Bait on a Budget


I know a lot of guys who pay for their bait.  That can add up in a big hurry.  If you fish anywhere near as much as I do, you would have to take out a small loan to pay for all of it.  However, if you are anything like me, you pinch every penny you can.  Here's one of several ways to get your own bait without spending your entire paycheck at the tackle store. 

Bait for bait

Bait for bait


To catch bait, you need bait, unless you don't.  Confused?  Let me explain. 

Fish are optimistic feeders, taking advantage of feeding opportunities when they present themselves.  Unfortunately for them, they do not have the option of walking to the fridge and grabbing a jar of humus and some vegetables (just kidding on the humus and veges part).  Either way, you get the point.  When food is available they will eat it.  Keep that in mind as you search for bait for fishing.  If you find something different than what you are looking for, that's okay.  Usually there is something under the water that will eat it.

So on to Step 1.  In the state I live in, many baits have to be caught on rod and reel.  To catch bait, like creek chubs, bluegills, sunfish or bullheads, you need some kind of bait.  My favorite bait for them are worms.  But wait, don't worms cost money?  Well if you want to buy them they do.  You don't have to.  Find a rock or piece of lumber that has been laying on the ground for a long period of time and flip it over.  Be prepared to grab worms that may attempt to dart back into the ground (watch out for spiders).  

Step 2

Once you have procurred your bait for your bait, its time to find a suitable location to find something the fish will find tasty.  For sake of keeping it simple, lets focus on catching creek chubs.  Creek chubs are large minnows that nearly every predatory fish in the river will eat.  Anything from large crappies and smallmouth bass to channel and flathead catfish.  They are an excellent bait, and it is never a bad idea to have some on hand while on the water. 

Finding creek chubs is not difficult.  Come on, their name tells you exactly where you should be looking.  That's right, creek chubs live in creeks.  They're pretty straightforward fish, and I appreciate how they keep things simple.  Nearly any creek in the midwest will have some creek chubs living in them.  

Once you have found a small stream, you need to find pockets of deeper water.  Creek chubs are like any other river-dwelling fish, and seek deeper, more secluded water to call home.  Holes in streams are created in all kinds of different conditions.  One of the best spots, and convenient to get to, are places where streams flow through culverts under roadways.  During floods, water is forced through these culverts and scours a hole below it.  Creek chubs call these places home.  

If you have trouble finding a location like this, its okay.  Holes form naturally below riffles in creeks just like they do in larger waterways.  Simply look for an area where water is flowing quickly over rocks or gravel and there will be deeper water below it.  Often times these areas are home to an assortment of creek chubs. 

A likely creek chub hole

A likely creek chub hole

Step 3

Now you have bait for your bait and you know where to go.  All that's left is to go out and catch them.  Keep it simple, a small hook under a bobber is about as effective as it gets.  Plus you get the added enjoyment of watching the bobber shoot underwater everytime you get a bite.  Put your creek chubs in a bucket with an aerator and they will stay alive for hours.  Slice 'em and dice 'em, or use them alive.  Doesn't matter much either way, both methods will get you on some fish. 

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