I’ll give you a hint: live bait is one of the most effective ways to catch trout. And it’s also one of the most affordable baits you can use. In fact, you can often find many of the most popular live baits in your backyard.
Anyway, I will cover all the best live baits you can use to catch trout. I’ll even give some tips on how to fish and hook the different baits.
- 1 The Different Types of Live Bait for Trout
- 1.1 Earthworms
- 1.2 Waxworms
- 1.3 Minnows
- 1.4 Maggots
- 1.5 Crickets and Grasshoppers
- 1.6 Crawfish
- 1.7 Hellgrammites
- 1.8 Mayfly Larvae
- 2 Best Live Bait for Trout – Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
- 3 Final Thoughts
The Different Types of Live Bait for Trout
Earthworms are probably the most well-known live baits for catching trout. Even non-anglers associate freshwater fishing with putting a wiggling worm onto a hook. The reason for this association?
It works. In my experience, no other live bait performs as well as an earthworm on a hook. The type of worm doesn’t matter, either. I prefer using a nightcrawler because they get much bigger than red worms.
Where to find earthworms?
You can buy earthworms at any fishing shop or Wal-Mart. You can even buy them online, and have them shipped straight to your doorstep. Personally, I prefer digging a hole to find earthworms.
It really doesn’t matter where you purchase your earthworms. All that matters is that you have an earthworm.
First, a waxworm is simply a moth larvae. In that sense, a waxworm isn’t even really a worm, but they do behave very similarly to a worm. If you’re trying to visualize them, then think of them as a larger version of a maggot.
For trout fishing, these larvae work quite well. Most trout fishermen like to tip their spoons or jigs with a waxworm. Doing that just makes it more appealing for the trout. Not many fishermen fish only a waxworm, but it would likely work. Remember, trout eat waxworms in the wild.
Where to find waxworms?
You probably won’t find a waxworm in your backyard. They’re small, and just difficult to find in a large quantity. Fortunately, you can purchase them online and in most bait shops. Make sure to carefully follow the directions for storing them since they have a tendency to die.
Many trout fishermen are surprised that trout bite minnows, which surprises me. A crankbait, spoon, and spinner all imitate a minnow, so it makes perfect sense that a minnow would work for catching trout.
Minnows actually work quite well for catching trout, too. I recommend trying them if trout aren’t biting your earthworms.
There isn’t much strategy to fishing a minnow. Just hook it in the tail or lips (I recommend tail) and let it swim around. Some fishermen will use a weight to get the minnow to the bottom, but I don’t find that necessary. The minnow will find a natural depth if given enough line.
You can even use a dead minnow as trout bait. Some fishermen like to hold a dead minnow in the current, which mimics a minnow holding its position in the water. I’m of the opinion that it’s better to use a spinner or spoon than hold a dead minnow in place. However, you can still catch trout with a dead minnow.
Where to find live minnows?
I like to use a minnow trap to catch my minnows. They’re very effective and easy to use. You can sometimes find minnows at your bait shop, but the cost will add up over time. In the long run, it’s much cheaper to use a minnow trap.
Maggots are the most disgusting bait that you can use to catch trout. Fortunately, trout don’t mind. Everyone already knows what maggots are, so I won’t bother explaining them.
For fishing with maggots, I recommend tipping the hooks on your lures with maggots. It obviously isn’t necessary if you’re using a lure, but you will tend to catch more trout with a maggot-tipped lure. The trout also hold onto a maggot-tipped hook a little longer than a bare hook. This is likely because they really want to eat that maggot.
With that in mind, you can also put a few maggots on a bare hook. Personally, I only use maggots to tip lures. But maggots are a viable option if you can’t find earthworms.
Where to find maggots?
You can find maggots on rotting meat. The meat will smell bad, but the maggots don’t have any smell. I recommend storing them in a tupperware container in your jacket pocket.
Crickets and Grasshoppers
Crickets and grasshoppers make an excellent surface trout bait. I’d also say they’re probably the easiest live bait to use and find. Yes, even easier than earthworms.
All you have to do is find a grasshopper or cricket, hook it through the head and abdomen, and float it on the surface. I also like to give it an occasional twitch to send some ripples through the water.
