As an angler, the bait we choose to use is a key part of fishing, no matter which fish we plan to catch. Your bait choice gives you the best chance of catching more and bigger fish. There are a lot of options of bait to put on your hook.
In this guide, we review the following:
What are the most common baits available for coarse fishing?
How to use them to catch more fish
How to buy them and how to best store them correctly
So read on to learn how to improve your chances to catch more fish and bigger fish. Here’s to Tight Lines and Wet Nets !!
#1 – Maggots
Maggots are the most popular bait all fishermen take when going fishing. They are available from all good tackle shops, usually sold in half pints or pints. There are various types, sizes and colours. A pint of ‘mixed maggots’ of red, white and yellow would be enough for a few hours of fishing. My personal favourite has to be the red coloured dyed maggot.
Difficult fishing days
Maggot Types available at your tackle shop
How to use them
Maggots can be loose-fed to attract fish to the specific spot you are fishing. Always try to concentrate your feed into the same small area. If you are fishing up to 20 feet, feeding by hand is perfect. If you are fishing further out from the bank, then it is better to use a pole cup or add them to groundbait. For fishing at longer distances, you are going to need to use a catapult.
On the hook
Hook the maggots through the wider area. (the fat end) This allows them to wriggle better and attract the fish. One single maggot or a bunch of them together can be placed on the hook.
Maggots are best kept in sealed bait boxes with perforated holes in the lid and stored in a fridge or cold area. This prevents them from turning into ‘chrysalids’ also known as ‘casters’. I suggest putting them in Maize meal, sawdust or bran in the box to make them last longer.
#2 – Worms
Fishermen have used worms for hundreds of years. They are an excellent, cheap and plentiful bait for every type of angler. Fish love their smell, taste and the “wriggling” movement.
There are three species of worms used in fishing and they are available at most tackle shops. Or why not make your own wormery!
All species of freshwater fish love worms, small or large fish, even Salmon and trout. You can learn more about fishing with worms in my detailed article here!
Where to find
Any fish – Typically large
Any fish – Medium/Small
Small – Medium/Small fish
Compost and Manure
Worm Types – available in most tackle shops
Note: Bloodworms are not a worm but from a fly (Midge)
How to use them
Worms cannot be loose-fed, it’s better to chop up your worms with a suitable pair of scissors and then add them to your groundbait to attract more fish. My favourite method is to attach them to the hook as a single or “cocktail” with other bait such as a maggot or caster.
On the hook
Lobworms can be used whole, but I prefer to use just the tail end, or the head. Larger fish tend to favour the bigger worms such as the lobworm. Redworms and Brandlings can be used as a single worm or a bunch, often used with maggot or caster as a “cocktail” bait.
When hooking a worm, we must ensure that it stays on the hook and that it will wriggle naturally to attract the fish. A whole worm can be hooked anywhere along its body or pierced a few times. (generally, 2 or 3 times is sufficient)
Tails or cut worms stay on the hook without too much concern. After hooking, make sure the hook point is slightly visible. The worm is a very tempting bait and, if lively, will wriggle to entice the fish to bite.
Worms are best stored in a bucket containing sphagnum moss. ( you can get this from a florist) The partly dampened moss will clean and toughen the worms. To keep worms always fresh, keep them in clean moss and add newspaper to your container. Do not store in jars or tins as this does not allow the worms to breathe.
Make sure to throw out any dead worms that you find, as these will affect the live ones. Worms are also sensitive to temperature change, if possible try not to store them in a fridge. A cool shed or garage at 10c and under is perfect!
#3 – Sweetcorn
Sweetcorn today is one of the most popular baits among European anglers. In my early fishing trips in the 1970s, it was hardly ever used by anglers. I have always used Sweetcorn for catching lake estate Tench, (“laying-on” ) and have had great results fishing corn. Even today corn remains one of the baits I always have in my tackle bag.
One of Sweetcorn’s greatest attractions is its availability and its convenience. From the can, it needs no preparation, straight from the can you use it as a hook bait. But if you intend prebaiting with large quantities, you can buy bulk. Canned corn is the most popular but frozen corn kernels can be used and are slightly cheaper in bulk.
