“Bass fishing,” mainly refers to targeting largemouth, smallmouth, and to a lesser extent, the spotted bass. Each of these species lacks teeth, but live bait for bass can be almost any prey item that can fit in that relatively large mouth and swallowed whole.
Consider these three characteristics when choosing the best live bait for bass:
1. Size of the Bait
There seems to be an optimal bait size for bass. It is almost as if bass quickly perform a rudimentary kind of cost/benefit analysis when feeding. A predator may not want to waste energy on any bait too small and evasive, or too large and tough to catch. To some degree, you’ll want to “match the hatch” for the best live bait for bass fishing too. Be observant while on the water and try to notice what size bait the fish are feeding on. Timing can play a factor with bait size as well. In fall, bait size tends to be larger as bass prepare for winter; during winter, small bait may be enough to catch sluggish bass.
2. Castability of the Bait
Once you have determined the right size live bait, keep in mind it is not going to catch fish if the bait separates from the hook during the cast. Using the right live bait rigs helps, with just enough weight to get the bait to the target area. Casting with live bait is more of a wide, gentle sweeping motion instead of a quick overhead snap with a lure.
3. Action of the Bait
For the best methods how to rig live bait for bass, pay attention to hook size and hook placement. The hook should be just big enough to provide a good hook set but not impede the bait action. Consider thinner wire hooks when conditions allow, especially for subtle finesse techniques such as with night crawlers or grasshoppers. Shiners, hooked behind the dorsal fin will swim up. However, you’ll want to hook a shiner near the nose to keep oriented forward in current or when retrieved slowly.
Consider circle hooks with live bait to increase the success rate of catch and release when bass fishing. When getting your fishing license, pick up a copy of the state fishing regulations and follow carefully. For example, in Pennsylvania an unattended minnow trap must have a form of owner identification and phone number attached. For those learning how to fish, remember there also are strict rules about transporting bait or using bait that may be threatened or invasive. So, do your homework for those times when lures fail to get hits, because live bait for bass consistently works.