One thing to remember with using grasshoppers or crickets is that you shouldn’t use them when it’s bright – trout don’t like looking into the sun. Early morning and late evening are the best times to use crickets and grasshoppers to catch trout.
Where to find crickets and grasshoppers?
You can easily find crickets in the woods or bait shops.
As the name implies, grasshoppers are usually found in grass. In the spring and summer you will often have a hard time not finding grasshoppers.
I prefer grasshoppers because they’re so easy to find. But crickets will often work a little better than grasshoppers. I recommend trying out both and seeing what works for you.
Most trout fishermen don’t even think to use crayfish as bait. I’m not too surprised, though. Crawfish aren’t normally sold at bait shops, and almost no one uses them as bait.
Despite this, crayfish make excellent trout bait. If you’re going for large trout, then I recommend using big crawfish. And yes, you can use them alive. They have a tendency to use their claws to hold onto the bottom, so you should take off the claws if you decide to use them alive.
If you’re going for smaller trout, then you should use smaller crawfish. You can also use the tail if you can only find large crawfish.
How to hook a crawfish for trout?
Hooking a crayfish for trout is easy. Just slide a bigger hook (size 6 to size 2) through the tail. I recommend fishing crayfish off the bottom, and try to mimic how they move in nature if you’re using a dead crawfish as bait.
Where to find crawfish?
You won’t normally find crawfish at the bait shop. Sometimes they have it, but it’s rare and not something you see on a consistent basis.
Due to that, I recommend catching crawfish on your own. If you leave a shad-baited minnow trap out overnight, you will often have crawfish in the trap. Now, I normally eat those crawfish, but you can use them to catch trout.
Hellgrammites are the larvae of the dobsonfly. They look like a centipede with a giant pincher, which makes them fairly easy to spot.
Anyway, trout love hellgrammites. And they are a very practical bait since they rarely fall off the hook.
How to hook a hellgrammite for trout?
The pincher on a hellgrammite does hurt, which makes hooking a hellgrammite to your hook somewhat difficult. I recommend hooking through the head and working your way to the tail. Try not to kill the hellgrammite, though.
How to fish a hellgrammite?
Fishing hellgrammites is pretty easy. Just let them float in the current. You should use a split shot or two to get them down in the water.
Also, make sure that the bait does not grab onto a rock. Trust me, hellgrammites will want to grab onto a rock, and trout generally don’t eat them when they’re hanging on a rock.
My favorite part about using hellgrammites is that they rarely fall off the hook. You can even use them to catch multiple trout.
Where to find hellgrammites?
Finding hellgrammites is easy – just look for them on river rocks. If you can’t find any, then start flipping over partially submerged river rocks. The hard part isn’t finding hellgrammites – it’s catching and baiting them without getting pinched.
To not get pinched, grab them directly behind the pinchers. Don’t squeeze too hard as you somewhat easily crush its head.
Mayfly larvae are fairly similar to hellgrammites, so feel free to use them if you can’t find hellgrammites. You will often find them in colder streams than hellgrammites, though.
How to fish mayfly larvae trout?
You fish mayfly larvae the same way you fish hellgrammites. Just let them float in the current on a hook with a few split shots to get them further down the water column. Just make sure that they don’t attach themselves to a rock.
Where to find mayfly larvae?
You will usually find mayfly larvae on river rocks. Simply pick up a rock, flip it upside down, and scrape off the larvae with a dip net. You can even store them in a tupperware container.
Best Live Bait for Trout – Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
What size hook should I use when fishing for trout with live bait?
This just depends on the type of live bait you are using.
You can use size 2 hooks with large crawfish. But you will mostly use hooks smaller than size 6 when fishing for trout. Remember, you can still catch decent sized trout using small bait on a small hook.
Do I need to use weight when fishing for trout with live bait?
Yes, you will usually need weight when using live bait. However, I recommend only using a few split shots to get the bait a little lower in the water column. You don’t normally fish live bait off the bottom.
That covers it for the different types of live bait for trout. As you may have noticed, trout aren’t picky eaters. They eat almost any living thing in the water that is smaller than them.
They do have favorites, though. If I could use only one live bait for trout, then I would choose earthworms. But still, if you find an unknown insect or bug wiggling in the water, then you should put it on your hook – the trout might like it!