The 11 Cheapest Fishing Bait Ideas (That Really Work)


Fishing baits can be quite expensive. It’s not uncommon to find $30 crankbaits or artificial baits and lures reaching up into the hundreds. However, for those trying not to break the bank, what could be some cheap fishing bait ideas?

For the cheapest fishing bait ideas, you can use commonly available food items such as chicken liver, berries, corn, bread, and canned meat to fish. You can also find cheap good quality artificial lures or sources for natural bait such as worms or baitfish on your own. 

If you’re willing to try out some more unconventional methods or look a bit deeper when searching for fishing bait, you’ll find yourself saving quite a bit of money while still being able to catch the right amount of fish. Here’s a list of eleven fishing bait ideas that work.  

What Is Fishing Bait Used For?

Fishing bait is any substance that can be used to attract fish while fishing. It is broadly divided into two categories – natural bait and artificial lures. Natural bait refers to using living creatures to catch fish, such as:

  • Shrimp
  • Worms
  • Insects
  • Small baitfish
  • Frogs

On the other hand, artificial lures are made from non-living materials like plastic and metal. These are usually brightly colored and designed to emit a vibration or noise to fool fish into thinking that these are living organisms. They can also come in the shape of natural bait. 

Common artificial lures include:

  • Crankbait
  • Spinnerbait
  • Artificial flies
  • Jigs

Different types of baits are designed for various fishing techniques. Artificial files are used with surface fishing, while jigs can be used for jigging at any depth. As a result, it’s important to have a range of lures so that you’ll be able to try out other fishing techniques if you want to. 

You also need to ‘match the hatch.’ This is a fisherman’s term that refers to using appropriate bait to catch the fish species you want. For example, using worms is generally a good idea for any freshwater species. Find out what your target species eat and see if you can obtain an appropriate natural bait type. 

In addition to finding out what type of bait your target fish eats, you should know how the weather affects their feeding habits. For example, many fish tend to feed at the surface when temperatures are more relaxed, like during the colder seasons such as winter. You should find out how the feeding habits of a fish change depending on the weather. 

Now that you know all about bait and lures check out this list of cheap fishing bait ideas that will still let you fish on a budget. 

Soap

Traditionally, soap has been used to catch catfish since the Civil War. In those days, traditional lye soap contained beef tallow or lard, and these organic fats and proteins would likely have been alluring to the catfish. The scent or taste might have led to these fish mistaking it for a live bait fish or worm. 

Today, you can find specially created artificial soap baits containing specific ingredients to attract catfish. However, these are costly. Don’t worry; it is, in fact, possible to use plain old soap and break it into bits to act as bait, but you will need to buy specific brands of soap.

If that doesn’t appeal to you, think of it this way – instead of buying specialized bait to attract more catfish, you’re trying out a new brand of soap as a body wash. You should be getting either this Procter & Gamble Ivory Soap or this Zote Soap

When fishing with soap, it could be beneficial to try out trotlines or limblines instead of the traditional rod and reel. Some fishermen say that the multi-hooked nature of a trotline lets you catch a greater number of fish because the soap has the opportunity to melt and spread the scent throughout the water. This is not possible with a rod and reel because you would immediately change the bait once the fish has bitten.

Although there’s a wide variety of scents for the soap, as mentioned earlier brands stick to using the original, scentless combinations – fish can sense artificial fragrances. These mingling with the organic scent of the fat, would put the fish off. 

If you’re still skeptical about the verity of using soap as fish bait, you can watch the following instructional YouTube video to see how it’s done:

Berries

If you’re planning to bag fish in low-hanging waters near the shoreline, you could try using berries. These sweet treats particularly appeal to fish like carp and chub, which often eat hanging mulberries direct from the waterways. Any sweetly scented and tasting berry should do the trick. You could also use raisins if you don’t feel like buying a box full of fresh berries. 

Candy Worms

The gummy worms found in supermarkets can help you land fish. These worms are usually vibrant and brightly colored, appealing to fish. They can be easily used for jigging techniques because they will move and undulate on the hook, appearing to be real worms.

The fact that these worms are sweet will not deter fish.

