Hey there my fellow fishing enthusiasts and welcome to my post covering my 5 best live bait options for Snook 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:
- Use local bait if possible – Live bait can be found and trapped in estuaries and coastal shallows in all areas that Snook inhabit so there can be a variation on what is available to them within their local habitats.
- 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.
Now, if I am being honest, in my experience and research there doesn’t really appear to be a bait fish that a Snook do not like. And as with other saltwater predators such as Striped Bass, Snook will take just about any small fish as well as shrimp, crabs or worms as well.
However, baitfish are generally easier to acquire and hook as opposed to anything else so I have listed the five most popular options for catching Snook below.
- 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)
- 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 Snook
Let’s have a look at the main 5 options I have listed above in more detail:
Whitebait, also known in some areas as pilchards or scaled sardines, are highly sought-after live bait for Snook fishing. They are small, shiny fish that resemble minnows and Snook are naturally drawn to the flash and movement of these baitfish.
They can be caught using a cast net or purchased from local bait shops and you can fish them live or dead. To present them as live bait, hook them carefully through the lips or back, allowing them to swim naturally in the water. If using them as dead bait, you can cut them into chunks or butterfly them to release scent and attract Snook.
Note here that in some places, Pilchards and Whitebait are a totally different species. That said, they will both still work very well here.
Mullet is another option that is popular for most saltwater fishing options due to the fact that they form a massive part of the natural diet of Snook in a good number of locations. Finger mullet (we call them Poddy Mullet) are small, juvenile mullet that can be caught using a cast net. When using finger mullet as live bait, hook them through the lips or nose.
Alternatively, Mullet fillets are another great option as they are super strong (meaning they will stay on the hook longer) as well as being rather oily and smelly – which attracts the fish. Mullet fillets work well when fishing on both the beach, or if drifting from a boat in an inlet or estuary.
Pinfish (Lagodon) are slightly larger than other baitfish listed here however are a good option if you are chasing bigger Snook. They have a distinct appearance with sharp spines on their dorsal fins and can be caught using a cast net or small traps. As they grow larger, they are actually fished in their own right however when caught as juveniles, make a great baitfish for many saltwater species.
To fish with them as bait, hook them through the back or behind the dorsal fin to keep them lively and allow them to swim freely. Pinfish are effective when fishing near structures such as mangroves, rocks or jetties as snook often ambush their prey from these areas.
Herring is a great option due to its availability in many locations and the fact that it presents very well on the hook. Depending on where you are, these are the fish that not only share natural habitats with Snook, but can also be found in shallow and deep water alike – making them a good option for summer when they head to cooler, deeper waters or winter when they come shallower.
Most avid Snook fishers recommend using them fresh and either whole or cut into fillets. They are found naturally in the United States which makes them a common live bait across a number of regions as well as for those chasing Striped Bass, Northern pike and Yellow Perch as well.
And finally, let’s step away from the baitfish to look at Shrimp, or prawns as we know them by here. These are another great option for catching Snook 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.
For live shrimp, you can either free-line them or add a small split shot or a weighted jighead to help keep them near the bottom or in place. Shrimp are particularly effective when fishing near structure, such as docks or bridges.
Check out these: Portable Aerators for Live Bait
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 Snook:
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 shrimp or mullet 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 whitebait 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 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 Snook fishing.
- Heavy – takes a lot to make it bend – I would probably avoid these for Snook fishing unless you are working in particularly deep water.
In general, the main rule of thumb when it comes to using bait is to match your hook to its size. As with most saltwater fishing, 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 3/0 to 4/0 circle hook with a bait size to match with the hook set through the snout (or head of shrimp) on a running sinker or running float 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 Snook 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