5 Best Live Bait Options For Catching Pompano

Hey there my fellow fishing enthusiasts and welcome to my post covering my 5 best live bait options for catching Pompano 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.

However, when it comes to Pompano and their feeding habits, there are other aspects to it such as how they find their food as well matching the bait to the location and presenting it in a manner that will make it attractive to them as well.

So let’s check out some good live bait options for Pompano below …

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 a live bait well 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 – Pompano are generally found in open saltwater areas such as beaches and estuaries the world over meaning there can be a variation on what is available to them within their local habitats.
  2. They feed on the bottom – This is a species that spends a lot of time on the sea floor looking for food hence tend to feed on local options found there so something along these lines is always a good choice.
  3. 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.

That said, in my experience, when it comes to catching Pompano, there is not much that they won’t eat (we catch a sub species called Swallowtail Dart in the waters here down under) meaning just about anything dead or alive such as sand fleas, sea worms, fish fillets, squid and anything else will usually do.

best live bait for Pompano- bait cut on board

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 live bait options for catching Pompano

 Based on my own experience and research, let’s have a look at the main 5 options I have listed above in more detail:

Sand Fleas

best live bait for Pompano- sand flea

Also known as beach fleas, sand hoppers or beach hoppers, sand fleas are actually crustaceans (they tend to jump like fleas – hence the name) that are found in moist areas such as in the sand, under rocks or debris. They can be used as bait on just about any rig you like and are hooked through the body just behind the head.

I have to admit here that Sand fleas are not something that I am used to fishing with as they are not prevalent here down under. However in my research into Pompano fishing – especially within the continental U.S. – these are the absolute bait of choice for catching Pompano.

Sea Worms

best bait for striped bass - Sea worms

Now sea worms are something I have fished with extensively and caught many a Dart on them. These can be a fantastic bait for many saltwater species and a very popular option for Pompano as well. They will work with just about any rig and work best when you can ‘rest’ them on the bottom. Sea worms are threaded onto the entire hook with the excess left hanging over the front.

Catching sea worms is a pastime that takes some practice to get right. You will generally need a mesh bag (we use panty hose ourselves) filled with old bait, fish frames or even cat food that is then drags along the beach at the waterline. Another advantage here however is that they are usually readily available at your local bait shop as they freeze extremely well and do not appear to lose their attractiveness to your prey.


best live bait for Pompano- shrimp

Shrimp, or prawns as we know them by, are another great option for catching Pompano and a popular choice the world over in both salt and fresh water. They freeze well and are a very cost effective option, especially when fishing with kids. Simply hook them under the tail and run it up through the body and out the head. This will keep it on the hook with a natural looking presentation.

In terms of Pompano fishing, they work best when allowed to float just off the bottom or wash around in the shore break at high tide.


best bait for Halibut - squid pile

As with the previous two options above, Squid is a another go to bait for fishers all over the world chasing just about any saltwater species you can think of – we use them for both deep sea and surf fishing ourselves. It makes sense then that Squid is another great option for Pompano.

Its qualities as a bait are that the flesh is fairly tough and it will sit on a hook well – meaning that when fishing in the surf, it will stay on the hook for a lot longer. It is also great for Pompano as they tend to ‘nibble’ a little at bait before they hit but won’t be able to pull it off the hook as easily.


best bait for striped bass - Mullet

For this last option, I have decided to just include bait fish as a overall generalization rather than trying to list individual options. Depending on where you are located, this can be:

  • Mullet
  • Whitebait
  • Pilchards
  • Bunker
  • Shad

We often catch Pompano on whitebait when chasing other species such as Flathead but has also had success with Pilchards and Mullet fillets as well. In fact, anything that was once a fish that is put on a hook either whole, or as a fillet will work well.

What should you be looking for?

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

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 worms, shrimp or sand fleas would work 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 small baitfish will work but may be too high up for Pompano.

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.

best live bait for Pompano- pompano on ice

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 fishing gear. 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 Pomano fishing.
  • Heavy – takes a lot to make it bend – I would probably avoid these for Popmano 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 Pompano have small mouths, I would err on the side of a smaller, longer hook as well.

Stick to a 1/0 to 2/0 hook with a bait size to match on a running sinker or Carolina rig.

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.


And there it is – my post covering the best bait for Pompano to dive into 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.