bait fishing for bass

What is the best bait for bass?

The answer to this question is pretty simple. But before you start going out buying bait, or go bait digging with your trusty garden fork let’s take a look at some of the points you should take into consideration before casting miles into the distance to try and catch that bass.

Here are 4 important things to take into consideration.

  • Your location

  • What ground/terrain your fishing over

  • What food the fish are likely to be feeding on

  • What time of year are you fishing 

For me, there is nothing better than getting a bucket of peelers and just sitting there waiting for your rod tip to arch over, or even fly off the rod stand. But there is one thing that has always left me wondering…What is the best bait for bass? We take a look at what baits another bass fisherman in the is using.

They are:

  • Squid

  • Mackerel

  • Live Prawns

  • Crab

  • Ragworm

  • Black Lug

  • Yellowtails

  • Live Sand Eels

Squid

There are hundreds of different types of squid that swim throughout our vast oceans. But the type we use for fishing in our waters is the calamari.

Squid is an absolute killer bait for our beloved bass. You can buy fresh Calamari from the fishmongers but generally, you would but it frozen from the tackle shops.

One night while we were lure fishing down Folkestone I caught a squid on the lure. This is a definite first for me but apparently other anglers have caught them too.

Squid for Bass

Squid

How do I fish with squid 

If you are trying to target the bigger bass then the normal tactic would be to use a ‘Pennel Pulley Rig’. This rig consists of two hooks to which one runs freely on the hook line. This way we can present the bait as though it looks like a whole squid.

 Presentation of your bait is everything especially fishing with the squid. Also, we can bind the squid on the hook with some elasticated cotton also purchased from your tackle shop.

Another key thing to remember with bait fishing for bass is that you don’t have to cast that far. In fact, many a total novice have landed big bass with the most primitive of fishing tackle. 

Holiday Maker Fish of a Lifetime

Once, a holidaymaker caught a ‘fish of a lifetime 12lb bass of the pier with a painted spinner and a whelk (purchased from the seafood shop on the pier). This is quite a common occurrence in the fishing world simply because the bass feed in very close sometimes and a novices casting skills means they are usually casting right on the money.

Squid can also be cut into strips or use the head and tentacles on a single hook but you are more likely to catch smaller or other species of fish with a smaller bait. We want the big boys.

Mackerel

Mackerel being a rather tasty fish to eat can also be a great bait for bass. 

Mackerel usually appear in the summer months and are a stable food source for the hungry bass. 

The Mackerel in their shoals will be hunting after baitfish (also another food for bass) therefor bass is going to be chasing the mackerel this is like a food chain.

Mackerel can be caught from the shore using feathers. The Admiralty Pier in Dover is a classic venue for this in the summer months. 

With anglers catching sometimes hundreds of Mackerel in a day. Sometimes we catch the odd Mackerel while fishing for bass on the lures. Also, Garfish are usually about when this happens.

How to fish with Mackerel 

From the shore, Mackerel would not be my number one choice although the deeper waters fishing from a boat is ideal for bass.

One tactic angler’s use is a method called the ‘flapper’. This is the head of the fish and the two sides like fillets left intact. 

In strong tides, this method can be lethal for big bass. In fact, I’m pretty sure the previous UK bass record was caught on the flapper off or the Dover breakwater. 

This was fish down the breakwater water in that savage tide run. On that note, and as we have mentioned that tide run is a crucial factor for catching bass. 

It’s not always the be and end all but certainly makes a major difference. This means the higher the tide the stronger the tide run.

Live Prawns

Now, this has to be a dark horse in the bait genre for bass. The first time I ever tried live prawns I was amazed at what they produced right off the bat.

My friend had gone and bought a shrimp net and had a go right where we catch bass around our hometown of Margate.

There are groins that the prawns seem to congregate around and this is where he had collected them.

Shrimp Net

You could just push the shrimp net around the sandy bays in the shallow water to get your prawns, but he did things a bit different.

To be honest I’ve always seen prawns in the rock pools for god knows how long. They seem to look at what you are doing (normally looking for a peeler crab) then ping off as you try to capture one of them.

In the summer months, the prawns seem to be in abundance if you can be bothered to get them. Normally we’d be lure fishing so that means no bait. But we don’t always have the conditions for lure fishing ( as I mentioned throughout the site) so this is another great bait for bass.

Bass fishing with Live Prawns

How to fish with live prawns:

The only way for me to get optimal results and the most fun is to use light gear and fishing with pike float on with a small circle hook. Then nick the live prawn through its back ( so it can stick flicker in the water) then add another. If bass is around they will nail it before you can put the rod down.

My mate was using a normal rig with a 4-ounce weight on a pulley rig. The only downside to this is the prawns tend to come off too easily when you cast out and the bait and weight hit the water.

Peeler Crabs

This has got to be my personal favourite bait for bass. In 2019, I smashed my previous PB (personnel best) on peeler crab. I had two bass in the space of a week, one of 11 pounds and the other 9 pounds 2. It just goes to show you for all the years I have been fishing, I have still never caught a bass like that. 

Around our neck of the woods, you usually get to find peeler crabs from May onwards. You have to be pretty quick though, once the crabs start their moult there is a good amount of people trying to capitalise on them. People sell them to tackle shops so if you had a couple of hundreds you are going to be quids in.

If you’re anything like me, sometimes,  I would just rather go out and buy them hence why there are so many people crabbing at that time of the year.