How to use them
Sweetcorn can be used in a wide range of waters, both running and still. Roach, Bream, Tench and Carp are especially fond of them. A single kernel or two on a hook is the best method. I choose to pick the kernels to be full and round when attaching to the hook. They are easy to throw as loose feed in a concentrated area or added to groundbait.
On the hook
I use a spade end hook with a prominent spade as this helps to keep the corn on the shank. Since the bright yellow colour and the smell acts as the attractant, putting them on the hook is easy. Make sure the hook point is slightly visible.
In the canned form, they can be stored in any kitchen area until opened, when returning from a fishing trip make sure they are kept in the fridge for the next trip. Sweetcorn will last three days in the fridge, after that it can be put in the freezer to keep it longer.
If you buy in the frozen form then storage becomes a little more of a challenge. Once they have thawed out I find they tend to be a little soggy with water. I suggest taking only what you need on your fishing trip and not refreezing them once you have fished for the day.
Always try to keep your opened corn out of the sun, otherwise, you will find it does tend to go bad and smell quite fast.
#4 – Bread
If you want a readily available and cheap fishing bait, try bread. Most species can be caught using it, and it’s especially good for catching carp and tench. Bread is an old-fashioned bait but can be fished with a few options – flake, punched, crust and paste. The first three come from a new loaf, the last from an older loaf.
How to use it
My preference is to use it in flake form, take a small piece (around 2cm), and push the hook into the middle. Finally, lightly pinch the bread around the hook’s shank.
Anglers also use a bread punch that cuts out small pieces of bread, which are attached to the hook. This method is great for catching smaller fish, especially during the winter period.
When fishing with Bread Crust, it must come from a fresh loaf and should be not more than two or three days old. The best way to cut the crust from an unsliced loaf is to insert the point of a sharp knife into the side of the crust. Cut through the crust in the shape of a square. When you pull the square of crust away from the loaf, a chunk of the soft flake beneath it will also come away. A Floating crust bait is very popular among carp and chub fishermen. The crust must be soft, so its freshness is important.
Note: Although Bread paste is mentioned in this topic, using and preparing it is different. I have put a separate topic on pastes in another article.
On the hook
Bread is difficult to keep on the hook, requiring a side cast to ensure it does not “fly” off. The hook point must be visible. I would recommend a minimum size 14 hook for all types of bread fishing.
Bread Storage is easy, to keep it fresh, keep it in a sealed bag to prevent it from drying out. Whilst fishing, keep the bread out of the sun to stop it from going hard. Once you are out fishing keep it out of the direct sun to avoid it drying out.
If you do have any old bread then keep it for making your own groundbait.
#5 – Casters
The chrysalis of the fly is known to anglers as a caster. At this point in its life-cycle (from egg > maggot > pupa > fly) it is an excellent bait. All fish will eat casters but Roach, Chub and Dace are partial to them.
Casters are best purchased from a tackle shop. From a fresh maggot, it takes five or six days to turn into a chrysalis with a temperature between 65° and 70°F
How to use them
When I get to my chosen fishing spot, I rinse the casters and remove any floaters and discard the remaining water. Casters can be loose-fed and are perfect to add to groundbait. Casters work best on clear waters, especially in the hotter summer months, so when a river is coloured it may be best to revert to the maggot. The best Casters are a consistent dark red.
On the hook
The biggest hook size you can use will be a size 14, but generally, I use a 16 or 18. The hook must be hidden inside the caster. Hold the caster between thumb and forefinger and, with the hook in the other hand, pierce the head of the caster with the point. Turn the hook very gently into the caster and, with some of the hook shank still showing, tap the top of the shank until the hook sinks into the caster.
Casters are usually fished singly, or in twos, threes and fours. In deeper, fast-flowing water, casters are best introduced as groundbait. Casters can also be used in combination with other small bait, such as worms or maggots.
I wrap my casters in a wet towel and leave them in a container overnight. Next morning this helps make all the casters change to the same colour. Casters are best kept in a refrigerator for a maximum of a week.
Casters go “off” quickly if not looked after properly. Make sure they are kept correctly as they are more expensive than maggots.
If you are new to fishing and are not quite sure which bait to take with you fishing, then go for these 5 most versatile and easy to use fishing baits. Not only are they affordable, but they are almost guaranteed to catch fish.