Bait should look and smell appetizing to a fish. A worm, minnow, or other live bait should be frisky. Cut or dead bait, such as fish parts or shrimp, works best when it is fresh or well preserved. When fishing, check your bait frequently and change it when it becomes sluggish or when dead bait has a ragged, washed-out look.
Earthworms are surefire fish attracters in fresh water. Look for them beneath rocks or logs, or turn over the soil in a moist garden or dirt pile.
Night crawlers, large earthworms that emerge from their holes in a lawn after dark, can be spotted with a flashlight. Tread softly, and when you see a night crawler, grab it quickly and squeeze it gently until it releases its grip on the hole.
Store worms at cool temperatures (40°F to 60°F) in a container that allows air to penetrate, such as a wooden box or coffee can covered with screening. Fill the container with bits of moist newspaper and fine soil.
Minnows can be caught in shallow water near shore by dragging a 10- to 20-foot seine (a net with weights on the bottom and floats on the top). They can also be trapped in a small meshwire trap baited with bread, oatmeal, crackers, or hamburger. Oxygen is the key to keeping bait fish alive. Use an aerator, or change the water in the bucket frequently. Keep the water in the 60°F range and don’t overcrowd a container.
To attach a minnow, run the hook through the lips or in front of the dorsal fin. Don’t use too large a hook the minnow won’t swim naturally.
To thread an earthworm, start at the worm’s thicker end and let the hook point emerge when the shank of the hook is covered. Or pass the hook through the worm’s enlarged band. Worms do not feel pain.
With cut bait, insert the hook through one end and then pass it through a second time so that the hook’s shank is somewhat concealed. The point and barb of the hook should protrude slightly.