The best live bait for trout

Live bait fishing is one of the most effective ways to catch trout, just as is the case with most other species of fish. There are many types of live bait available and trout will eat most of them. Still, some types of live bait are clearly better than others.

waxworm flies

Some people even shy away from bait fishing for trout all together, but even in that case the argument is that live bait is “too effective” or “too easy” to use. This stinks of the kind of elitism that says “fishing worms are for women and children“. In reality trout survive by eating live creatures from mayflies to shrews.

Where live bait is available and permitted it is an incredibly effective way to catch trout. For those who have the goal of catching fish then it is understandable that live bait would be used. Here’s a list of the best live baits for trout. Whether or not you choose to use these baits is up to you.

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Maggots are hardly the most endearing creature in nature. Still this immature flies are easy to find and they work wonders for trout fishing. Maggots can easily be stored in a bait puck and thrown in a pocket or a vest. They can just as easily be added on to the back of a microjig or spoon to add smell and action to the lure.

Lures tipped with maggots tend to catch more fish than those fished bare. Even if the number of hits is equal, trout usually hold on to bait tipped hooks longer. That’s why maggots are often used by people fishing for steelhead in the Great Lakes tributaries.

Of course maggots can be fished on their own too. Three or four maggots on a small hook with a little added weight is often an effective way to drift fish for trout in streams and rivers.


Waxworms are the larvae of wax moths. They are like a larger, slower and softer version of the maggot. Waxworms can be more difficult to find than maggots. They can also be a little tougher to get on a hook without breaking.

With the added expense and difficult one might not want to use waxworms at all. But there are times when wax worms seem to work even better than the smaller fly larvae. That especially seems to be the case under the ice.

An ice fishing spoon like the Slender Spoon or the Tumbler Spoon tipped with a big juicy waxworm can really produce trout on the hard water. Waxworms aren’t bad on the back of a jig when fishing in a creek either.


Minnows can elicit a strike from trout when nothing else will work. There’s not much to fishing them either. You can put a small hook through the upper back or lips of a minnow and cast it out into the water and let the bait do all the work.

You can also fish a minnow or even a dead minnow actively. One style of minnow fishing popular among old timers in Pennsylvania involves fishing a dead minnow on a fly rod and more or less holding it in the current until a fish strikes. This seems to be more of a tradition than an innovative method of fishing since one could easy cover just as much water or more with a long light spinning rod.

The reason streams, spinners, spoons and crankbaits work for trout is that most species of trout are piscivorous. Even little trout will often try to get a small fish down their gullets if they can fit it in their mouths.


Outside of a hatch, there’s probably nothing that can catch more trout than a naturally drifted earthworm. By worms I mean everything from red worms to night crawlers.

No matter how many elitists deride “worm dunking” the fact is that trout like to eat worms. Even when it comes to fly fishing some of the most effective patterns are the San Juan Worm and the Squirmy Wormy. As the names would suggest, they are both meant to mimic a worm.

In places where live bait is permitted, even some of the best and most equipped artificial lure anglers are regularly out-fished by people who stand on the bank and chuck earthworms into the water. It’s tough to beat the lowly earthworm, though the above mentioned fly patterns and the plastic trout worm sure come close!

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