Best Bug Baits

Bug baits will catch all kinds of fish, from bluegills and catfish to smallmouth bass and crappie. (Keith Sutton photo)

Want to catch loads of fish? Try bugs for bait.

Most fish like bugs the way kids love candy. They can’t resist these six-legged temptations. And many bait bugs are free for the taking if you invest a little time to catch them. Don’t be surprised, however, if your bait collecting is as memorable as the fishing. Gathering bait is an adventure in itself.

These tips will get you started.


Grub (Keith Sutton photo)

What’s the best bait when you’re camped by a backcountry lake and want mess of panfish for dinner? Sometimes it’s a big ol’ grub, and chances are you can find plenty by turning logs on the forest floor. Many beetle grubs live in the heart of rotten logs, and while there’s no denying they’re ugly, panfish such as bluegills and perch love them. Keep the grubs in a small container with some wood chips and store in a cool place. When you want some fish to fry, you’ll have bait you found yourself that’ll work every time.


Nymphs (Keith Sutton photo)

Wade fishing a small stream is a great way to stay cool in summer. But before fishing, you might want to wade around to catch some bait. Carefully turn rocks, and look for insect nymphs underneath. There are many kinds you might find—hellgrammites, caddisfly larvae, and nymphs of mayflies, stoneflies and dragonflies. All are great baits for trout, sunfish, smallmouths and other fish and easily stored in a small covered container with a little water. And because they come from the stream you’re fishing, they’re sure to be the right bait for catching a whopper.


Cricket (Keith Sutton photo)

You probably thought a loaf of fresh-baked bread was only good for one thing—eating. But you also can turn a loaf into a cricket trap that works while you sleep. Slice the loaf in half lengthwise, hollow the middle and secure the halves together with string or rubber bands. Punch a 3/4-inch hole from the outside to the inside on both ends, and place the bread in a grassy area. When you check it later, it should contain crickets you can use to catch a variety of panfish.

Grasshoppers and Katydids

Grasshopper (Keith Sutton photo)

These hopping bugs are as good as crickets for bait. Smaller varieties are irresistible to trout, bluegills and redears, and a big one floating on the water lures everything from bucketmouth bass to pot-bellied catfish.

Try this old-fashioned method to catch all the hoppers you need. Spread a fuzzy flannel blanket in a grassy field and drive the hoppers to it. The stickers on the bugs’ feet get caught in the fabric. Just pluck the bait and put it in a cricket cage.

For real fun, dispense with sinkers and bobbers when fishing these guys. Use a long pole to flip the hooked bug out on the water like a little dry fly and prepare for action. Dynamite!


Cicada (Keith Sutton photo)

Cicadas spend live up to 17 years underground. When they emerge, they climb into trees, shed their outer shells and start making the high-pitched noises we associate with summer. Few people fish with them, but a lively cicada buzzing on the water’s surface is one of the best baits for catfish.

Normally, it’s tough to obtain cicadas, but every few years, several year classes emerge at once, and millions cover the trees, making it easy to find and catch them. All you need is a cricket cage to hold them, and some youngsters to help catch them.

Hook a cicada through the hard shell and cast it on the water’s surface with no sinker, float or other terminal tackle. Within seconds, you’ll be playing a nice channel cat that rose to take the offering.

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