The Best Live Baits for Largemouth Bass: Nightcrawlers and Minnows

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Largemouth bass are one of the most popular game fish in the world. They can reach up to 25 pounds and fight harder than you would ever believe. They are also among the most challenging fish to catch, and test an anglers skills and gear to the limits. Most days many anglers can only accomplish landing a few bass, if that. On any given day though, using live bait will give you a much better chance at catching these evasive beauties. Even when the plastics make it seem like shooting fish in a barrel, throw out a live frog, minnow, worm etc. and you are sure to be equally as successful.

The universal bait for most freshwater fish is of course the nightcrawler. Nightcrawlers can catch everything from tiny sunfish to trophy bass. Although available at most tackle shops, it is much cheaper to catch them yourself. Not only will you know the crawlers are fresh, but you will love the satisfaction of knowing you caught your own bait.

Technique for Catching Nightcrawlers

Nightcrawlers like moist, rich soil the best.

Although catchable during the day, you will have much more success at night.

A low area is best, as the soil here tends to be more moist.

Tread softly as nightcrawlers are very sensitive to vibrations.

If you are going at night, carry a flashlight to help you. A red light is best as it will help you to see them and won’t scare them away.

During the day, you can find these critters under rocks, brush, and leaves.

How to Rig Nightcrawlers

There are many ways to rig nightcrawlers, each with their own advantages and disadvantages. Worms have a tendency to fly off the hook during a cast, and can easily be pulled off by irritating bluegill. To do, many anglers bunch the worm on the hook, passing it through many times to ensure it wont come off. However, bass are stubborn. If something doesn’t look right, they wont budge. It is important to keep your presentation lifelike, and this holds true for all fishing scenarios. Passing a hook two-three times in the middle of the worm will give you a good balance. This presentation if known as a Wacky Worm. Another option is to pass through the worm two-three times on one end of the worm. Once again this will give the worm a lifelike appearance. It is important to experiment with rigging styles. If one isn’t working, then try another.


Minnows are another key food for a largemouth bass. All types will work, but matching the type of minnow will be much more effective. Unfortunately, most tackle shops only carry shiners, so you’ll have to catch the right kind yourself. Catching minnows yourself is fun, and will save you a lot of money. A quality minnow trap can be purchased for only $20, and will last as long as you continue to take care of it. Once you have a minnow trap, you have to think about what you want to use as bait. Almost anything can be used, but some very effective baits are bread and Cheeze Doodles! After you have prepped your minnow trap, you need to find a good area for your trap. If you want to match the type of minnows the bass will be seeing naturally, then place the trap in the pond/lake. Often however, minnows will not be abundant, and it is often hard to find a good place. The best option is to place your trap in an estuary, salt march, or near a boat dock. Minnows are in abundance here, and it is perfectly fine for your minnow to come from here. A suitable place for your trap is beside grass, near the shore, or near other structure, where minnows tend to congregate. Often you will not find the best place your first time, get to know your area and once again experiment with different locations until you find the best one. Once you catch your minnows keep them in the same type of water they came from, and avoid filling a bucket with tap water at all times. Chemicals can kill your minnows! Try to keep the tank aerated as best as you can, minnows do not survive for long in small/enclosed environments. Use your minnow as soon as possible, and get out there and Fish!

How To Rig Minnows

There are two main ways to rig a minnow. The key idea to both is to allow the minnow to swim naturally. You want the minnow to stay on the hook, but you don’t want to kill it. The first way is to hook the minnow through both lips. This way enables the fish to stay alive, but I would not recommend this for small minnows as they can be weighted down by the hook. A surefire way to rig a minnow is to hook it below the dorsal fin in the muscle right below it. The minnow will stay on the hook and will have less of a chance of getting wighted down and pulled face down to the bottom. Remember, the key is to make the bait look as life-like as possible, this is the key advantage of live bait. Don’t screw it up by rigging your baits wrong!

Go out there and fish! Bass will be swarming your bait, and you could have more success than you’ve ever had, all with very little cost to you. Let the bass take your bait for five seconds and then jerk up. Set that hook, and reel in a trophy! Be sure to check out parts two and three of my live bait series.