Striped Bass Fishing 101: What Bait To Use For Striped Bass?

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There are many baits suitable for fishing stripers. The list of best striped bass baits includes menhaden, mackerel, herring, eels, crabs, worms, and clams. You can use a number of artificial lures too, even though they are less effective than live bait.

Catching fish that is as elusive as striped bass is always a challenge. Yet, if you bring the best striper bait, your odds of success increase significantly. So, why not take some time to learn more about striped bass baits?

After all, all you need to do is keep reading for a couple of minutes. I will help you catch stripers by listing the best live bait and a few high-performing artificial bait options, too. I must tell you right away, though, that I have tried most of the striped bass baits you are about to get acquainted with, and I give the advantage to live bait over artificial bait.  

Once you try a couple of striped bass baits, you’ll be able to form your own list of favorites. So, let’s start!

Best Bait For Striped Bass Fishing

A realistic striped bass bait

After years of fishing stripers, I can tell you there is no such thing as the best striped bass bait. Instead, there is the best time and place to use each bait from the following list. 


A caught menhaden fish
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Menhaden fish (also known as mossbunker, bunker, shiner, bug fish, and pogies) is a very popular and versatile bait fish. It is fairly easy to fish and can be presented in a number of ways – both dead and alive and both from the shoreline and your boat. You can use menhaden to target hungry stripers of all sizes, but it is particularly efficient for catching big stripers

Adult menhaden are 10 to 15 inches long, and if you want to use a whole fish as bait, you must use heavy gear too. If not, you can use chunks, but that can be a bit messy. Anglers often use frozen fish too, but I prefer fresh bait. When choosing fresh fish, ensure it is firm, properly-colored (not dull or white), and not overly slimy. Keep it refrigerated until you use it. 

If you opt for cut bait, you should best use it with a fish finder rig. To set up this popular rig, you will need circle hooks, a short mono leader, and a couple of sliders weighing up to 8 ounces to keep your bait anchored on the bottom. The slider will improve your hook rate by allowing stripers to pull your bait without feeling the weight of the rig. 

The best location to fish menhaden is in deeper channels or toughs near the shoreline. If there is a slight current, you can drift menhaden chunks weightless too.

When striped bass fishing from a boat, you can put a live menhaden on a circle hook and let it swim back into the water. Since an average menhaden weighs about two pounds, ensure your rod is robust enough to handle it.

The video below shows how to find menhaden:


A school of fish
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Herring are schooling fish very similar to menhaden. They are pretty effective bait when it comes to catching striped bass. On the downside, they are not readily available at bait shops, so you might have to catch them on your own if you want to use them as live bait for striper fishing.

The average herring is approximately one foot long. Therefore, when using a whole herring as a striper bait, you can catch large stripers too.

Watch the following video to learn more about striped bass fishing with live herring.

Live Eels

A photo of live eel
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Eels are one of the best bait for striped bass, but they are notoriously troublesome. First of all, live eels are pricey and hard to keep alive. They are also very slimy and known to cause knots in the fishing line. 

However, stripers love to eat live American eels. That is why this bait works wonders in all sorts of conditions. You can fish with eels in a variety of ways. They can be cast, drifted, trolled, and fished in both deeper water and shallow water. In my experience, striped bass attack live eels even when not very hungry.

Small stripers and other smaller fish are not very interested in eels, but that is good. Since they attract mostly big stripers, you might catch the trophy fish you have always dreamed of.

It would be best to choose a location where eels live naturally. Be cautious when fishing near large underwater structures, such as boulders or wrecks, since eels will likely swim right into them and tangle your fishing line up. 

How to fish eels?

Keep it simple. I usually use a five-ounce rated rod, an 8 to 10-inch, 50-pound mono leader, and a 6/0 or 9/0 circle hook. Once I cast the eel, I retrieve it as slowly as possible. Be careful, though. If you are too slow, your eel might find some crack in the rocks and tangle you up. 

Watch the following video to learn how to use eels as bait for striped bass:


A person holding a small crab
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Crabs are excellent bait for striped bass, especially in the southern parts of the USA, as that is where they normally hatch. You should best opt for a soft crab, but hardshell crabs will do as well.

Crabs are one of the best baits for stripers, as far as many surf fishermen I know are concerned. They usually attach a few crabs directly onto the hook leaving the point free. Then they add a light sinker that allows their baited hook to move together with waves. The movement of such a surface lure attracts stripers even when they are not feeding actively. 

This video shows how to catch striped bass with sand crabs:


A perfect live worm bait
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Worms are the number one choice bait for multiple fish. They work wonders for both saltwater and freshwater striped bass too. I usually use bloodworms and sandworms when bait fishing in the sea and nightcrawlers when I fish in the freshwater environment.

