There is nothing that takes the place of live bait for fishing. You might have the perfect lure to match the size and color of local bait fish, but until it’s alive and tasty it might not get the job done.

Now, if you’re lucky you might have a live bait dealer in your neck of the woods, on the lake or in the marina. But chances are you are not that fortunate.

The answer to all this hassle is simply catching your own live bait yourself. Here are three super easy ways to catch live bait.

What do you need to catch live bait?

First off, you’re going to need somewhere to put your bait after you catch it, or it’s not going to stay live for long. You can purchase or create either a live bait pen that attaches dockside or a live bait well on-board.

Many fishing boats come with built-in live bait wells. The purpose of a well is to filter water so the fish have enough oxygen to breath. If a boat does not have a built-in well, there are external wells that attach to the stern.

Fish trap using plastic bottle

Now that we’ve secured a spot to put our live bait once we catch it. Let’s start with the simplest and least demanding form of catching live bait, using a trap.

Fish traps date back to ancient civilizations where people would create two cones, one smaller than the other, woven in leaf material like baskets and set them together in the water.

With two plastic water bottles you can create your own 21st century DIY fish trap that’s very similar to this ancient method. The best way I’ve seen uses a 1-gallon water bottle and a 1-liter soda bottle.

Steps for making a fish trap out of a plastic water bottle are as follows:

  • Cut the top off a 1-liter plastic bottle right below where it starts to become straight on the sides so leaving the entire cone of the neck.
  • Take that cone and line it up to the bottom of the 1-gallon bottle and draw a circle with a marker.
  • Cut the 1-gallon bottle along the circle you just drew.
  • Now place the cone of the 1-liter bottle within the hole so that it creates a funnel inward.
  • Using a hot glue gun, seal the edges. Using a soldering iron punch holes at various places of the trap.
  • Last steps are to add a weight, stuff it with some bread, attach it to a string and hang it from the dock.

Catch live bait using small hooks

The most rewarding day of fishing is one that starts with a worm and ends up being a big beautiful fish. You just work your way up the food chain.

One of the oldest methods known to man for catching fish involves catching something small and using it as bait to catch something bigger and then use that to catch something even bigger than that.

These days, what does that look like? Get yourself a size 8 or 10 hook, nice and small, with a piece of worm or a crappie bite. Put the bait on the end of your line with the tiniest weight if at all.

Now, an important thing to keep in mind is searching for minnow territory. On a creek look for the bends with deeper pools. Areas where smaller fish congregate are in deeper waters between two shallow points. Then toss your line in and see what happens.

Throwing a net to catch live bait

The last method we’ll mention is throwing a net to catch live bait. With this method you have to be ready to act when the fish are schooling within throwing distance of your net.

Throwing a net to catch live bait is an age-old tradition, not necessarily made any easier by modern equipment.

Not much has changed since the early days. Nets are basically the same equipped with small weights and a line used to cinch the net shut and enclose the fish.

The only way to learn is by trying, so get out there and get ready to untangle some netting. Just kidding, but it definitely takes some practice. Watch the video below for a demonstration.

Photo credit: Chris Isherwood via Flickr