The types of live bait available for fishing are numerous and can be divided into two basic categories. Live bait for fishing in freshwater and bait for fishing in saltwater. This introduction to the most common kinds of live bait will focus on freshwater fisheries.

Four basic categories of bait for freshwater are:

      • Worms
      • Leeches
      • Minnows
      • Insects


Worms most used for fishing are either nightcrawlers or redworms. The common angleworm or earthworm that are commonly dug up in gardens or those that you see robins pluck out of the grass. Angleworm and earthworm are two different names for the same species. A nightcrawler is a colossal specimen of earthworm. Worms have been the go-to choice of fisherpersons for centuries. A bonus is that you may get them for free in your back yard. You can also purchase them by the dozen in bait shops.

They are best used to target small panfish or bass when fishing near shore. Walleye, perch, and crappies also readily bite on worms.


Blood-sucking leeches creep some people out, especially when it’s time to slide one of these slippery creatures onto a hook. Leeches are segmented water worms that bear a sucker, which they use to attach to a host so that they can feed off blood.

Leeches are excellent bait for going after pike and walleye. They are an alternative to worms when fishing from shore for panfish, such as crappies or sunfish. They are best used when fishing in deeper water from a boat to go after larger fighting fish like northern pike, bass, and walleye. They come in small to jumbo sizes.


Minnows are a more advanced form of bait. They are a tad more challenging to work with than worms or leeches, but the payoff is that anglers will catch larger fish. The most common minnows used for fishing are flatheads and chubs. Flatheads are 1-inch to 3-inches in length, and chubs average 2-inches to 4-inches. A minnow’s advantage is that they present a live, active lure that attracts fish by both sight and smell.


Insects are the least common choice of fisherpersons, and they are not always sold in bait shops. Most anglers catch their own or buy them in pet shops where they are sold to feed other pets. Crickets and grasshoppers are prized as excellent bait for trout fishing in streams or rivers.