Cheap Fishing Lures

You might look at a fishing lure and discount it as bad quality because it is cheap, but there are many good quality cheap fishing lures out in the field. These lures will let you fish well without proving to be expensive. 

Here’s a list of some baits that you could look into:

  • Zorro Baits Head Knocker Buzzbait: These buzzbaits have a light wire hook adapted to both regular and heavy tackle. It might seem like a normal buzzbait, but you can adjust it to produce a loud sound by knocking into the fish. 
  • Cotton Cordell Super Spot Lipless Crankbait: Available in a wide variety of colors, this crankbait produces a unique sound and can be used to fish in shallow and semi-deep waters. 
  • Yamamoto Double Tail Hula Grub Bait: These are inexpensive jigs that can be fished on any hook and fished with most types of jigs, like a ball head. These can catch several fish, from smallmouth to spotted bass. 
  • Storm Bluegill Swimbait: This can be used as a bed bait to irritate the fish or fish in a pond. Ths bait might not have many color options or a high sink rate, but it is one of the most effective baits that you can use to catch fish. When fishing this bait, try fishing at a medium pace – don’t reel your line in too fast, or you will lose your fish. You can choose to fish it with or without the belly treble. 
  • Zoom Salty Super Fluke: This is a soft jerk bait that can be fished as a topwater lure. When you twitch and jerk it through the water, the fish are sure to come running. Try fishing it fast-twitch it about a few times, pause, then rinse and repeat. If you have a heavier hook, you’re welcome to fish it slowly, drop it down to the bottom of the water column, and then twitch it. These can be used for any water body. 
  • Zoom Baby Brush Hog(Green Pumpkin): This bait can catch both bigger and smaller fish. A brush hog has these small appendages that open up when you run your finger over them. Find which side these appendages open up, then when you’re rigging this bait, rig it that side up. The hook point should be coming out of the bait on the side that opens up. This way, you can get double the action for the same price. 
  • Zoom Swamp Crawler Worm: This rubber worm can be fished in various ways – you can drop shot it, fish it with a shaky head, etc. Green pumpkin is a color you can use in any water clarity, be it very clear or murky. 

Now that you know cheap fishing lures don’t necessarily mean a wrong time, you can look into these baits and try to find other good quality cheap baits to catch fish with. 

Corn

Corn is known to be one of the most effective baits you can use to catch fish, but there are specific rules about what you can and cannot do with corn. You can use corn as bait to catch fish in all states except Rhode Island. 

However, chumming with corn or throwing a large amount of corn into the water for the sole purpose of attracting fish is illegal in a lot of states. This is because chumming results in many litters that can take a few months to degrade naturally. Any kernels of corn unwittingly eaten by other animals could harm those animals because their digestive system is not suited to the corn. 

As a result, avoid chumming with corn in general. When fishing corn as bait, you can use dry feed corn kernels that have either been boiled or soaked in water. However, these kernels are scentless and have no additives, so that they would be less attractive to fish than other types of corn. You can try adding your flavors and scents to make up for this. 

Shoepeg corn, or sweet corn in a can, is a favorite low-cost alternative. This type of corn catches kokanee and other kinds of fish well. You can look into buying shoepeg corn that has various dyes and additional scents, like Pautzke’s Fire Corn Bait

For a better possibility of catching a fish, you can try using dye-cured corn. This can be bought from a shop or made home using Pro-Cure dye products, such as this Pro-Cure Wizard Kokanee Killer Korn Dye

If you’re going to partake in catch-and-release fishing, don’t use corn. It tends to make the hook set in the gut if you try to remove it. 

If corn doesn’t seem to be working, you can try using one of the other baits in this list. 

Worms

You don’t necessarily need to visit the tackle shop and waste your money to get some worms for your fishing bait. Earthworms and other types of worms can be found all around us – we need to know how to catch them. 

