The ULTIMATE Bait Guide

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After location bait and it’s correct presentation is the most important factor governing success or failure. No matter how expensive your tackle is, if the fish won’t bite you go home empty. Freshwater fish can go several months without eating, most marine fish can not, indeed many marine fish will die if not fed several times a day( a big problem for aquarists rather than anglers). Fish will eat a wide range of prey as cutting open the stomach will show but these are not always the best baits to use. Remember your bait is not the only piece of food in the water, the secret of angling is to make the fish ignore everything else and take your bait instead.

Fish are not stupid, they want as much food as possible for as little effort as possible. This is known as optimal foraging theory, and although a contraversial subject amongst ethologists it’s well worth remembering. Imagine a bass spotting a sandeel some distance away, first he calculates the energy he’ll use to catch it then balances it against the energy gained by eating it, only if the pay off is greater than the effort will he bother. No fish is going to swim very far off course to pick up a puny little worm on your hook, imagine driving to the out of town supermarket just for one can of beans. This is the first rule DO NOT SKIMP WITH BAIT. Be generous, make it worth the fishes while to stop chasing that shoal and pick up your static large portion.

A fish can be said to show a preference for a food if it seeks out that item despite other food items being more available. This is the second rule STICK WITH THE WELL KNOWN BAITS (Yes we’ve all heard stories of some guy sticking a cream bun on a hook for a laugh and landing 30 lb cod). If one bait does not work try another as different species prefer different food and the colour of the water can play a big part. If you have an idea for a new bait try it out when the fishings good, if everybody else is catching bag fulls and your frozen fishfingers are too then your on to something.

Rule number three is MATCH THE SIZE OF YOUR BAIT TO THE SIZE OF THE FISH YOU EXPECT TO CATCH. Cod have large mouths and appetites to match, flatties have little mouths and cannot fit a size 6/0 hook laden with a mussel and lug cocktail in their gobs. Match the size of the hook with the size of the bait, a small hook buried deep inside a bait is well protected and the fish will not be impaled. If you are fishing for the smaller species it is better to use a 2-4 hook paternoster and spread the bait out rather than lump it on one hook. A pennel rig is two hooks in the same bait and increases the chance of contact when large baits are used.

The final rule is PRESENT IT PROPERLY . A lugworm suspended 3 ft above the seabed will set alarm bells ringing that somethings not quite right.

Worm Baits

Worm baits fall into two groups Ragworms and lugworms. All are treat in much the same way, stick the hook in the tail end and thread up the line till you reach the desired size. A pennel rig should be used when fishing multiple worms.


Lots of species available all make good bait. The big one is the king rag Nereis virens reaching 40 cm in length. Paddle, rock and cat worms are similar in appearance and should not be ignored. Many species have jaws (nippers), these can give a very mild nip. Can be dug up or found under rocks. Cultured ragworm is readily available all year round from most bait suppliers. Do not freeze ragworms.


Two species are used as bait The common lugworm Arenicola marina which lives in sheltered sandy beaches in a U shaped burrow with a cast and hole at each end. And Black lug Arenicola defodiens (also called runnydown) is much larger and does not form a hole next to the cast. There can be a lot of local names for lugworms runnydown, yellowtails, blowlug etc. To dig up the common lugworm dig a trench and work along it filling it in as you go. This produces the greatest number of worms for the least effort and prevents the beach looking like the surface of the moon. Much is said baout the environmental impact of bait digging by anti-angling idiots. However it must be remembered that a single rough sea can strip an entire beach of lugworms and all its sub-sand organisms which I think puts my dozen worms in perspective. Do not dig around boat moorings for obvious reasons. A while back someone got into bother for bait digging in Duridge Bay (around the time vast quantities of sand were being removed for commercial purposes). Black lug have to be dug out individually, always handle with wet hands to prevent them busting.

Black lug can be frozen easily.

Pop them and squeeze the guts out.

Lie them straight on a couple of layers of newspaper.

Cover with a generous layer of salt for about 3 hours

Shake off the salt and repeat steps 2 and 3.

Shake off the salt and lie the worms one inch apart on a length of newspaper

Roll up the paper and freeze.

Frozen black lug is OK when you fancy a nights fishing and you’ve missed the bait shop but it can’t beat fresh bait.

Mussels and Razorfish

Mussels can be bought alive from fishmongers or frozen from bait shops and pet shops. Most housewives know to reject mussels that don’t clamp shut when tapped but anglers need not worry about this as mussels which are “off” often make the best bait. Live mussels can be parted from there shells by severing the anterior and posterior adductor muscles and scooping out, or leaving to die in a bucket (helps bring out the flavour). Mussels are not on the menu normally as they are protected by a hard shell, those which are eaten have normally died and have been washed out. Tie mussels on to the hook with thread, taking care not to pull to tight. I like to freeze them on the hook and keep them wrapped separately until needed, this allows them to be cast further, they will defrost quickly once they hit the water. Adding pilchard oil to the mussel before freezing increases its effectiveness. Although the edible mussel Mytilus edulis is the one normally used as bait the horse mussels Modiolus modiolus can also be used. Other native species are too small to bother with. Mussels bought frozen pet shops are very small and make good lugworm and mussel cocktails. Mussel beds are also good places to fish.

Razorfish Ensis siliqua, also called pod razor and spouter fish are rarely for sale so have to be gather by hand. Walk along the low tide mark without shoes on very softly and look for keyhole shaped holes in the sand. Pour salt down the hole and grab tightly when it pops out. The smaller Sword razor is also suitable. Treat as mussels for bait. baked bar disposable vape

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