Using Live Bait for Bream | Great Days Outdoors

Live bait is the key to successful bream catching on any lake.

Ask any angler today what they used when they started fishing and most will suggest some kind of live fishing bait.

Redworms, wigglers and crickets are probably the most popular live bait types used today by anglers of all ages. When going after bream, live bait is the smart choice.

Bream (pronounced brim) is an all-inclusive term for many species in the sunfish family. Bluegill, redear sunfish (also known as shellcracker) and others are plentiful in ponds, lakes and rivers all across the Cotton State. Many anglers started their fishing education with bream. A feisty pull of the most popular panfish is welcomed by anglers of all ages.

Kids that grew up near a lake or creek usually located some type of live bait for fun fishing. Worms, insects, crawfish and minnows were probably collected and used for bait. Today many anglers tend to focus on artificial lures and baits. However, when it comes to consistently catching bream, nothing can beat using live bait.


Bream is the perfect species for teaching kids to fish. Photos by Charles Johnson

Bream Locations

Bream are abundant and can be found in any creek, pond, lake or river around the state. Many of the state fishing lakes operated by the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources are top spots to catch a limit of bream. Also, lakes in the state park system are teaming with bream.

“Sunfish will usually hold in around logs or large rocks that provide a current break.”

In creeks or rivers, bream anglers should target slack water areas or pools. Sunfish will usually hold in around logs or large rocks that provide a current break. Also, eddies near the bank are other areas to check for bream.

In lakes and ponds it may take a little searching to locate a school of bream. These fish love company and if you catch one, others should be nearby. Anglers can look for beds, spawning areas around sandy points and gravel bars. A bream bed is about the size of a small dinner plate. There should be several of these spots cleaned out and clustered together.

Bluegill will generally be shallow in around two- to five-feet of water. Larger bluegill and shellcrackers will stage out a little deeper, especially in the hot summer months. Anglers should cast their baits in different areas to locate hungry bream.

Bugging Bream

Several types of live fishing bait may be used to target all the species of bream. Crickets are arguably the top live fishing bait choice for bream. Earthworms like redworms, wigglers and fiddle worms can also be used successfully, but more on those baits later.

“I like crickets the best for bream,” explains Dean Sanders of Eastaboga, Ala. “They are easy to put on a hook and the bream like them.”

Sanders says at times he will use small artificial jigs for bream, but crickets are much better by far. He uses a No. 8 wire hook with a small float when fishing with crickets. The float makes it easier for casting the lightweight insects. A softer or lighter cast prevents the cricket from leaving the hook. A brightly-colored float or bobber signals a strike.

Anglers can usually purchase crickets at most local bait and tackle shops. Some cricket vendors provide small disposable containers to hold the crickets until ready to fish. However, wise bream anglers can purchase a screen wire tube or bucket specifically for the bugs. These cricket carriers make handling the live bait a simple task.

“Thread the hook through the main part of the cricket body,” advises Sanders. “Make a soft cast so as not to sling off the cricket before it hits the water.”

Once the bug hits the water, it’s usually only a matter of seconds before a hungry bream finds it. Bream will feed throughout the day and night and are scrappy fighters. These are the perfect fish to introduce a youngster to fishing.

Got Worms

Live redworms are also a primary bait for bream. These earthworms go by many different names such as wigglers, fiddle worms, and night crawlers. Each type is a different size. No bream can resist a gob of worms twisted together on a hook. Also, wax worms are another popular live bait for bream.

While any bait shop is sure to have some kind of worms, anglers can save a few bucks and dig up their own. Look for worms around the side of a barn or outbuilding. First, rake back the leaves or straw to expose any worm near the surface. If no worms are spotted, carefully dig down a few inches in the soil and turn it over.

Earthworms can be kept alive for several weeks. Place the worms in a larger container with plenty of fresh soil. Keep the soil moist but not wet. A few sprinkles of oatmeal or cornmeal will serve as food for the worms. Also, keep the container in a cool place.

“Thread the hook though the worm a couple of times, Sanders comments. “Two or three loops around the hook should be enough to hold the worm.”

Depending on the size of the worms, only one may be needed to bait your hook. Most anglers thread the hook a couple of times back and forth with a single worm. There are special bait- holding hooks available. When bream fishing the wormed-up hook is fished only about a foot or two deep below the float.

Shellcrackers are usually a little deeper in the lake. Some anglers may adjust the float to allow the bait to go deeper or either remove the float entirely.

Other Live Creepy Crawler Baits

Almost any insect or worm can be used as bream bait. Caterpillars like Catalpa worms are a springtime favorite bait for old salty bream catchers. These worms are only found on specific trees. If someone has a good supply of catalpa worms on a tree, the secret is kept quiet.

Small crayfish or better known as crawfish, can also be used for bream, although not as common as worms and crickets. These small crustaceans can be found hiding under rocks and logs in small creeks and lakes. There are crawfish traps available, but anglers may want to freestyle catch or grab these baits while wading in the water. Remember to keep your fingers clear of the crawfish’s pinchers.

A plethora of different live baits are available in nature for anglers. Small grubs, beetles, June bugs, grasshoppers and even ants can be used as bream bait. The supply is plentiful.


Redworms and wigglers are popular baits for bream. Photos by Charles Johnson


Gear for Live Fishing Bait

Fishing tackle for catching bream on live fishing bait doesn’t have to be complicated. A cane pole, short length of line and a hook are basically all that is required.

Ultralight spinning or spin-casting gear is probably more common and it’s a little easier for younger anglers to master.

“It doesn’t have to be anything fancy, just keep it simple.”

Long, telescoping bream poles or old-fashioned cane poles can be used to place the bait in a precise location. Bream like to snuggle close to logs, stumps and rocks. With a little practice, bream anglers can have pinpoint accuracy with the long poles.

“A lighter rod and reel is easy to handle and cast,” Sanders advises. “It doesn’t have to be anything fancy, just keep it simple.”

Line sizes in the four- to eight-pound-test range is plenty strong to fight even the toughest of bream. Also, the lighter line allows for better action when using live fishing bait. Hook size is generally from a No. 6 to a No. 10. Long shank hooks work best for live fishing bait.

Floats or bobbers can be snapped or threaded on the main line. Sanders says to keep the floats as small as possible to detect the slightest of strikes. In some cases the bream will not pull the float under the water, but rather swim off to one side while pulling the float along.

“My dad loved to bream fish,” Sanders comments. “He passed down the tradition of fishing to me and I guess I’m passing it along to my grandson”

Generally, live worms and crickets are the best to use when taking a kid fishing. These baits are easy to handle. And the fishing (or should we say catching) is a very short wait. Whatever your choice of bream bait, when it hits the water you will know it’s a great day outdoors.

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