For the broke fisherman, here are some ways that you could try catching worms yourself:

  • Pull aside the leaf litter. In any local forested or woody areas, you’ll usually be able to find worms hiding right below leaf litter. This method might not procure a full bucket of worms, though. 
  • Place cardboard on the forest floor, hold it down with a log and leave it there. This provides shade and retains moisture so that worms will flock to it by the dozen. Give it a few weeks, and then any time you go fishing, all you need to do is pull up that piece of cardboard, and you’ll find worms beneath every time. 
  • Dish soap in a watering can. Shake up water with soap until it is nice and foamy. Then, go to an area with bare earth, or pull aside the leaf litter and water that area with your soapy water. 

Worms aren’t fond of soap, so they’ll come up to the surface within seconds, and you’ll be able to pick them out. After three minutes, all the worms in that area will have come out, and you can move on to another place and repeat this process until your bucket is full. When you’re done, wash the worms with well water or non-chlorinated water briefly to get the soap out. 

Cheese

Cheese broken up into small chunks and then put on a hook is a timeless way of catching fish like carp, catfish, or trout. The smellier your cheese, the better, but other types of cheeses like Cheddar can work just as well. 

You could also use string cheese – it imitates a wacky worm’s action, though it degrades and loses action the more you leave it in the water. You can watch this YouTube video for more information:

Bacon

Using raw bacon is a great way to attract bluegills and crappies. Many fish are fond of raw meat’s distinctive odor, and bacon is chock-full of specific oils that fish love. 

Otherwise, you could also use the bacon or the rind’s fatty strips and cut it apart from the bacon’s regular bacon on the sizzle on the bacon. It can be used for jigging in any water. This was a method utilized traditionally by fishers – of using the bacon rind to catch fish, like drop-shotting to catch perch. 

The rind’s stringiness also gives it the right action, and unlike cheese, it doesn’t lose this action if it stays in the water for too long. 

Here’s a video to watch for more information:

Chicken Liver

Due to their smell, chicken livers are widely popular with catfish, bass, and carp. However, because it is so soft, it falls off the hook quite easily. As a result, you can’t just set it on a hook; you need to take additional steps to ensure that it stays on the hook. 

Here are some methods you can use to make sure that the chicken liver stays on the hook: 

Cure the Chicken Liver With Borax and Salt

Here are the steps that you need to take for the curing:

  1. Spread the liver pieces evenly on a piece of cardboard.
  2. Cover both sides of the liver with borax and salt. 
  3. Put the pieces in a ziplock bag and add a bit more borax.
  4. Leave them to marinate for two hours. 
  5. Spread these pieces on a wire rack and let them dry out for anywhere between 1 – 5 days.
  6. When one side has become leathery and hard, flip them over. 
  7. Spread more borax on the chicken liver. 
  8. Put it in the freezer. 

The upside to using this method is to store it in the fridge for a long time without any rot or smell. However, the downside is that there will be less blood scent throughout the water because all the blood has been disposed of, and you will get fewer bites. 

Using Pro-Cure

If you don’t want to go to all the trouble of obtaining the necessary ingredients to cure chicken liver manually in a process that could take days, you should just use Pro-Cure instead. You should be getting a bottle of Pro-Cure UV Glow Egg Cure, which can be used for at least 8 lbs (3.63 kg) of chicken liver. 

Pro-Cure is great because it increases visibility by turning the chicken liver a brighter color, mimicking the brightness of traditional fish lures, and it also has a special scent to attract more catfish to your chicken liver. 

Here’s what you need to do:

  1. Add all your chicken liver and some Procure to a Ziplock bag. 
  2. Shake the bag and mix it thoroughly so the chicken liver is well-coated. 
  3. Let the bag sit for one to four hours. 
  4. Put the chicken liver on a drying rack wearing gloves. Otherwise, the Pro-Cure will end up staining your hands a livid pink color. 
  5. Flip the chicken liver over when the top gets tacky and leathery. 
  6. Let the chicken liver cure. This could take anywhere from two to five days. 
  7. As it nears total curing, add one more layer of Procure to the chicken liver to enhance the scent and visual attraction. 
  8. Put the cured liver in the fridge in a Ziplock bag. 

Use Elastic Wire

For this method, you will need to buy Atlas Mike’s Miracle Thread. If you can’t find this particular thread, you can try going to a fishing shop and seeing if they have any other types of thread to keep the bait on hooks. Here is what you will need to do:

  1. Put the chicken liver on the hook like you would any other bait. 
  2. Wrap the elastic thread around the liver and the shank of the hook in big loops. 
  3. Keep wrapping until the bait is not flopping around on the hook anymore. 
  4. Once you’re satisfied, break the thread off. 

