Popular Baits for Saltwater Fishing

Popular Baits for Saltwater Fishing

Scientists believe that more than 20,000 species of fish are found in the world’s oceans. Some fish live near the shore in shallow waters, while others prefer deeper water. Some fish prefer warm water, while others prefer colder waters. Here we talk about popular baits for saltwater fishing.

Saltwater fish can be tricky to catch. Some species require specific equipment and bait while others will grab whatever is offered to them. Some baits are universally appealing to nearly all species of fish. Baits are also inexpensive and simple to use. Saltwater fishing bait can be divided into three categories: live bait or dead bait and/or artificial bait. Here is a brief overview of each.

Live Baits

Cigar Minnows

Round Scad is more commonly called Cigar Minnows are great for trolling Sailfish and Barracuda as well as King Mackerel and Bonito. Typically, Cigar Minnows are six to nine inches long but can grow up to twelve inches sometimes. When chasing Snapper and Grouper, area fishermen also use dead Cigar Minnows.


Many anglers don’t like to fish with Eels because they can be difficult to handle. However, Eels are excellent for large fish like Tuna and other big fish.

Baits for Saltwater Fishing

Sand Fleas

Sand Fleas are a popular choice for surf fishermen. They can be used to catch pompano, redfish, croakers and many other species. Sand Fleas are also known as Mole Crabs and can be pulled from the sand by hand or using a rake.


Shrimp is a favorite of almost every saltwater fish. Live Shrimp can be used to bottom-fish and will swim with the tide. Some people remove the Shrimp’s head and tail to make a dead bait. They then use the Shrimp’s meat. Redfish, Cobia and Bonefish are just a few of many Gulf Coast species that love Shrimp. This is one of the best baits for saltwater fishing!

Sand Shrimp

These tiny bait fish are also known as Ghost Shrimp due to their translucent nature. They actually live in the sand. Sand Shrimp are just like regular Shrimp in that they attract the same fish.


Mullets are a common sight in the Gulf during warm summer months. These fish are simple to catch and keep alive with a net. Mullets make great bait, especially for bottom fishing. For Tarpon, Striped Bass, Sharks, and other species, anglers prefer larger Mullet offshore. For most species inshore, such as the Gulf’s Redfish, smaller sized Finger Mullet are ideal. Mullet can also be frozen to catch many other fish.


The small, oily Pilchards are used by fishermen to catch a variety of saltwater fish in the gulf such as Redfish, Tuna, and Spanish Mackerel. The best way to use Pilchards is as live bait for bottom fishing. They can also be used as cut bait for bottom rigs by some anglers.


Pinfish are a common baitfish in the Sunshine State. They can be caught easily and are popular with many fish species. Pinfish are most commonly caught on a fish finder rig but you can use any live bait rig. Pinfish is a common Gulf Coast fish species, You can catch so many fish with pinfish including Redfish, Grouper, Tarpon, and Grouper.

Baits for Saltwater Fishing


Blue Crabs are a prized prey for predators such as Tarpon, Snapper and Grouper. These crabs are versatile and can be used both inshore and offshore. They can also be killed or eaten alive. The Pass Crab is a smaller version that works well for all Gulf fish species and Tarpon. Crabs are one of the best baits for saltwater fishing.

Dead Baits


Ballyhoo is used by charter boat fishermen as cut bait, and to troll offshore. These bait is great for many of the Gulf’s big-game fish like Tuna, Sailfish and Dolphin. Bait and tackle shops sell trolling rigs specifically made for Ballyhoo.


One of the most popular saltwater baits. Squid is used by anglers across the country to lure a variety of fish species. The whole squid is hard to resist for Striped Bass, Bluefish and Redfish. Gulf Coast fishermen use frozen squid cut into long strips to catch Tuna and Grouper as well as mackerel, kingfish and many other fish species.


Menhaden (A.K.A. Peanut Porgy is a good choice for live Menhaden. You can either cut it into pieces or use it as chum. Bluefish, Striped Bass and large Fluke are all targets for east coast fishermen. Menhaden in chunks are a popular catch for Gulf fish like Redfish, Cobia and Amberjacks.

Artificial Baits

For many years, fishermen have used lures as artificial baits. Bait look-alikes have gained popularity in saltwater fishing. Artificial baits can be more effective than live bait in certain situations. Even if they’re not biting, the right lure could trigger a strike if it is positioned in the middle of a school. Artificial baits are convenient because anglers always have bait at hand. Artificial rigs are more expensive upfront. As with any other setup, they can be lost on rocks or over the wrecks. This can add up quickly. These are six popular artificial baits that can be used to catch fish in a variety of situations.

The Jig and Grub Combo

Combining jigs and grubs is versatile, cost-effective, and produces excellent results almost anywhere. It is made up of a lead head and a hook that has been molded into the top. The lure’s weight causes it to jump and then fall in a jigging fashion (hence the name). There are many sizes, shapes and colors available for jig heads that will suit any situation.

Baits for Saltwater Fishing

Bucktail Jigs

Bucktails are similar to the Jig & Grub Combo. The head is small and painted with a molded-in hook. Bucktail lures are available in many colors and weights to match the most common sinkers. Bucktails can be used in combination with braided or short leaders. They replace the traditional hook and sinker. Straight bucktails provide excellent feedback.

Gulp Baits

These soft plastic baits have a strong scent that many people love. These soft plastic baits can be bought in sporting goods shops, bait shops, and online. The 3-inch Gulp Shrimp is a popular choice for fishermen in Florida. It can be used on shallow grass flats and has great success. Gulp baits are available in a variety of colors and more than one-hundred designs that mimic Mullets and Peeler Crabs.

Shallow Diving Plugs

These shallow diving plugs are usually made of molded or hollow plastic and can look like many kinds of bait fish. They vibrate and wobble in the water because of their shape. To other fish, Shallow diving plugs are used to look like an injured bait. They trigger the fish’s instinct to attack.

Baits for Saltwater Fishing


Spoons have been around since the beginning. This simple, often teardrop-shaped piece of metal has a hook attached. It is available in many metallic finishes, including gold, copper and silver. They attract all types of fish when jigged. To make their offering more appealing, some anglers add natural bait. The reflection of the spoon while flowing through the water makes it one of the best artificial baits for saltwater fishing.

Topwater Plugs

Topwater Plugs are able to float on water’s surface, and can be retrieved from there. These baits are typically made of plastic or Balsa Wood and can attract explosive strikes. There are many styles of Topwater Plugs, including Walk-the Dog, Poppers and Prop baits.

What bait is best for which fish?

There are so many species of fish in the ocean that it is impossible to list them all. This is especially true when you consider that different baits will work for different species of fish depending on where they are located, what time of the year and how the angler uses them. Here are some suggestions for the most sought-after Gulf fish, along with their favorite temptations.

  • Redfish- Crabs, Shrimps in Summer and Fall, Menhaden, Pinfish and Mullet in Winter and Spring. 
  • Cobia – Pinfish, Crabs, Bright bucktail jigs. 
  • Grouper Pinfish, Goggle eyes, and large Pilchards. Squid.
  • Spanish Mackerel– Sardines and Mullet, Cut Baits, Squid, Shrimp, and Mullet. Spoons.
  • Yellowfin tuna – Live Threadfin Herrings, live Menhadens, live Blue Runners and live Mullet. 

Book Your Fishing Trip Today

If you are interested In Offshore Saltwater Fishing In Florida then contact us today! Capt Avery Hughes and the Salty Knots charter fishing crew are here to help pick the best baits for saltwater fishing and help you catch prize game fish for a fishing trip of a lifetime.

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