The Complete Australian Fishing Bait Guide | How To Choose The Best Bait

Whether you’re fishing competitively or for leisure, it’s always a great feeling when something tugs on your line. That’s why it’s important to know which bait to use when fishing in Australia. With great access to both saltwater and freshwater fishing spots across the country, it’s not easy to use the same bait for every 

The best type of fishing bait to use depends on the type of fish you want to catch and body of water you’re fishing in – freshwater baits are different from saltwater baits. There are also some practical considerations when choosing a bait, including time, budget, equipment, and refrigeration. 

If you’re ready to go fishing, then start reading. Here’s the complete fishing bait guide to ensure you land your fish.

How To Choose What Fishing Bait To Use

The two main things to consider when choosing a bait is the fish you’re trying to catch and the body of water you’re fishing in. 

It will also be determined by your time, equipment, or luggage—Can you bring a cooler for live bait? Or can you only bring artificial baits? Do you have time to gather live bait endemic to the area? Or do you want to save time and start fishing already? Are you squeamish with worms? Do you have a knife to prepare cut bait? Or do you want to just make dough balls in large batches? 

Type of Fish & Their Natural Prey

The first question to ask yourself is: what is the prey of my prey? Generally, you want your bait to look like the prey of the fish you want to catch or its food source. Most fish have multiple prey or food sources, and they also have different ways of getting their meal. For instance, some carnivorous fish want to chase their food.

Freshwater or Saltwater 

Next, where does my prey live – freshwater or saltwater? Bodies such as lakes, ponds, rivers, creeks, streams, swamps, and wetlands are freshwater. Freshwater fish have a diverse company in their midst, including insects, alligators, frogs, molluscs. That means, your choices for bait can include insects, grubs, and even food items that humans sometimes throw in, like bread. 

Now, a saltwater ecosystem refers to the ocean. Where saltwater and freshwater meet is called an estuary, which is where some shellfish like crabs, clams, and oysters reside. For a catch in saltwater, bait is usually live or cut bait as the species there don’t really see insects, grubs, or bread crumbs.

Weather Conditions 

Other secondary factors also come into play, like the weather and the colour and size of your bait. Fish are cold-blooded, and they go closer to the surface when it’s cool and sink to the bottom when it’s hot. You want to use top-water baits or small baits when it’s cool and jigs or worms when it’s hot.

You want fish to notice your bait, so when it’s windy, a large one will work better than a small one. Likewise, when the water is murky, you want to rely on colourful baits. Be careful though as some of the more colourful baits can get entangled in vegetation-dense water.

Natural vs Artificial Baits 

Your bait will also either be live (natural) or artificial (synthetic). Some anglers prefer synthetic baits because they’re less messy. In fact, some synthetic baits work better than natural ones, especially when you need brightly colored ones.

Some types of artificial bait are jigs, spinners, spoons, plugs, flies, and synthetic versions of live bait.

  • Jigs are the simplest type of artificial bait, but can be adorned by other things, like bright feathers. They require the angler to move constantly. Otherwise, jigs will sink.
  • Spinners require less movement from the angler since they spin constantly, creating vibrations and ripples in the water to attract the fish. They’re great for beginners.
  • Spoons are curved metal baits that wobble from side to side, mimicking an injured prey.
  • Plugs are bait with hooks attached to several points in its body. It’s meant to look like larger prey, like frogs.
  • Flies are used for fly fishing. They float on water and mimic insects.

Live bait refers to any animal used for fishing, like baitfish, shellfish, or insects. They can be used whole or cut.  If you’re using live bait, make sure that it’s legal to use it in the area you’re fishing in. Some live baits can destroy the ecosystem of the lake or river you’re going to if they’re not endemic to the area. It’s actually a good idea to find live bait in the area where you want to fish.

What Is the Most Popular Fishing Bait in Australia?

The most popular fishing bait in Australia is probably cut bait, and among the species you can use for it, pilchard is the most common. Many fish species will bite pilchard bait, but it’s particularly attractive for salmon, snapper, and tailors.

Freshwater Fishing Bait 

Common freshwater fish finds are trout, Murray code, yellow belly, and perches. The choices for freshwater bait are numerous, such as grubs and mealworms, freshwater worms, mudeyes or the Couta dragonfly larvae, maggots, crayfish and yabbies, shrimp/prawns, and minnows. Let’s find out which of these is the best bait for your prized freshwater fish.

