Bait or Artificial Lures – Which is Better for ultralight fishing?

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Which is the best method for catching freshwater fish using ultralight fishing gear- bait or artificial lures? This is a question that different anglers will have different answers for. The short answer is that both methods are great ways to catch fish. The long answer depends on the specific fishing situation. In certain situations you will have more luck if you use bait and in other situations artificial lures are the way to go. Whether you want to fish with bait or lures will also depend on your personal preferences as an angler.

Artificial Lures

There are many different types of artificial lures, including crank baits, swim baits, jerk baits, spinner baits, plastics, jig heads, tube jigs and much more. These lures are often made of plastic or a gel-like material and they move in a way that is similar to a real prey item. You can successfully catch all species of freshwater fish using artificial lures. You can control their speed and their presentation to mimic swimming schools of baitfish or a single injured baitfish. They come in a wide variety of sizes, colors, styles and types. They can be used to represent a specific type of prey, such as a baitfish, crayfish, insect or other food item, or they can be very general to mimic several types of prey at once. Some artificial lures don’t mimic anything specific, but are bright and flashy enough to trigger strikes by fish.

Hard Body Lures - perfect for ultralight fishing
photo credit: C. J. Vizzone via photopin cc

There are several advantages to using artificial lures when ultralight fishing. The first advantage is that you don’t have to handle smelly, stinky and nasty bait. You also don’t have to buy your bait ahead of time and worry about it dying while you are fishing. You can use a variety of fishing techniques and presentations with artificial lures as well. If one technique isn’t producing results you can always try another lure or presentation method. It is easy to carry lots of different lures with you when you go fishing. Carrying around different types of bait can be rather tricky, especially if you are wade fishing. One disadvantage to lures is that while they look good, they don’t actually smell like bait. You can add artificial scents to some lures however. Lures are also highly complimentary to ultralight fishing gear as the light weight rods, reels and lines let’s you have greater feel and control over the action.


There are many different kinds of bait that can be used for freshwater fishing. This includes live bait like minnows, worms or scuds, or cut bait such as chicken livers or cut fish. You can also purchase artificial baits. Bait can be a very effective way to catch all species of freshwater game fish, because it smells like the food many fish are looking to eat. Catfish are especially vulnerable to bait. Live or cut bait can be fished with a bobber, slip bobber, along the water’s bottom or it can drift along with the current. Sometimes you can actively fish with bait, such as when you are in a current or when you are throwing a live minnow, and other times you can place some stinky bait on the bottom of the water and wait for something to find it.

Bait - a Relaxing ultralight fishing technique
photo credit: Leonard John Matthews via photopin cc

You will have a lot of options when it comes to cut bait. Bait does have to be purchased or caught ahead of time, and it may die during transport or before you get the chance to fish with it. Probably the biggest disadvantage of bait for a majority of anglers is the gross out factor. Some anglers simply don’t enjoy gut hooking a live minnow or impaling a worm on a hook.

The decision of whether to use live or dead bait or to go with an artificial lure will be up to the angler. Some will use both at the same time. Both techniques can produce great results, so it is really up to you which one you want to use. A serious ultralight fishing enthusiast may swear by lures because this is a much more intense style of fishing, where your patience and skill are rewarded. However if you just want to dangle a line whilst nursing a beer, bait may be the answer!

Don’t Forget to check out our Ultralight Fishing Post!

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