Updated at: 06-10-2023 - By: petstutorial

Fishing is a popular pastime enjoyed by millions of people around the world. While there are various techniques and tools for catching fish, one of the most essential elements is the choice of bait.

While artificial lures can be effective, many anglers swear by the power of real live bait. In this article, we will explore the top 10 types of baitfish, ranked for their effectiveness in attracting and catching game fish.


10 Types Of Bait Fish Ranked For Effectiveness


Here’s a list of key points about minnows as effective baitfish, based on the search results:

– Minnows are a popular baitfish for species such as bass, bluegill, crappie, brown trout, walleye, northern pike, and muskellunge.
– There are various ways to hook a minnow, depending on the fishing technique and desired presentation.
– Hooking a minnow through the lips allows it to swim and breathe, making it suitable for trolling, casting, and still fishing with a sinker and bobber.
– Another method is to insert the hook on the minnow’s back right behind its dorsal fin, which is great for still fishing and typically keeps the minnow alive longer.
– Rigs that call for lip-hooked minnows include live-bait rigs such as a sliding weight or drop-shot rig, as well as with a sinker and bobber. You can also hook a minnow this way on a jig head to “sweeten” the lure.
– When hooking a minnow through the lips, thread the hook through first the lower, then the upper lip, allowing the minnow to swim upright.
– For ice fishing or using a sinker to still fish, hook the minnow through its back.
– To fish with an unweighted line, hook the minnow through its back.

Minnows are versatile baitfish that can be used in various fishing techniques and are effective for attracting a wide range of game fish. Understanding the different ways to hook a minnow and when to use each method can help increase your chances of success on the water.


Here’s a list of key points about ballyhoo as an effective baitfish, based on the search results:

– Ballyhoo, also known as the ballyhoo halfbeak (Hemiramphus brasiliensis), is a slender baitfish that is highly effective for offshore fishing.
– This baitfish is attractive to a wide range of pelagic fish, making it a popular choice for saltwater sportsmen.
– Ballyhoo can be used as both cut bait and for trolling purposes.
– They are often seen skimming the surface of the water, similar to skipping stones, as they try to escape from their predators.
– Ballyhoo are distributed in tropical-warm temperate latitudes on both sides of the Atlantic, with a presence in Florida, USA, where they inhabit shallow bank areas or grass flats associated with coral reefs.
– Catching ballyhoo can be done using various methods, including cast nets, which should be used carefully to avoid causing excessive trauma to the baitfish.
– Rigging live ballyhoo involves using a bridle rig, which allows the baitfish to swim freely and naturally, making it more enticing to game fish.
– To prepare ballyhoo for trolling, you can use a rigging needle to sew the baitfish’s mouth shut, ensuring that it stays securely on the hook.

Understanding the characteristics and proper handling of ballyhoo can help increase your success in offshore fishing. This versatile baitfish is a favorite among anglers targeting pelagic species and is known for its ability to attract a wide range of game fish.



Eels are a type of ray-finned fish belonging to the order Anguilliformes, which includes eight suborders, 20 families, 164 genera, and about 1000 species. They are characterized by their elongated, wormlike bodies and can range in length from 5 cm (2 in) to 4 m (13 ft).

Eels do not have pelvic fins, and many species also lack pectoral fins. Their dorsal and anal fins are fused with the caudal fin, forming a single ribbon that runs along much of their length.

Eels swim by generating waves that travel the length of their bodies. To swim backward, they reverse the direction of the wave. They are primarily predatory fish with carnivorous diets, and some eel species are cannibalistic. Their diet typically consists of smaller fish.

Eels undergo considerable development from the early larval stage to the eventual adult stage. They begin their lives as larvae, known as leptocephali, which drift along the surface waters of the sea, feeding on small particles.

They then metamorphose into glass eels and become elvers before finally seeking out their juvenile and adult habitats. While many eels remain in the sea throughout their lives, freshwater eels travel upstream to rivers and freshwater habitats.

Eels face various threats, including pollution, environmental changes, and overfishing. Dams and other mechanisms can also threaten their habitat and migration corridors.

The conservation status of eels varies depending on the species, with several commercially used species being threatened. For example, the European eel (Anguilla anguilla) is listed as “Critically Endangered” due to overfishing, parasites, and dam creation.

Some eel species are consumed as food in different parts of the world. The European eel and other freshwater eels are mostly eaten in Europe and the United States, while the New Zealand longfin eel is a traditional Māori food in New Zealand.

However, due to their conservation status, the consumption of certain eel species is being regulated to protect their populations.



