Fishing and tall tales seem to go hand-in-hand. We’ve all heard about the “big one that got away” and other exaggerated stories. There’s another angle—pun intended—to them: the bait used to catch the fish can be just as funny and hard to believe. So we did a little digging, not for worms, but for some of the strange but real things people have used for bait. Check out this list!
1. Gummy Worms
When it’s time to go fishing, you may pack these candies as a snack. But, bring enough for the fish too. Fish go for bright, colorful lures. Gummy candies look like artificial worms or minnows.
Here’s another snack you can easily share with the fish. Trout, bluegill, and sunfish are known to take marshmallow bait. Use mini or regular marshmallows depending on the size fish you want to catch. Any leftovers can go to making s’mores!
Grandma’s homemade lye soap has been used for centuries for bathing, laundry, and . . . to catch fish? It’s true! It seems that catfish bite pure bar soap. If you don’t have lye soap on hand, no problem. You can catch catfish by using small chunks of “pure” bar soap, such as Ivory or pink Zote laundry soap bar. Catfish apparently love the beef tallow fat in Zote.
4. Peanut Butter
If you fish for carp or catfish often, you’ve probably run across numerous ways of making bait balls. No need to use a complicated recipe. Simply mix peanut butter with cornmeal or pieces of sliced bread. Shape into balls to fit your fishing hook.
5. Hot Dogs
Cut a pack of the cheapest hot dogs you can find into chunks when fishing for bluegills, catfish, crappie, or bass. Hot dogs are easier to use than nightcrawlers or crickets. And if the fish aren’t biting, you can always eat the bait.
6. Bubble Gum
Chew a nice wad of bubble gum for a few minutes, until its soft enough to ball up, and bait your hook. We’re not sure exactly why fish are attracted to chewed bubble gum, but freshwater and saltwater anglers report catching red fish, bass, and catfish with it. Fruit flavors seem to be a favorite.
7. Canned Dog Food
Cats love dog food . . . catfish, that is! Simply slide a small chunk of meat onto your fishing hook and voila, it’s baited and ready. You can pour a little of the gravy into the water as chum. It’ll lure catfish to your fishing spot and help them find your baited hook faster.
8. Bottle Caps
Turn disposable bottle tops into lures you can use multiple times. Repurpose those popped tops and go bass fishing. Catch Joshua Taylor’s easy DIY tutorial video here.
9. Zucchini or Cucumber
Fish and zucchini? Sounds like a yummy recipe! But those garden cukes and zukes make great bait. One gardener who also loves to fish shares one of her favorite fishing tips with us: Cut the vegetable in half, so the flesh is exposed. Then cut into chunks and use a small treble fishing hook. She uses this method often to catch carp and catfish.
Turns out, some anglers took a challenge to see if they could catch fish with a shoelace, and surprise, surprise! They did. The proof is in their Youtube videos. Ladyfish and bass were caught with a a piece of shoelace hooked right into a fishing hook. We wish we could say you can catch “sole” with this technique, but the truth is, it’s just a corny joke!
As this list proves, anglers are known to experiment. Seeing fish gobbling up berries that fall from bushes hanging over the water, they tried dried fruit as bait. They found that golden raisins are especially scrumptious to a variety of fish. When the raisin hits the water, it swells and gives off a fermented scent, more so in warm weather, attracting lots of fish. Serious anglers use the small fish they hook with raisins as bait to catch large catfish.
This canned meat product by Hormel hit the market in 1937 and became quite popular as an important food ration during World War II. SPAM contains oils that certain fish, like large blue, channel, and flathead catfish find irresistible. Charles Ashley Jr., an Arkansas angler, let the world in on his fishing secret in 2001 when he broke state and world fishing records using SPAM as the bait to catch a 116-pound blue catfish in the Mississippi River. Cut SPAM into cubes and press onto a treble hook.
13. Chicken Liver
Grab a container of raw chicken livers and head for the nearest fishing hole. Chicken livers are great for catching catfish or bass. Farmers do their share of fishing too. They know that rooster liver works best, its tougher and stays on the hook. If you don’t have access to rooster livers, here’s what you can do. We put a container of chicken livers in the freezer for a few hours before we went fishing. It helped keep them from sliding off the hook.
14. Pom Poms
You’ll find this fishing bait where craft supplies are sold. You can make your own yarn balls like die-hard anglers do, (there are DIY tutorials on YouTube), but it’s not a quick process. Ready-made pom poms are a much easier choice. Opt for a bag of colorful mini, fuzzy cotton (or other fabric) pom poms. To doubly attract fish to the colorful bait, soak them in fish sauce for a few hours first. Place pom poms in a zipper-top bag with liquid fish sauce (you’ll find it in the Asian food aisle at your supermarket). Catfish are especially fond of pom poms marinated in fish sauce.
Pick The Best Day To Fish!
Wondering when it’s the best day to cast your line? Our Best Days To Fish calendar rates the conditions for each day and includes an interactive map so you can find a fishing or boating location near you. It also lets you search for bodies of water by species of fish!
What was the oddest thing you’ve ever used as fishing bait and did it work? Tell us in the comments below.
Deborah Tukua is a natural living, healthy lifestyle writer and author of 7 non-fiction books, including Naturally Sweet Blender Treats. She has been a writer for the Farmers' Almanac since 2004.