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Our Top Picks for Amberjack Bait

Anyone that has fished for Amberjack will attest that, pound for pound, they can hold their own against the best game fish.

amberjack jumping out of the water

Known for an almost unnatural strength, Amberjacks are popular because of the fight they put up as well as their propensity to run an angler’s line into underwater structure.

They are also popular because they are as tasty as any fish in the ocean once grilled.

If you are thinking of fishing for “jacks,” as some call them, it pays to use the proper bait. Here is a rundown of bait Amberjacks will almost always go after.

Blue Runners

Blue Runners are a common bait fish found across the Atlantic ocean and the Mediterranean. They typically are a little over a foot long when used as bait.

blue runner fish swimming underwater

Circle hooks are the type that work best, run through the roof of the mouth, piercing the fish through the upper jaw. Drift the fish by them along their back above the dorsal fin.

You can trap your own Blue Runners or buy them in just about any bait shop, live or frozen.

Goggle Eyes

The Goggle Eye fish has several nicknames, including the Bigeye Scad, Gogs, and Akule. They live in warmer waters worldwide and grow to about 15 inches long.

goggle eyes fish for bait

For Amberjacks, dead Goggle Eyes work best, especially when sliced in half diagonally.

If you live in a warm-water area, you can find Goggle Eye bait at any saltwater bait shop. If you live in a colder water region, you can find Goggle Eye, precut and frozen, bait online.


Because they are abundant up and down the east coast, throughout the Florida Keys, and in the Gulf of Mexico, pinfish are one of the most popular baitfish in existence. Renowned for their hardiness, they are a delicacy for Amberjacks.

pinfish for fishing bait

The most common way to rig Pinfish is through the top of the head or the mouth. You can catch pinfish in flats or structures. You can also buy them at virtually any bait shop.

Sand Perch

Sand Perch live in warmer water off South America, South Africa, and the Indo-Pacific. They are also known as “squirrel fish” and live in coastal waters and bays along seagrass beds and shallow banks.

sandperch fish swimming on the sea floor

Almost any fish likes Sand Perch, but Amberjacks love them. Sand Perch can be fished alive or dead.

You can find them at any bait shop in warmer climates, and you can find several vendors that sell frozen Sand Perch online.

Cigar Minnows

The Cigar Minnow is found throughout the Atlantic and into the Gulf of Mexico.

Cigar minnows dead fish bait

Narrow with a roundish body, Cigar Minnows have a yellowish lateral line with tiny black spots that run alongside them. They are a favorite of charter fishing boats and are often used for trolling.

You can catch them in fish traps or buy them at bait shops. Anglers fish them while alive or cut up and frozen. They are an excellent bottom bait.


Pilchards have keeled bellies, silvery sides, and large eyes. They are members of the herring family and usually swim in large schools.

pile of pilchards

When used as bait, they are about six inches long, although they can grow to just over one foot long.

Just about every fish alive likes Pilchards. That makes them a favorite for drifting, trolling, or dropping and suspending them. The best way to hook them is through the “V” area in front of the eyes. 


Grunts are usually warm-water fish. Their range is Northern Florida down through the tropics. They can be trapped or fished for use as bait. They are also readily available in many bait shops.

white grunt fish swimming underwater

To fish grunts, hook them through the nose or back and drop them to your preferred depth.

Do not use grunts for any type of trolling. In a pinch, if the Amberjack is not biting, they can be caught in larger sizes and eaten.

Final Thoughts

Any of these bait fish will all but guarantee you will get into an Amberjack. Live bait tends to work best although, with some species, frozen bait works just as well.

Each on this list can be trapped or live caught as well as being available in bait shops all over.

If you use the best bait for Amberjack, you can greatly increase your chances of success. This is especially helpful if you’re looking to invite one of these beautiful fish back to the dinner table.

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