Here’s a list of key points about mullet as an effective baitfish, based on the search results:

– Mullet are considered one of the best inshore baits, making them a top choice for aspiring inshore anglers.
– There are 78 species of mullet, each with a unique appearance and behavior, so imitating them is crucial for fooling wary inshore sport fish.
– Mullet can be found swimming on the surface, creating a small wake on calm water, rooting around the bottom and kicking up mud, hovering at mid-depths, or spasm, dart, and pause when injured.
– Mullet are scavengers and will eat most baits, so it’s important to keep the bait small enough for the mullet to swallow.
– When using mullet as bait, you can cut them up into smaller pieces, such as chunks or strips, to attract a wider range of fish.
– Mullet is an excellent bait for flounder, particularly in spring and summer when shrimp hatches are abundant.
– For lure fishing during the mullet run, some top choices include the Z-Man DieZel MinnowZ with Trout Eye Jighead, the LiveTarget Mullet Swimbait, and the five-inch Super Spook, which imitates a mullet swimming on the surface.


Here’s a list of key points about pilchards as an effective baitfish, based on the search results:

– Pilchards, also known as scaled sardines, are small baitfish in the herring family that travel in large schools.
– They are a popular and effective baitfish among anglers, used to catch a variety of game fish, including jacks, snook, and tarpon.
– Pilchards are perhaps the most universally used bait due to their availability and effectiveness.
– When using pilchards for bait, it’s important to rig them properly to maximize their attractiveness to fish.
– For snapper fishing, pilchards are considered the most effective and easily used bait, making them a top choice for anglers.
– Pilchards can be rigged using various methods, such as threading them onto a hook, using a bridle rig, or using a split-tail rig.
– These baitfish are known for their lively swimming action, which can attract predatory fish and trigger strikes.
– Pilchards are typically available for purchase at bait and tackle shops, making them a convenient option for anglers.

Understanding the characteristics and proper rigging techniques for pilchards can help increase your success in attracting and catching a variety of game fish. Their availability, effectiveness, and lively swimming action make them a top choice for many anglers.


Here’s a list of key points about pinfish as an effective baitfish, based on the search results:

– Pinfish are a great bait choice for fishing both offshore and inshore, as they are attractive to a wide range of fish species.
– They are particularly effective for catching redfish, snook, tarpon, cobia, grouper, mackerel, snapper, dolphin, and tuna.
– Pinfish are hardy and can be easily caught with hook and line, bait traps, or a cast net.
– They are known for their ability to stay alive in bait pens and live wells, making them a convenient bait option for anglers.
– One downside of pinfish is that they are tough to chum with compared to other baits like shrimp or pilchards.
– When bottom fishing with pinfish, a simple knocker rig with an egg sinker and a hook is effective.
– For fishing on the flats, letting the pinfish swim freely and hooking them in the back near the tail can attract predatory fish.
– Pinfish can be caught using a small gold hook on a dropper loop with a tiny piece of shrimp as bait.
– Properly hooking pinfish is essential for maximizing their effectiveness as bait, and various techniques can be used depending on the fishing situation.



Here’s a list of key points about shad as an effective baitfish, based on the search results:

– Shad is a type of fish, much valued as a sport fish, and is considered an excellent game fish, showing multiple jumps and occasional end-over-end movements.
– The American shad (Alosa sapidissima) is a species of anadromous clupeid fish naturally distributed on the North American coast of the North Atlantic, from Newfoundland to Florida, and as an introduced species on the North Pacific coast.
– Shad are closely related to river herring and look similar, with the exceptions of a series of dark spots on their side and a larger size.
– The American shad has been described as “the fish that fed the (American) nation’s founders”.
– Shad fishing techniques vary depending on the species and location. In the north of the US, shad spawn in coastal rivers and estuaries from April to June, once water temperatures have reached 58 °F.
– Shad stay near the bottom unless the water is unusually high, so the rig is designed to keep the lure a foot off the bed.
– During the shad spawning run, multiple species of shad run together, and fishing regulations may vary between species. Anglers must use caution when shad fishing to be able to make proper identification.
– Shad can be difficult to distinguish from other fish species, so anglers must be knowledgeable about their appearance and behavior to effectively target them.


Sardines are a popular bait for both saltwater and freshwater fishing due to their high oil content and strong smell, which make them appealing to a variety of predatory fish. They can be used as whole fish, cut bait, or in combination with artificial lures to provide additional scent and attract strikes. Here are some tips on using sardines as bait for fishing:

– Whole sardines: When using whole sardines, make sure your line weight matches the size of the bait fish you are using. Small sardines work best for line weights between 10 and 20 lb. test with hook sizes ranging from #6 up to 1/0. Use larger sardines on 15 to 40 lb. test line with hooks from #2 to 5/0.

– Cut bait: To make a single sardine go farther as bait, cut two equal-sized fillets from the fish. You can also use just the head, bones, and tail left as scrap from the filleting process as bait. If you plan on using a circle hook, try tying the bait to the hook below the eyelet to ensure the hook point remains exposed.

