The best bait for surf fishing isn’t the same everywhere you go… but there is a “formula” that remains steadfast no matter where you’re fishing. The best surf fishing bait is the prey that your target species naturally feeds on.
In this article (use this list to navigate within this page):
But, the best way to figure out which surf fishing bait to use is to figure out which baits work well for which species of surf fish. Below, we’ll break down the best surf fishing baits per species.
Best Bait for Corbina, Spotfin Croaker, and Yellowfin Croaker
Best Surf Fishing Bait:
If you’re looking to catch any of these three species (corbina, spotfin croaker, and yellowfin croaker), sand crabs should be your number one option. Since these fish regularly feed on sand crabs along the shoreline, it’s pretty much a no brainer. Sand crabs will be your best bait for surf fishing.
Being one of the most popular species caught in the surf on the west coast, there’s an abundance of options for surfperch. In my experience, mussel meat comes in at number one. The most popular option however, is a 2-inch Gulp sand worm. Another extremely popular option is your local bait maker’s grubs. it shouldn’t take you too long to find out who’s making bait nearby and odds are, they’re pretty good grubs.
The only reason sand crabs aren’t atop this list is because you typically catch more croaker and corbina with them and while sand crabs disappear in the winter, surfperch fishing heats up.
When you’re surf fishing for halibut, it’s important to know where they spend their time and what they prey on. Although they spend most of their time on the bottom, they’re feeding on baitfish that pass above them. For that reason, anything that mimics small fish is a good option.
If you’re specifically targeting guitarfish, and even more specifically, big guitarfish, the two best baits are big sand crabs and squid. While you can catch them on squid and cut bait, you have better odds of weeding through the sharks, rays and even corbina, croaker and similar species by using massive sand crabs.
The number one option for targeting rays in the surf is squid. No bait will catch more rays than squid. although, most anglers don’t deliberately target rays, it’s a good thing to know that you’ll attract rays with squid.
Although you can catch calico, sand bass and rock fish on lures consistently, the best bait for these species is shrimp. Additionally, the best bait for sheephead is shrimp. Fish around rocks and reefs with shrimp and you’ll hook-up soon enough.
The best bait for catching white seabass in the surf is going to be anything that mimics bait fish. technically, live grunion, sardines, or anchovy would be ideal, but those are tough to come by for the average surf angler.
The three best baits for opaleye fishing are shrimp, mussels, and peas. An interesting selection you might be thinking. I’ve personally only used shrimp and mussels, but there’s a large number of anglers out there who swear by frozen peas.
The best bait for catching redfish in the surf is a 3-way tie. Cut mullet, live shrimp and crabs are also popular options. While it’s possible to catch redfish on lures on a regular basis, bait is still a more popular option.
Other Popular Baits:
Some anglers will use squid to catch redfish from the surf and lures aren’t out of the question either. Jerkbaits like the LC FM 110 will work just fine along with spoons, top waters and swimbaits.
The two best baits for black drum (or “big uglies” as they’re commonly known) are live shrimp and crabs. These guys are basically spotfin croaker on steroids and even though they don’t fight as well pound-for-pound, given their sheer size, they’ll easily put their not so distant relative to shame.
Clearly, like sand crabs, live shrimp is an extremely versatile bait. While it’s commonly accepted that live shrimp will catch more speckled trout (spotted sea trout) than lures, lures might weed through the smaller catches and other bycatch to get you that trophy speckled sea trout. many jerkbaits and swimbaits will do very well with these fish
Other Popular Baits:
If you can get your hands on some live croaker, mullet, or other similar baitfish, you might have a great shot at catching a larger-model specked sea trout.
The best bait for bonito fishing is live bait like anchovies, sardines, or small mackerel. Bonito will also bite on lures like the LC FM 110 and swimbaits like the keitech 4.8-inch fat impact swing and many other lures. Trust your eyes. If your lure looks like a small bait fish… it’ll probably work.
Snook are another interesting species of surf fish that will regularly bite on a wide variety of baits. Again, live shrimp will do the trick for just about any species that will come near the bottom. If you’re looking for those trophy-sized snooks though, pick up a bucktail or swimbait of sorts.
Thanks for giving this a read and if you think I missed a species that’s a commonly caught surf fish, reach out below in the comments section and I’ll add it to the list. I hope this helps you pick out the best bait for surf fishing!