You can’t really go wrong with shrimp. You can use live or dead shrimp. You can fish them with a jig or on the bottom with a sinker. Live shrimp will work fished on the bottom, drifting and swimming freely with the incoming or outgoing tide. Just hook the shrimp in the back and use just enough weight to get it down. The shrimp doesn’t have to be on the bottom, but you don’t want it floating along the surface either. Some of the fish you will catch with shrimp are snook, permit, jack crevalle, bonefish, redfish and cobia. These are just a few as you can catch many other saltwater fish on shrimp.
Ballyhoo are frequently used as cut bait and for trolling by saltwater anglers. They can be found in bait shops along the east coast down to the northern part of the Gulf of Mexico. Ballyhoo are one of the top baits to use when trolling offshore. You can catch a variety of species such as sailfish, tuna, wahoo, dolphin and others. There are many pre-made rigs made for trolling ballyhoo. You can find them at your local bait and tackle shop.
Blue Runners are very fast and aggressive fish known for traveling in schools along the coastlines of the Atlantic Ocean. They are considered a game fish, but many anglers use blue runner as bait. Most of these bait fish will be 10 to 12 inches, which is a perfect size for catching bigger fish. They can be used for trolling and still fishing. Blue runner are good for trolling because they are fast swimmers. Just make sure to keep your trolling speed fast enough because blue runner can actually out swim the boat and tangle all of your lines.
Known by many names — pogie, bunker and menhaden are a bait for almost all marine gamefish on the Treasure Coast.
Offshore, everything from sailfish and kingfish, to cobia, blackfin tuna, cudas, sharks, tarpon and wahoo greedily eat menhaden. Inshore, flounder and redfish go nuts for pogies. Sea trout at times go for them (especially big trout). Even bottom feeders like black drum, whiting and croakers can be drawn to a fishing spot by using ground menhaden as chum.
Mullet are a very popular bait used for saltwater fishing, especially from the Carolinas down to Florida and into the Gulf of Mexico. Many anglers use cast nets to catch mullet for bait. They can be caught near shore or inshore. Mullet can also be purchased at local bait and tackle shops and they work well for a variety of fish such as redfish, snook, sea trout, striped bass, bluefish and tarpon. Most smaller fish can be caught with cut pieces of mullet.
Pinfish are one of the most common baits that are used in the sunshine state. They are so easy to catch. A sabiki rig usually works well and it is common to catch 4 or 5 at once on these rigs. A small jig with a piece of shrimp or squid will also work well for pinfish. Pinfish are eaten by a variety of species, but grouper might love them the most. If you are fishing for grouper, make sure to have some live pinfish in the bucket. A live pinfish will out fish other baits most of the time when targeting grouper.
Fishing with live bait is the most popular way to land trophy fish in Florida, especially saltwater fishing. Feeding fish what they eat is the key. Live bait can come in many forms with varying degrees of success rates.