Grubs & Mealworms

Grubs mimic baitfish. These can either be live or synthetic, and it is characterized by a curved tail that moves around, like worms, maggots, or caterpillars. Grubs and mealworms are readily available in bait and tackle shops or can be harvested from trees (look for deformed ones) or the earth.

What Fish Does Grubs & Mealworm Bait Catch?

If you want to catch Australia’s largest freshwater fish, the Murray cod, get yourself some bardi grubs (from ghost moth). Now, this is expensive in stores. If you’re sourcing it on your own, you might want to invest in a bait pump as digging holes for bait can damage the environment.

That said, you can also find tree-dwelling grubs to use as bait. Aside from Murray cod, you may also get yourself a bite from trout, yellow belly or golden perch, Macquarie perch, estuary perch, Australian bass, silver perch, redfin perch, and panfish. Sun fish may also bite your grubs and mealworms.

Dough Balls

Dough balls are essentially prepared fishing bait. They can be bought in a can or made at home. If you want to try making them, you can use different ingredients. Components are generally easy to acquire, and dough balls can be made in huge batches.

A basic dough ball is just white bread without the crusts, formed and balled up using water. Squeeze the excess water from your dough ball using a clean cloth or a tea towel. Then, you may add flavouring, such as vanilla essence, almond essence, liquorice, garlic, cheese, peas, or corn. You may freeze your dough balls until they’re ready for use.

Different people have different recipes for their dough ball. Some add in flour, cornmeal, and/or gelatine to their dough ball mixture. Others even use raw dough instead of store-bought bread.

What Fish Do Dough Balls Catch? 

Bottom-feeders carp and catfish eat dough balls. Bluegill, trout, roach, tench, pan fish, and sunfish are also attracted to dough balls.

Insects 

Insects are cheap baits that can catch a variety of freshwater fish. You can buy them in pet stores or catch live ones. Some of your choice insect baits are ants, grasshoppers, crickets, beetles, caterpillars, and insect larvae.

What Fish Does Insect Bait Catch? 

  • Carp and catfish also eat insects. 
  • Brown trout will bite ants on a fly. 
  • Trout, pan fish, and sun fish eat ants, grasshoppers, crickets, beetles, and caterpillars. 
  • Smallmouths and large trout will bite mayflies, stoneflies, caddis, hellgrammites, and dobsonfly larvae bait.
  • Crappies eat crickets.

Freshwater Worms 

Freshwater worms are also easy to acquire as they’re readily available in bait and tackle shops or you can source them yourself. Some of your options are earthworms (flat tail worms, clear worms, crazy worms), and scrubworms.

What Fish Does Freshwater Worm Bait Catch? 

Almost all freshwater fish will bite freshwater worm.

Walleyes and bass will bite earthworms or nightcrawlers. Trout, pan fish, and sun fish take on manure worms (from cattle and horse pastures). 

A trick for sun fish in particular is to cover your entire hook with the worm. For other types of fish, you can thread the worm from the side at several points in the worm’s body or just use a piece of the worm. This will prevent other small fish from taking your bait and just nibbling it until it’s gone.

Murray cod, carp, silver perch, bream, yellow belly, brown trout, and rainbow trout eat scrubworms or scrubbies. You can use multiple scrubbies on a hook so that the wiggling action will attract fish better.

Saltwater Fishing Bait 

Common saltwater fish finds are snapper, red fish, whiting, flathead, and bream. The best and most common saltwater fishing bait are pilchards, ballyhoo, squid, crabs, shrimp, and shellfish. And yes, most of them are live bait as it is the best type of bait for saltwater fishing. Some saltwater fishing enthusiasts may go for artificial plastic baits that are scented, but most rely on live fish or cut bait for saltwater fishing.

Now, which of these baits is the best for certain species? Let’s find out.

Shrimp 

Shrimp is the most common saltwater fishing bait as it can be found in many bodies of saltwater. You can use big ones or small ones, depending on what species you want to catch. You can use it when fishing from a bridge, pier, bank, boat, or even for bottom fishing. 