However, the fact that worms are highly popular among so many fish species is not an entirely good thing, especially when you want to target only stripers. Every fish wants a bite of your bait! Therefore, you might spend quite a few worms until you catch the striped bass you are aiming for. Unfortunately, worms are not cheap, and unless you are digging them up yourself, you might spend a lot of money and still not catch the fish you want.

On a brighter note, worms are pretty easy to fish and readily available at most bait and tackle shops. You can do bottom fishing, float fishing, or trolling all season long. However, I prefer fishing worms in spring, when stripers start moving north.

I usually fish with worms on sandy beaches and use a spinning or baitcasting rod, smaller circle hooks size 3/0 to 5/0, floats, and sinkers heavy enough to keep my bait near the bottom. You do not want your worm to sink completely, though, as that would enable bottom dwellers, such as crabs, to sweep it off your hook. 

Boat anglers often use worms for trolling rigs, too. You can try that, but ensure you secure your worm firmly, or it might fly off the hook. 

This video shows how to fish a tube and worm for big stripers:


A close up photo of a brown shell clam

Do stripers feed on clams? No, they cannot break the hard shell with their soft mouth. Yet, even though they normally do not eat them, they never refuse cut-up clams when you offer them. 

Once you remove the hard shell, clams are easy to rig and highly effective due to their strong scent, which can attract stripers even when they are not actively feeding. You can best fish clams in strong currents, murky water, and rocky areas.

Watch the video below to learn how to use clams to catch fish:


A pile of caught mackerel fish

Mackerel is one of the best striper baits if you live on the northeast coast. Anglers prefer to buy this oily fish fresh, but you can use it frozen too, as long as you cut it up in chunks. The mackerel meat produces a strong scent that attracts stripers in the surf zone, even in murky water and strong currents.

The strong scent makes mackerel a suitable bait for night fishing too. Bigger striped bass tends to settle in shallow water after dark, and that is when you can catch the fish of your dreams. Remember to bring a flashlight!

The following video might help you catch big stripers on live mackerel:

The Best Artificial Lures

Colorful fish lures

Even though I prefer using live bait, there is no doubt that some artificial lures work well too. Stripers are active fish that jump at every opportunity. Here is a short list of artificial lures that have proven worthy of my attention over the last few years:

  • Topwater lures, such as frogs, spooks, plugs, and poppers
  • Soft plastic lures that imitate worms and eels 
  • Berkley Gulp bloodworms and clams
  • Bucktail and hard-bodied jigs (you can combine these with real bait for even better results)
  • Tube lures 

If you want to learn how to rig soft plastic lures for striped bass, watch this video:


What baits do striped bass eat?

Striped bass eat live bait, such as herring, eels, worms, crabs, mackerel, and manhaden chunks. They are opportunistic feeders that eat anything readily available. It is best to use bait naturally found in the area you are fishing in.

What is the best bait for striped bass?

The best bait for striped bass is live bait, such as herring or menhaden chunks. Crabs and worms are an excellent choice too. You can also use clams, as long as you remove the hard shell first.

Are striped bass bottom feeders?

Striped bass are bottom feeders, but not exclusively, even though they are likely to feed on bottom-dwelling crustaceans whenever they get a chance. Stripers are opportunistic feeders. They eat a variety of baitfish like menhaden, herring, and mackerel, but also enjoy eating crabs, worms, eels, and unshelled clams.

Are minnows good for striped bass?

Minnows are good for striped bass, even though they are more popular among largemouth bass anglers. Make sure that the size of your minnow matches the size of the fish you intend to catch. The best place to get your minnows is your local bait shop.  

Do striped bass eat cut bait?

Striped bass eat cut bait and frozen bait too. In fact, menhaden chunks are one of the best striped bass baits you can use. Generally speaking, bass eat almost any available food, stripers included. 

Making The Right Choice

A fisherman holding a fish that he caught

Do you like my list of the best baits for striped bass?

As you can see, you have quite a selection of baits for catching stripers. My advice is to choose the live bait that is naturally found in the area you are fishing in. I also recommend using circle hooks and releasing your catch, as the number of stripers on the East coast is rapidly decreasing

Do you have something to add or ask? Feel free to comment. Please share this article, too. You might help someone catch a striper!

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Louis McCarthy

With over 40 years of fishing experience, I am a true veteran of the sport with a passion for reeling in the big ones. From coast to coast, I have lived in some of the best fishing spots the US has to offer. I enjoy sharing my knowledge and love for the sport, one catch at a time. Join me as I explore the great outdoors and share my expertise in the art of fishing. Follow me on Twitter and Facebook.

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