 Not only have you the common Shore crab you also can find Pungers and Velvet crabs. To me, the Velvet crabs are of a rather vicious nature. Sometimes, its as if they’re just waiting for you to put your hands under their rock.

On that note rocks are not always the best places to find the peeler crab. They like to burrow under the silty sand in rock pools and also under the weed. So anywhere with that kind of environment is going to be a likely place to find them.

best bait for bass

How to fish with Peeler Crab:

First of all, we have to peel our peeler crab. Now it can make a difference in how hard the peeler crab is to how easy they are to peel. The test whilst looking for them is to twist a section of their leg to see if they are ready. Click here to see a tutorial on peeling a crab

As for putting the peeler crab on the hook, we are going to be using a Pennel Rig the same as we did for the squid. Wrapping elastic around the body then using the peeled legs for the hook tip. This gives our bait a better presentation this is quite important. Then we simply hook the second hook through the other part of the crab.

In the real world, no one likes a softie but in the fishing game, they are going to give us an edge. Why? What’s the difference? The answer is I really don’t know.

But here are 3 good reasons:

  1. They are less hassle because you don’t have to peel them.
  2. They are still in one piece meaning they look more authentic IMO
  3. They seem more productive.

The night before I had my PB was a good example of what I’m talking about. My fishing friend had caught more bass than me simply because he kept the softies in his private stash.

Now you’re thinking what a tight git. But no, he had done all the work getting the peelers in the daytime so I had no complaints whatsoever. 

You see when you are using two rods each, and the Dogfish are about (who absolutely love peeler crab) you are going to get through a lot of crabs. 

When the bass turn up, they just seem to home in on where you are fishing, it can get a bit hairy, to say the least. You don’t have time to bait up sometime. I frustratedly kept missing bits for some reason, then the inevitable happens you have to re-bait. That’s why the softies come in handy.

On the night I had the PB I just didn’t have time to peel the crabs, ever time I left the rod for a second, Id look back, then to my utter horror my rod would be hanging off the rod rest. I missed bites but hook the biggy so happy days.

If you’re solely going to be targeting bass then you should maybe take some of these tips and tricks on board. Let’s take a look at some of the frequently asked questions and get some answers.

Ragworm 

This is another awesome bait for bass. This can be a pain if you are going to try and dig your own. To be honest, I never have, in fact I have only ever known one venue where you could dig for them, and that is at Ramsgate Harbour. 

I had seen the state of this bloke that had been down there digging for them at low tide. It must have been a pretty deep dig because he was covered in like chalky mud slime. Think I’ll leave that to the pro’s. 

How to fish with Ragworm. 

With the Ragworm there are a few different tactics we can choose:

  1. We can use a single hook on a float rig (like we do with the live prawns) and just hook the Ragworm through the head. This way it can still wriggle around. Another bonus about fishing this method those hungry crabs can’t get to your bait.
  2. This method is the more conventional way of fishing the Ragworm. This tactic is called a 3 hook flapper (click here) Basically, this is a rig where the line hook lengths are pretty much the same even tied up the leader or main hook line. Probably, not my number tactic for bass but still great for fishing off the pier or the beach. Hence, not the rock’s, your probably going to get snagged with the 3 hook set up. Remember, Ragworm can be up to a foot long so perfect for the 3 hook flapper. 
  3. The last tactic is to use a 1 hook Pulley rig with a fairly long hook length. As for the Ragworm, you should use the whole worm and thread it up the line. Then because it’s a 2 hook the second hook to hold the worm in one place. This would be a good bass or cod tactic but I suppose with worm you’re going to catch everything.

Yellowtails. 

Apart from the yellow stain they leave all over your hands, these bad boys are lethal for bass. 

Aloft harder to dig than your conventional blow lug they are a lot deeper in the sand. I have never dug them personally but have been down there with someone who is used to digging them. There is a definite knack. 

Bait Pump

Surely, there has to be an easier way? 

Well, the good news is that there is an easier way…a bait pump. 

You can buy bait pumps at most tackle shops but to be honest I would look online first to get the best price. Like everything these days even with a bait pump: YOU GET WHAT YOU PAY FOR. 

Using a bait pump will take a bit of getting used to but will save you a bad back and a lot of hard work digging.

One important thing to remember with the Yellowtails is to keep any that had burst or split separately from the worms that are in one piece. They will keep longer if you keep them separate.

How to fish with Yellowtails:

Fish the Yellowtail the same as tactic 3 in the Ragworm section above. 1 worm on a Pulley rig… job done. 

Live Sand eels 

If you are lucky enough to get hold off live Sand eels then good for you, they are a great bait for bass. I have caught Sand eels on the lures locally so they are definitely out there. You can get these tiny feathers from the tackle shops that people use to catch them. 

But whether you get them or more importantly how do you get them is another matter. I have known people to get them down the side of the harbour arm on these little feathers but not witnessed this myself. 

Another method for getting Sand eel is with a Sane net. This is what people use from the sandy bays. Again, I have been looking into this all I know that if you can go out of your way, then they are an awesome bait.

You can always buy frozen Sand eels from your local tackle shock but the real thing is a bonus. You can buy frozen peeler crabs but we all know they are not so good. If I had the choice of getting live or frozen I would break my back to get the real deal.

How to Fish the Sand eel:

The best way to fish the live Sand eel from the shore is to free line the live eel down the side of the harbour wall and just let it drift with the tide.

Also, another popular way to fish the Sand eel in the estuary mouths but be sure that you know what you’re doing. You don’t want to sink in the mud if that what the ground is like where your fishing.

Safety first guys!

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