Updated on April 22, 2022
Using live bait is one of the most effective ways to catch fish. Whether you’re drifting offshore oil platforms or bobber fishing at the lake, offering fish the real deal is always bound to get a bite, even on a slow day. However, live bait only works if you have it, and knowing where to find it is crucial in making sure it’s not cut bait before noon. Here are the best places to find healthy live bait for your next trip.
The most obvious answer is a tackle shop where they have everything you need for a day on the water. Local tackle shops can be hit or miss though, with some carrying all the gear you need if you brought nothing, while others offer a few cheap rods, spoons, and licenses. Taking the time to swing by the tackle shops in your area can result in local insight, better deals, and finding out who has quality live bait. If you don’t find live bait, there are still plenty of other places to look.
More anglers overlap at marinas than anywhere else. More often than not, there’s a small shop in the marina that has some boating and fishing gear. With a large portion of people in the marina doing some fishing, many of these small shops sell some fishing gear, and live bait is fairly common.
Similar to the small marina shops, gas stations near the coast or lakes usually have some fishing gear. Gas stations range from only having a few lures to being on par with a small tackle shop. Anglers are frequent customers at gas stations, whether it's for donuts, coffee, gas, or beer, and the locations closest to the water are more likely to have live bait. Because they’re conveniently located, it’s easy for them to get the bait. This also makes it convenient for anglers to grab on the way to the boat.
If finding live bait on land is too difficult or just doesn’t cut it, many coastal areas have boats that head out early and catch bait to sell to anglers. Since this is their business, the bait is always fresh, but the hardest part is usually finding them. Asking around the previously mentioned locations can help uncover where these boats operate. Another option in some areas is talking to commercial fishing boats which will sell you shrimp, fish, and bycatch from their latest haul, taking into consideration that this can be hit or miss.
Buying live bait is not the only option if you are dedicated. Many guides wake up early and head out with cast nets and small rigs and jigs to catch bait for their trips. There can be a lot of trial and error in finding the right spots and using the gear. If you fish a lot, it will save you some money. The personal satisfaction of catching bait to catch fish is also rewarding.
Live bait is the closest thing to a guarantee in fishing, but only if the bait is healthy and energetic. If you find a shop that sells live bait, keep looking around for other options to make sure you’re fishing with the best bait possible. It’s also good to have a fallback plan at five in the morning when your favorite spot is sold out. Having the best bait and preparing gear for a trip is crucial, but if all of it is a little overwhelming, then check out our fishing guides who will take care of everything and put you on the fish while showing you the ropes.