– Curing: When fishing with whole dead sardines or fillets, smaller fish will often take your bait from the hook. If this occurs, try cutting your sardines into chunks, or just use the head. These will stay on the hook better, preventing smaller fish from stealing your bait.

– Line weight: Ensure that your line weight matches the size of the bait fish you are using. Small sardines work best for line weights between 10 and 20 lb. test with hook sizes ranging from #6 up to 1/0. Use larger sardines on 15 to 40 lb. test line with hooks from #2 to 5/0.

– Gloves: Sardines are among the smelliest of bait fish, and their scent can remain on your hands for a long time. When handling sardines, it is recommended to wear gloves.

– Freshness: Fresh sardines are preferred for bait, as frozen sardines may not work as well. If you can, try to get fresh sardines from a local source, such as a sardine run, for the best results.


Here’s a list of key points about menhaden as an effective baitfish, based on the search results:

– Menhaden, also known as pogies or bunker, are one of the best baitfish and can catch nearly every species in a variety of environments.
– They are a versatile bait, suitable for cobia, tarpon, sharks, crevalle, redfish, grouper, king mackerel, tuna, and more.
– To catch menhaden, you can go to a marina or use a cast net in areas where they are known to be present, such as near structure or in schools.
– Menhaden are known for their strong smell and high oil content, which make them attractive to predatory fish.
– When using menhaden as bait, an adequately large circle hook is recommended for species like cobia, tarpon, sharks, and crevalle.
– Menhaden can be used as whole fish, cut bait, or in combination with artificial lures to provide additional scent and attract strikes.
– Fresh menhaden are preferred for bait, as frozen ones may not work as well. You can purchase fresh menhaden from local sources or catch them yourself.
– Menhaden are a popular baitfish for anglers targeting spotted seatrout, bluefish, king mackerel, tuna, and sharks.


Herring is a type of forage fish that belongs to the family Clupeidae. It is a small-headed, streamlined fish with silvery iridescent sides and a deep blue, metallic-hued back. There are two main species of herring: the Atlantic herring (Clupea harengus harengus) and the Pacific herring (C. harengus pallasii). These two species were once considered separate, but they are now believed to be only subspecifically distinct.

Herring is an important food source for humans and is known for its high Omega-3 content. It is mostly processed for smoking, curing, or canning, but it can also be enjoyed fresh by frying, grilling, or boiling.

Herring is a staple food in many cultures and can be prepared in various ways, such as raw herring with raw onion in the Netherlands, dried herring served with garlic, rice, and eggs for breakfast in the Philippines, and strong-smelling fermented herring (surströmming) eaten with flatbread and toppings in Sweden.

Herring is a sustainable seafood option, and herring carrying the blue Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) label is certified sustainable. MSC-labeled herring comes from a fishery that has been independently assessed to meet the MSC Fisheries Standard, ensuring that the fish and seafood sold with the blue label have come from sustainable fishing practices.


1. What are the top 10 bait fish ranked by effectiveness?

The top 10 bait fish, ranked by effectiveness, are:

1. Minnows (Freshwater) – Pike, bass, catfish, trout
2. Ballyhoo (Saltwater) – Marlin, sailfish, swordfish, dolphin, tuna, wahoo
3. Eels (Saltwater or Freshwater) – Cobia, striped bass, chinook salmon, steelhead trout
4. Mullet (Saltwater or Freshwater) – Snook, jack crevalle, tarpon, snapper, grouper, sharks
5. Threadfin Herring (Saltwater) – King mackerel, wahoo, sailfish, tuna, bonito, barracuda
6. Shad (Freshwater) – Stripers, big flathead and blue catfish, largemouth bass, walleyes
7. Pin Fish (Saltwater) – Snapper, cobia, grouper, amberjack
8. Sculpin (Freshwater) – Brook and brown trout, northern trout
9. Pilchards (Saltwater) – Snook, redfish, trout, tarpon
10. Madtoms (Freshwater) – Smallmouth bass

2. What are some factors to consider when choosing bait?

When choosing bait, consider factors such as the prey your targeted fish usually eats, the baitfish’s hardiness, and its availability.

3. Are there any other effective bait options?

Yes, there are many other effective bait options, including worms, crustaceans, and various artificial lures. The effectiveness of a bait can vary depending on the fish species and the fishing conditions.

4. What are some effective bait options for catfish?

Some effective bait options for catfish include worms, stink bait, shrimp, and skipjack herring. The choice of bait depends on the size of the catfish you are targeting and the fishing conditions.

5. Why are live baitfish highly effective for spotted seatrout?

Spotted seatrout become piscivorous (fish-eating) when they reach a certain size, making live baitfish highly effective for these popular gamefish.


5/5 - (1 vote)