the edge so a weighted Bluegill will work better than a weightless cray or baitfish along the bank. And of course when they are feeding aggressively in the lead up to the spawning season, you could throw anything along the edge and they will take it – well not really but you get the picture.

Local knowledge – As mentioned a number of times in this post, when I discuss live bait options for any fishing type, I always say to check with the locals to see what is found in the local system. The idea behind this is that you want to match your bait to what it is that the fish eat naturally.

Best Bait For Largemouth Bass - Largemouth Bass


And there it is – my post covering the best bait for Largemouth Bass to chow down on this year. I hope it has been helpful and as usual, please let me know of your experiences with them.

Also, please do not hesitate to comment below if you have any questions, concerns, corrections, or would like me to check anything else out for you.

Until next time

Have fun

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Hi, I'm Paul

I am a passionate fishing, camping and four wheeled driving hobbyist who researches, tests and educates around issues and equipment relevant to them.

I am by no means a professional however my passion is to assist you in making informed decisions about buying and using awesome gear that will give you the best chance of success at whatever you are doing for the best price.

Please get in touch if you have any questions.