Give Live Bait A Try!
  |  First Published: August 2011

Live bait is becoming more popular among anglers today, especially those new to the sport as it’s a great way to target your first big fish.

I recently watched my Uncle Jeff reel in a 1.5kg tailor at Woods Bay, Noosa, using a small live herring as bait! Shortly afterwards, I pulled in a lovely flathead with the same bait. So I know that live bait really works!

There are many different kinds of live bait available to use in saltwater and freshwater. For instance, herring are a very effective baitfish for nearly all saltwater predatory fish or pelagics, while the bardi grub can work a treat for freshwater cod. Most of the time fishing with live bait will not let you down. The fish in Queensland’s waters have a wide range of live bait to feed on, which is what makes the fishing here so productive.

Let’s have a look what live baits we can use in saltwater and freshwater.


Most baitfish can be caught on either live bait jigs, in a cast net or with a small amount of bait. Herring and mullet are found anywhere from around the mouths of the rivers and all the way up to where saltwater meets fresh. Make sure to only take the smaller ones, as it could be a bit over the top using a 30cm mullet for live bait!

Slimy mackerel are popular live bait often used in the hunt for those monster snapper. Slimy mackerel can be caught using a simple live bait jig that can be purchased from your local bait and tackle shop.

Two other little saltwater critters that are highly sought after for live bait fishing are prawns and nippers (small saltwater yabbies). These work awesomely and the big bream and whiting love to feed on them.

To catch nippers, you’ll have to wait for low tide when some of the sandbanks are exposed. One of the best bait hunting tools you can have is a yabby pump. When you’re on a sandbank, pump away for those yabbies and pick out all the ones you bring up.

Prawns can be hard to catch, but when you do you’ve struck gold! Most people catch prawns with a cast net, similar to catching herring and mullet. When you’ve caught enough, throw them into a live bait bucket and you’ll enjoy a great day’s fishing.


In a freshwater habitat, the larger fish will usually feed on freshwater yabbies, grubs, worms, bugs and more.

Starting with yabbies, you can catch them by using a yabby pot. Put some bait in and leave it in the water for a few hours. Take care as good sized yabbies can be handy with their nippers – Ouch! Many species of freshwater fish, for example cod, yellowbelly and bass love them.

Bardi grubs are great freshwater bait, especially for freshwater cod. You can often find bardi grubs in rotting tree branches or in the garden at home.

Up north, barramundi fishers have a lot of success using live mullet they’ve caught in cast nets! And if you’re lucky enough to hook onto a barra, you won’t soon forget it. It’s probably best to have the hook on its own with just the mullet on it, drifting in the water.

Last but not least – worms. They would have to be the most well known bait around when it comes to freshwater, when the fish are there, they will bite. Like the grubs, you can use a float and hook rig or a simple running sinker rig for worms.


Remember, when you’re using live bait think like a fish. As you’re using their natural food source, it’s crucial that it’s presented properly. When fishing with live baitfish try a simple running sinker rig, using a float. Live bait on a hook by itself will work great.

When baiting up with live bait the best place to put the hook through is just under the dorsal fin or the top fin. If you want to try for the bigger catches it’s very important that the fish is still alive while on the hook. These are very likely to attract big trevally, queenfish, cod, tailor, flathead and more of the predatory fish.

When you’re using live bait, most of the time the bites you’ll get won’t just be little nibbles. Because it’s their natural food source, those fish will often strike quick and hard so it’s important to always be ready. When that hit comes, lift the rod firmly to set the hook, and fight to land that fish!

Use a simple float and hook rig when fishing with the bardi grub as bait.

When the next family fishing trip comes up, suggest giving live bait a try. You’ll have a bit of fun catching it and I’m pretty sure you won’t be disappointed with the results of your fishing.

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