Shrimp can be used dead or alive. To hook a live shrimp, avoid the black spot. You can hook beneath the shrimp’s head. Conversely, you can hook from the shrimp’s tail.

Shrimp can be bought in stores or found here and there.

What Fish Does Shrimp Bait Catch?

Some of the species you can bait with shrimp are snapper, bream, whiting, redfish, and others.

Squid 

Squid is also quite common in saltwater fishing as bait, particularly for nearshore or in the open ocean. You can even use it when trolling and for bottom and floating rigs. It can be used live or dead or frozen.

It can be used whole or cut. When using the squid whole, run your line through the outer body shell, hooking the head. For cut squid bait, try to hook through the shell, skin, or bone so that it won’t fall off when fish nibble on it.

What Fish Does Squid Bait Catch? 

Most saltwater fish will bite squid bait, but the most common catch are snapper and jewfish. 

Cut Bait

Cut bait refers to any species that you cut and use as bait (usually anything that smells fishy can be used as cut bait). It’s commonly used in onshore, offshore, and surf fishing. Some of the more common cut baits are pilchards, sea bass, bluefish, squid, shrimp, clams, and mussels. 

This is the second-best thing to have next to live bait. As much as possible, you want your cut bait to be fresh. When you cut your fish, it’s ideal that it still has red gills and clear eyes. If you’re lugging it to your fishing site, make sure you put it in a well-drained cooler with ice or vacuum seal it first.

When using shellfish as cut bait, make sure to check local guidelines as some species of clams and mussels have regulations around their use.

What Fish Does Cut Bait Catch? 

Most saltwater fish will take cut bait. For instance, saltwater salmon will bite cut pilchards, whitebait, and pipi mussel. Snapper also bite pilchards and whitebait.

When using shellfish, like clams and mussels, as cut bait, anglers usually let them dry and harden under the sun first. Grouper bite shellfish.

Pilchards

Pilchard is also known in Australia as sardine, blue pilchard, pilly, bluebait Western Australian pilchard, and mulies. Pilchards grow up to 20 cm, and they can be used as whole or cut bait.

What Fish Does Pilchard Bait Catch?

You can catch tailor snapper, Australian salmon, and flathead with pilchard bait, whole or cut. It is usually used for carnivorous fish.

What Is The Best Bait To Catch Any Fish? 

No fishing bait is ever once-size-fits-all, but shrimp may be pretty close in the world of fishing. Shrimp bait works in freshwater and saltwater. In freshwater, you may get a bite from bass, trout, pan fish, catfish, walleye, yellow perch, and bullheads. In saltwater, bullheads, catfish, bluegills, and common carp will take shrimp.

But, these fish may not be the species you want. Cut bait is quite diverse and relies on the prey’s natural instinct to smell food, so cut bait is also in the running for the best bait for any fish.

What Is The Best Bait To Catch Snapper In Australia? 

Snapper (Pagrus auratusa) are not known to be picky eaters, so you have a variety of options for bait. The most common baits to catch a snapper in Australia is the pilchards, mackerel, and whiting. For a big catch, the best baits to use are head baits or butterfly baits of slimy mackerel, whiting, or tommy rough. 

Other options to catch a snapper are tailor, yellowtail, trevally, salmon, sergeant baker, garfish, cuttlefish, squid, octopus, striped tuna, squid, and bonito.


Related Questions

What Household Foods Can Be Used As Fishing Bait? 

Processed and canned food like hotdog, lunch meat, bacon, canned chicken or turkey work on some fish. Meats like bacon, chicken, and chicken liver can also do the trick. Bread and dough can also be used as fishing bait. You can even flavour the bread with tuna oil, garlic, or something sweet like vanilla or peanut butter. 

Some anglers have also successfully used dog food, sometimes wet, dry, or wrapped in cheesecloth. Fruit baits like persimmon and mulberries also work as fish bait, and hilariously, mini marshmallows, candies, and donuts work, according to some anecdotes.

Where Can I Buy Fishing Bait In Australia? 

Bait and tackle, fishing supply, and grocery stores usually carry fishing bait. There are brick-and-mortar stores as well as online shops specializing in fishing supplies. Sometimes you can also go to pet shops to grab some small fish, worms, or insects if they’re your bait of choice. Of course, if you’re opting for household food as fishing bait, the supermarket is always an option.

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