Many bass fishermen (including myself) use almost exclusively artificial baits. But when you’re fishing for bass, live bait can be a very effective approach. This is especially true when the water temperature is outside the optimal range (68-80 degrees), or if a cold front has just passed through. With these conditions, bass are sluggish, and more selective about their food. Thus, when you are throwing worms or crankbaits at them, you will have to retrieve them slower, thus cutting down on the amount of action the lure will produce in the water. This lack of action will be less appealing to a bass, and thus will produce fewer strikes.
So that’s where using live bait comes in. You see, with a live salamander, worm, frog, or minnow, you can use a slow retrieve, and the bait will still have plenty of action in the water. Additionally, with live bait, you will have the benefit of scent in the water. Most artificial lures do not have any scent (unless you are using the new Gulp lures, or something similar), which can be a major player in murky or otherwise visually impaired bass holding areas.
I’ll have to say again, that bass eat a wide variety of foods. From an inch long fry, to a small grasshopper, to foot long worms, salamanders and eels, the largemouth bass likes it all. One thing you want to try to do is to make sure the bait that you are using stays alive, and thrashing in the water. The more action, the better. So baits that survive longer will be easier to manage, and help you (especially during tough economical times) to stay out there longer.
Many top anglers will tell you that the waterdog is the best live bait to use for bass fishing. The waterdog is a tiger salamander in its larva stage. For some reason, these young salamanders are just super appealing to bass. If you are fishing a deep cover area, you may be able to use a free hook, hook the waterdog through it lips in an upward fashion to ensure the water dog can easily swim right side up, throw your line right into the cover area, and allow the waterdog to swim as it likes through the cover, and to get hammered by a hungry bass.
Another favorite bass live bait among bass fisherman is the frog. A live frog can provide some great action in the water, and along with the scent, can drive a stubborn bass into striking. Again, hook these frogs in the lips with the barb facing up, and work them through good, shaded cover areas with a slow retrieve.
Another technique you can try out is using a spinnerbait or other lure, and adding some live bait to it. You’ll still get the action that the lure produces (except in the case of crankbait) and you’ll have the added benefit of the natural scent and appeal of the live bait.
So get yourself some live bait, and get started fishing for bass with live bait.