Cheap Fishing Baits

Cheap Fishing Baits

Most fishing trips start with a visit to the local bait and tackle store. You will go inside, buy a can of nightcrawlers, mealworms or sand shrimp, and then head off to closest fishing hole. It’s a familiar routine for most anglers but its not a cheap one, especially if you fishing frequently. In times when every penny saved truly counts, try collecting or making your own bait to save money. It’s not too difficult and it’s a great experience for anglers interested in more natural techniques.

Nightcrawlers and Worms

Nightcrawlers and Worms

Worms are the easiest to collect as fishing bait. Most tackle shops charge at least $2 per a dozen worms-a hefty price if you go through several cans of worms in a good day of fishing. I usually either dig for worms in soft, damp soil, or I will look under rocks, logs and mats in the evening for these slimy fish snacks. Some anglers even create a compost bin just for the worms they collect, and put all of them in there until needed. I’ve started something similar, by burying a cardboard box in the soil, with the top open. Worms can’t climb out very easily, and the soil and shade help keep the box naturally cool. Of course, if you live in a hot, dry part of the country, you’ll probably need to keep them in something a little colder, like a refrigerator (not a freezer!).


Berkely and other fishing companies market tons of different dough and paste bait concoctions, including the popular Powerbait brand. Buying several of these varieties quickly adds up, especially if you go through them as quickly as I do. Instead, make your own custom dough and paste baits, using recipes available for free online. Most popular carp and catfish websites have great forums for discussion of different recipes. The ingredients are usually easy to obtain, and are usually far more cost efficient than buying premade paste baits at the tackle shop. Plus, you can make all kinds of different flavored ones, giving you more control over what types of doughtbaits are available to you. Flour, corn meal, a little garlic, peanut butter, oyster sauce, vannila extract and other common kitchen items can all be mixed to make all kinds of interesting (and useful) fish-catching baits.

Shad, Shiners and other small fish

Instead of buying shad, shiner and other minnows, consider catching them yourself. Shad make large “runs”, similar to salmon, in the early summer in many parts of the country, and they make great targets for angling during this time. They fight hard and will eagerly take many types of jigs. They can be eaten, or saved for later use as bait. Some people use them to bait their crab pots, some plunk them for sturgeon-they’re a useful fish that can be caught in large numbers, then used for all kinds of different bait. Shiners and other types of small minnows can be netted with homemade nets in small creeks and backwaters, or even caught on ultralight fishing line with little hooks baited with a piece of corn. They can be kept alive in a fish tank until further use, at which time they make great bait for largemouth bass and other species.

River hard species

River “hard” species

Most rivers are absolutely chock full of all kinds of useful species of bait. Crayfish are usually plentiful and may be caught in traps, either homemade or storebought. Caddisfly larva, found crawling around rivers in their hardshells, make excellent bait. Catch a bunch, then carefully pull them out of their rocky shells, and hook them like you would hook a grub or worm. These are excellent bait and are all over many rivers. I’ve even used a periwinkle (small aquatic snail) as bait-broke the outside shell and used the inner, soft creature as bait.

Fish guts

If you fish for catfish regularly, chances are that you have used chicken livers as bait. Instead of buying these, save the guts from the next fish you catch and keep to eat. Sling these instead of chicken livers and the up.

Fishing baits can take up a pretty penny in your fishing budget, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Do-it-yourself baits are a much more affordable alternative and often much more rewarding.