How Much Does Live Bait Cost?

What kind of bait you use primarily depends on what you’re fishing for. However, most anglers agree that live bait is the way to go. Still, there is a cost factor to consider when fishing with live bait versus reusable lures and tackle. 

Live bait costs vary depending on the type of bait, the quantity, and where you buy it from. People can fish with very inexpensive live bait like earthworms or they can use pricier options depending on what they’re trying to catch. However, most live bait costs $3 to $8 per dozen. 

Types of Live Fish Bait

There are many, many different types of live fish bait that people use depending on what they’re trying to catch. Other factors like geographic location and the type of water may also influence what kind of live bait an angler chooses. Before we discuss the costs of live bait, it’s a good idea to take a look at the different types that are available. 

Live Bait for Freshwater

If you’re fishing in freshwater, there are a lot of options when it comes to bait and tackle. However, some of the most common and most popular types include: 

  • Earthworms
  • Red Worms
  • Nightcrawlers
  • Mealworms
  • Wax Worms (Grubs)
  • Grasshoppers or Crickets
  • Minnows
  • Other Small Fish
  • Shrimp 

Of those common live baits, the various types of worms are the most common. You can find worms for fishing at virtually any bait and tackle shop. Worms are popular because they’re relatively inexpensive, versatile, and easy to use. 

Grasshoppers and crickets are good options for bluegills, crappie, bass, catfish, and bullheads. They’re great for year-round freshwater fishing, and they’re naturally appealing to a variety of species in all different environments. 

Bait Type Estimated Cost
Earthworms $2 – $5 (per 2 dozen)
Nightcrawlers $25 – $35 (per pound ~ 350-400 worms)
Mealworms $10 – $15 (per 1000)
Grasshoppers $2 – $5 (per dozen)
Crickets $2 – $6 (~ 50 crickets)
Minnows $3 – $6 (per dozen)
Shrimp $12 – $16 (per quart ~ 50-75 shrimp)

Live Bait for Saltwater

For saltwater fishing, it’s even more important to use the right kind of bait for the species that you’re hoping to catch. However, many anglers use one of these live baits:

  • Shrimp
  • Shellfish
  • Cut Bait 
  • Bait Fish

Shrimp is a very popular choice for saltwater fishing because of its versatility. It’s sort of an “all-purpose” live bait. Shrimp are super common in all sorts of aquatic environments and ecosystems, so they’re natural prey for many larger fish. Both the smell and the movement attracts fish, and you can catch fish of all sizes with shrimp. 

The only downside is that some fish can get away with your shrimp, which can get expensive if it happens too frequently. But, many anglers have great luck fishing with shrimp, making it a worthy risk for most people. Popular catches like redfish and snapper are especially attracted to shrimp, so it’s a go-to for saltwater fishing. 

Like shrimp, shellfish is also a versatile option that appeals to a wide range of fish. Whether you use crabs, mussels, or clams, you’ll be able to attract a variety of species. Some anglers prefer to let these baits firm up in the sun to make them easier to hook. Clams can be especially slippery. If you use crabs, you’ll have to take care to watch out for a wayward claw when baiting your hook. 

Grouper love the aroma of shellfish, so it’s a go-to for saltwater fishing. However, you’ll need to be familiar with local regulations. Some areas have rules about using certain shellfish as bait. 

Cut bait isn’t live bait when you hook it, but it starts out live. This is an easy and cost effective bait, because you can use whatever small fish you catch throughout the day. Cutting up these freshly caught small fish releases a strong and attractive smell for larger fish. Cut bait is especially effective for desirable catches like mahi mahi, bluefish, or sea bass. 

Bait fish can include any number of species that you can set on your hook to attract larger fish. Eels, pinchards, pinfish, and ballyhoo are all popular choices. It can be a very economical option if you choose to catch your own bait fish with a casting net, but you can also purchase them at a bait shop before you head out on the water. 

Is Live Bait Better than Lures? 

The type of bait that you use depends on what you’re fishing for and the environment. That being said, there are some general factors that appeal to all fish no matter what’s on your hook. Your bait needs to coax the fish into biting it, which means it needs to look, smell, and seem like something that it would naturally eat.

Since most fish eat things that are alive, live baits work better for some fish. However, there are many lures that look and sound like live bait, making them equally effective. 

Lures are certainly more convenient to use than live bait. You can use them again and again and keep them stored with your fishing gear. Live bait, on the other hand, has to be kept alive and you have to acquire it whenever you’re ready to go fishing. 

While the cost for lures may be higher up front, some anglers believe that the long-term return is better when compared with live bait. Certain live baits are expensive and if you don’t have any luck, you essentially wasted your money. 

Which Live Bait is Best?

The species that you’re fishing for will determine which live bait is the best choice. Some live baits are very versatile and you can use them to catch all kinds of fish. However, knowing which species are best suited for which baits can help save you some money and have better luck when you get out onto the water. 

Live Bait  Works Best For…
Worms Bluegill, Trout, Bass, Catfish, Walleye, Sunfish
Minnows Black Bass, Walleye, Trout, Crappie, Pickerel, Striped Bass, White Bass, Salmon
Crayfish Black Bass, Catfish, Rock Bass, Trout
Grasshoppers Bluegill, Sunfish, Crappie, Trout
Shad Catfish, Largemouth Bass, Striper
Frogs Black Bass, Catfish, Pickerel, Walleye
Leeches Sunfish, Catfish, Trout, Black Bass, Walleye
Mealworms Trout, Rock Bass, Black Bass, Sunfish, Catfish, Crappie

How to Fish with Worms

Worms are some of the most versatile and popular live fish baits out there. When you buy worms for fishing, they usually come in a can or plastic container packed to the brim with dark soil. It can be tricky to hook these little wigglers, but the process is the same no matter what type of worm you decide to go with. 

The ideal worms are between four and eight inches long. Use the right size hook to match your worm. A 3/0 or 5/0 hook is probably best for your worm. You should also use a bobber and some lightweight split shot sinkers along with a lightweight clear fishing line. 

To put the worm on your hook, insert the hook into the worm’s body and thread it along the hook’s shank, going through the worm two to three times. Make sure that at least some of the worm is free off the end of the hook so that it will dangle and wiggle to attract fish. 

Cast out your line and watch the bobber. When it dips underneath the water, it’s time to set the hook and reel in your catch. 

Try to keep your worms (and any live bait) free of your human smells. That means if you’ve got sunscreen or bug spray on your hands, try to minimize your handling of the bait. These odors can make your live bait much less appealing to the fish. 

The Bottom Line

Live bait is a really effective way to catch fish, and it’s also an affordable option. Many anglers prefer live bait to lures because of the lower cost, but it can get pricey over time if you’re not using the right bait for the environment or not baiting the hook correctly. 

Popular live baits include worms, grasshoppers, crickets, and small fish like minnows. The key with live bait is to use something that the fish naturally eats in its environment. Since many fish eat small insects and other critters like worms, they make for versatile bait choices. 

In most cases, you’ll spend under $10 for a day’s supply of live bait. However, you may find a better deal at a small local tackle shop versus a big box store. On the other hand, some anglers report that stores like Wal-Mart have better deals on bait than small, private retailers. 

Whatever you choose, make sure you also purchase whatever supplies you need to keep your live bait alive for the duration of your fishing trip. Live bait becomes much less appealing to the fish when it’s dead, so plan ahead to care for your bait until you’re ready to hook it.

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