Catching a Bass with live bait is one of the most exciting ways to catch Bass on rod and line. Bass are a real challenge to hook up but a pleasure to play and land! They taste good too.

There are many ways to tempt a Bass using lures / plugs and static baits. But when the fishing gets hard or you really want to land a lot of Bass and you have the time to prepare, live bait fishing for Bass is explosive and gets results.

Live Baiting for Bass Conditions and Location

Bass fishing can be enjoyed from lots of different places; shore, rock, pier, boat, kayak, inshore, off shore and any other location you can think of for Bass fishing. You can also live bait for Bass in most conditions:

  • Clear still water
  • Fast tidal areas
  • After heavy storms
  • Surf beaches
  • Estuary into sea
  • Coloured water

Depending on your location and the conditions you will need different tackle to best accommodate live baiting.

Bass rods and Reels

The rods being used are generally about 8 to 10 ft spinning rods with fixed spool reels. The Shimano bait runner is a popular choice. You want a reel that has good line lay (puts the line across it’s self, not parallel lines hat dig into each other) which hold around 200+ yds of 10lb line at the minimum.

The advantage of light weight rods is two fold, they make the fight more sporting and they show bites. Matching your fishing tackle to your species is important. There is no point using Marlin fishing gear to haul in a 10lb Bass of a life time…

Bass will hunt in very shallow water, so live baiting from the beach using gentle casts (to preserve the live bait) will be common place and productive. Beachcasters can be used but will often provide too much power and destroy most live baits. A soft action (flexible) carp rod or spinning rod is ideal for launching a bait 10 to 100 yds if required.

For inshore targeted Bass fishing light gear will do just fine. In deeper water and where currents run strong you need to use heavier weights and have generally heavier gear. You might then want to use 10 – 20lb class boat fishing gear.

Leader’s the effect on Bass Fishing

The leader is the length from the hook to where it joins the main line and this relatively short length of fishing line can massively effect the success or lack of it on the day. Game anglers will be able to describe how a fly presented on a leader that is to visible will result in few if any hook ups.

If the fishing is hard then you should look to increasing the length of your leader or reducing it’s visibility. This is simple, tie it longer or use a lower breaking strain line – you will have to play fish gently to land them, but that is part of the art.

A longer leader generally allows the live bait to behave in a more natural way. It will of course allow the live bait to hide if you do not consider the underwater conditions to the full.

As a rule – the more turbid or the more movement in the water the shorter or thicker the leader can be.

Species for Bass Live Bait

There are lots of different species that can be used for Bass live bait. The sky is the limit, if you match the bait to the location you will sooner or later catch Bass. Some of the more popular live bait species are:

  • Mackerel
  • Prawns (my number 1)
  • Butterfish
  • Pouting
  • Whiting
  • Young Pollock

The bait is kept alive in some form of aerated bait container. This can include a bucket fitted with a bait pump or a basket dipping the water attached to the side of the boat. There are many options available to you on the market these days and lots of DIY solutions.

Bait presentation for Bass

Most fish baits are best hooked through the top lip using a treble hook. I have started using methods used by Big game anglers and Carp anglers where I present the bait under the hook with a stitch through the top lip being secured to the bend of the hook.

Sand eels are often hooked in the back or tail allowing them to swim around looking like an injured fish. I am not so keen on this – my soft side I guess!

Prawns – The most popular hooking method employed seems to be a treble with one of the hooks passing through the tail of the beast so it still looks lively and the prawn survives being hooked. This gives a very natural bait presentation which is important for clear water Bass fishing. A bubble float is often used to stop the bait swimming down and hiding in the rocks. The float would be attached at the end of the main line / start of the leader.

Bass Bites

The bite when fishing this method is often very strong and positive, however slack line bite can occur. If you get a slack line take always allow the Bass a bit of time with its bait, giving it time to mouth the bait, then just wind into the fish, don’t be to concerned to strike.

In Conclusion

Live Baiting for Bass is explosive action and can often provide spectacular results when the fishing get difficult. Matching your gear to the conditions is very important and considering your leader and how it effects fishing should be at the front of your mind.

Live baiting often takes preparation to get the live bait in time for your fishing trip. Many a fishing session has been saved by some quick thinking and adapting live baiting techniques with what you have to hand.