Use an Egg-Loop Knot

This method might not be the easiest to use, but it is certainly the cheapest. It involves tying a simple egg loop knot to secure the chicken liver’s dangly bits to the hook. You can also use this not for any other type of bait that tends to fall off easily. 

To learn how to tie this knot, you can watch this instructional video:

When you’re fishing with chicken liver, you don’t need to jerk it about. All you have to do is cast it out and wait. The blood’s natural scent and the proteins and fats found in chicken liver are attractive enough to fish to bring them in without any additional action required. 

If you’re going after heavier fish species such as catfish, ensure that your rod has enough power to support the fish’s weight. A medium-heavy or heavy rod should do the trick. For more slippery baits like chicken liver, you should also use a treble hook instead of a single hook so that it becomes harder to come off. 

Bread

Bread is a great, widely available hook bait. It appeals to a wide variety of fish, and you can use it to bag those that aren’t fond of raw meat, like Opaleyes. As bread is very white, it is immediately visible to fish, who then swarm to it. You should try using it as bait only in clearer waters, though – in murky water, it would be best to use an artificial lure. 

Bread can be used to fish in the topwater and midwater column. Pinch a small piece of bread into a ball, then attach it to your hook, pinching it around to conceal the hook itself. 

If the fish aren’t immediately at the surface, you can do the following:

  1. Blend bread up in a food blender. This will be your bread feed. 
  2. Put a ball of feed into the area where you plan to fish using a pole cup. This attracts the fish to that area. If you’re fishing from a boat, make sure you feel at least half a meter distance away. 
  3. Put some bread on your hook. 
  4. Cast your hook among the loose feed. 

You can also use it for surface fishing, floating a small crust of bread on the surface to serve as a lure for fish like carp to come and take a bite. 

Spam/Canned Meat

Many fish like the scent of raw meat, so you can easily get away with using spam or canned meat as bait. You don’t need to get the expensive variety because cheap works just as well as the expensive one for catching fish. This bait is usually used to catch carp and catfish. 

Here’s what you need to do when using spam or canned meat:

  1. Cube the meat up into small pieces. Cubing usually works, but if you’re fishing in a popular spot, the fish might have wisened up to the shape of this bait. You could try cutting it into various irregular shapes to fool warrier fish. 
  2. Attach it to your fishing hook. It should cover the entirety of your shank. 
  3. Dice up some small slivers of this meat to use as ground bait to attract fish to your area. 

Depending on the size of the fish you want to catch, you can vary your bait size. Larger hook baits are better for larger species, while smaller hook baits offer more variety and greater bites. However, be sure not to fish with large bait too much – this could fill the fish up enough that they start scattering away from you, actually making it harder to catch a fish.

As this is soft bait, you cannot cast it far. Soft baits can also be easily knocked off, so you can use the elastic wire used in chicken liver, try using the egg-loop knot, or meat stops. Otherwise, you could try frying it in cubes to stop fish nibbling away at your bait and making it disappear entirely before you even realize that it’s gone. 

Frying also adds texture, visibility, and flavor to the meat. Otherwise, you can also add some fishing dye to the mix like this PAUTZKE’s Bait Fire Dye. You could again try using specially flavored or dyed luncheon meats, though these will be a bit more expensive and somewhat defeat the purpose of having a cheap fishing bait. 

You can use dust luncheon meat cubes with natural spices that you would use for home solutions, such as turmeric or different curry powders. After dusting these cubes and leaving them in the fridge overnight to ensure that the flavor would be absorbed, you can use it as bait for fishing. The small cloud of powder created is all the more attractive to fish like tench or barbel. 

Conclusion

It is possible to get good catches with unconventional and cheap fish baits. All you have to have is a willingness to try these unusual solutions out and a very small amount of money. However, you shouldn’t lose track of the fact that you’re trying to make the bait suit the fish you’re targeting, and you should only use relevant baits.

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