Saltwater Fishing Bait Guide 101

When it comes to saltwater bait fishing it begs the question. What bait do we need to use to get the fish to bite on our line? To answer that question we have to look at a number of different factors. The type of species you’re targeting, the hook and also the location.

Taking into consideration these three factors will help you increase your catch rate. If the species your targeting doesn’t eat the type of bait you’re presenting then you’ll be lucky to get a nibble. Also, if the bait your using doesn’t live in the location your fishing then your chances may also drop.

One of the key elements to get right is by using the right hook for the desired bait. For example, there’s no point using a whole pilchard on a single hook. You’re better off using a gang hook set-up as this will hold the bait more effectively and secure the whole pilchard while casting out.



Often the most common bait used amongst anglers. Pilchard can be easily bought at your local tackle shop and generally come in 400g to 4kg frozen bags. Pilchards do well when targeting Pinkies (Juvenile Snapper), Snapper, Salmon and Flathead to name a few.

When it comes to using Pilchard, bait presentation is key. You can either use cut pilchard or as a whole. If using cut pilchard, cut a whole pilchard into bite sizes pieces and feed it onto the hook. A number of different hooks will do while in this situation from your circle hooks, Octopus hooks and of course your bait holder hooks.

If using Pilchard as a whole then your best bet would be to use gang hooks. Just remember to feed the hooks from one side only. Start from the head to the tail.

One thing you may find over time using Pilchard as bait is that it becomes soft very quickly. A trick of the trade is to cover the Pilchard with salt as this draws the moisture out and helps your bait stay firmer for longer.



Very similar to Pilchard but a lot smaller. Whitebait can be found from 5cm to 7cm lengths. Generally, bait as a whole on single hooks.

Whitebait does well when targeting predatory schooling fish like your Salmon and Tailor. As you’ll find Tailor prey on whitebait by chasing these little guys up to the beach to make them a little easier to catch.



Pipis quite commonly used in the southeastern states of Australia where they can be bought at your local tackle shop or harvested. If you plan to harvest Pipis prior to your fishing trip please check regulations as there could be set limits in place.

Best way to use Pipis is by splitting the shell open from the centre and using the meat inside. Either use baitholder hooks or circle hooks which helps the meat stay secure when casting and in the water.

These guys do well when it comes to catching a mixed bag of fish. From experience, I’ve landed a number of Flathead, Bream, Flounder and King George Whiting.



When it comes to using Peeler crabs as bait these guys can be used as a whole your in pieces. Both live and frozen baits do well as they’re quite tempting for a number of different marine species. Gummy sharks, Flounder and Flathead are to name a few common species caught.

Peeler crabs can be found at your local tackle shop or caught fresh. If catching these little guys prior to fishing please check your local regulations. Using both crab nets or crab spears would be the way to go when it comes to catching peeler crabs.



My favorite go to bait when it comes to land based fishing. Squid in my opinion are power baits as I’ve caught a number of different species. Especially Pinkies (Juvenile Snapper) and Whiting. Once they get on the bite they don’t stop until they’re hooked.

The best way I find in presenting Squid is by cutting squid tubes into strips of meat which suits the size of hook I intend to use. Long shank hooks with strips of squid do well with Whiting and Circle hooks do well with Pinkies.

If targeting bigger fish, for instance, your snapper. Smaller whole squid can be used with suitable sized gang hooks. Pierced through the centre of the body and threaded through one way.



An effective and easy bait to use as prawns can be used with bait holder, circle or octopus hooks. Prawns are best threaded from the tail end through the body and then presented at the head.

These do well when it comes to catching a mixed bag of fish. I’ve caught Flathead, Bream, Pinkies and even Flounder. Often I would use prawns with a modified running sinker rig or Paternoster rig.

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5 thoughts to “Saltwater Fishing Bait Guide 101”

  1. Thanks for this really informative post. I unfortunately have not had a great deal of experience with salt water fishing, and what limited experience I had was not the greatest. The first was when we went out on a fishing boat and the only thing I caught all night was a Sea Robin. Let’s just say it was less than exciting. 

    The other experience was fishing from the shore I was using an old rod and probably some old line. The moment I cast my line, the sinker snapped right off and I watched it majestically twirl in the air until it went kerplunk in the water. We never found it. 

    However, it is something I would like to give a go and I feel like you have given me not only motivation, but some knowledge to make this experience more enjoyable and successful! Thanks!

    1. Hi Steve,

      I feel for you, sometimes you do get days like that when you’re out fishing. But other times you can be catching fish in their numbers. Don’t give up and give it another go. Who knows, third time might be the charm. 

      Thanks for taking the time and dropping a comment.

      All the best,


  2. I have never been saltwater fishing, so this really helps someone like me who would not know what kind of bait to use.  I thought all fish liked worms!  Since I am from Michigan, I fish in fresh water lakes, streams and rivers.  

    My son, who is an avid fisherman, wants to try saltwater fishing.  I will encourage him to read your article about the different kinds of bait before he goes.  Maybe I can talk him into taking his Mother with him fishing!

    Again, thank you for this important information!

    1. Hi Karen,

      Thank you for leaving a comment and I hope your son does take you fishing if he does decide to go saltwater fishing 🙂



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