As an angler, the bait we choose to use is a key part of fishing, no matter what 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 for bait to put on your hook.
In this guide, I will review the following key aspects of the five best baits for coarse fishing.
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 coarse fishing sessions. Here’s to tight lines and wet nets!
Maggots are the most popular bait all fishermen take when going fishing. They are available from all good tackle shops and are usually sold in half pints or pints. There are various types, sizes and colours available. A pint of ‘mixed maggots’ of red, white and yellow would be enough for a few hours of fishing, making them an economical bait option. 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 your fishing spot. Always try to concentrate your feed into the same small area. Feeding by hand is perfect if you are fishing up to 20 feet. If you are fishing further out from the bank, then it is better to use a pole cup or add them to a groundbait mix. 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 and prevent them from sweating in the hot weather.
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.
Three species of worms are used in fishing and are available at most good fishing tackle shops. Alternatively, why not make your own garden wormery which will provide a ready supply and save you money!
All species of freshwater fish love worms, small or large fish, and even Salmon and trout. You can learn more about fishing with worms in my detailed article here!
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 single maggot or caster.
On the hook
Lobworms can be used whole, but I prefer to use just the tail end or hooked through 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-up 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. Large worms require using a larger hook; a size 12 or 14 is the best option to keep them on the hook.
Worms are best stored in a bucket containing sphagnum moss. ( you can get this from any florist shop) 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 worms in jars or tins, as this does not allow them to breathe, and they will die.
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!
Sweetcorn today is one of the most popular baits among European anglers. In my early fishing trips in the 1970s, anglers hardly ever used them. I have always used sweetcorn for catching lake estate tench using the “laying-on” method 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 you can buy bulk if you intend to prebaiting with large quantities. Canned corn is the most popular, but frozen corn kernels can be used and are slightly cheaper to buy in bulk.
How to use them
Sweetcorn can be used in a wide range of running and still waters. Roach, bream, tench and carp are especially fond of them. A single kernel or two on a hook is the best method. I prefer to choose the full and round kernels when attaching them to the hook. Corn is also easy bait to throw as loose feed in a concentrated area or added to groundbait, as they are heavier than maggots or casters.
On the hook
I use a spade end hook with a prominent spade to hold the knot firmly, which helps keep the corn on the shank. Since the bright yellow colour and the smell act as attractants, no additives are required to entice fish to the bait. It is easy to put them on the hook; just ensure the hook point protrudes through the corn and is slightly visible.
In the canned form, they can be stored in any kitchen area until opened. When returning from a fishing trip, ensure 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, 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, it tends to go bad and smell quite fast.
If you want 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 four main options – flake, punched, crust, and paste. The first three come from a new loaf, and the bread paste is made using an older loaf.
How to use it
I prefer 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 to hold the bread on the hook.
Anglers also use a bread punch that cuts out small round or square shapes of bread, which are then attached to the hook. This method is great for catching smaller fish, especially during winter, and also when fishing on canals.
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 break away. A popular method of fishing with crust is to allow it to float on the water’s surface; many anglers use floating crust to target carp and chub during the summer months. Ensure the crust is soft; the freshness of the loaf is important to keep it on the hook and attract any surface-feeding fish.
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.
Keeping bread fresh for fishing is easy; keep it in a sealed bag to prevent it from drying out. Direct sun will dry the bread quickly, making it unusable. Usually, bread is only useful for a single fishing session; if you have any leftovers, take it home and use it for making your own groundbait.
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, remove any floaters, and discard the remaining water. Casters can be loose-fed at a short distance and are perfect for adding 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. If you want to fish with multiple casters on the hook, you will need to hook them the same way as maggots. In deeper, fast-flowing water, casters are best introduced as part of your groundbait. Casters can also be used in a cocktail 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. The 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. Ensure they are stored correctly, as they are more expensive than maggots.
If you are new to fishing and are unsure which bait to take with you, then go for these five most versatile and easy-to-use fishing baits. Not only are they affordable, but they are almost guaranteed to catch fish.