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The Best Baits for Cobia Fishing

cobia resting on the ocean floor

Cobia is one of the most popular gamefish in existence. Ranging from the Chesapeake Bay down through the Gulf Coast, large cobia can exceed 100 pounds.

cobia resting on the ocean floor

They are nomadic, often respond to artificial lures and streamer flies, but also can be extremely finicky.

Trying out a live bait when the Cobia is not biting is always a good idea. They often can be coaxed into striking if the right live bait is presented at the right time and place.

Here are the most popular live bait options from a Cobia’s point of view that will almost always prompt a strike.

What’s the Best Bait for Cobia?

Eels

If you find a Cobia that does not go after eels, you likely have misidentified the fish.

single eel used for bait

Slimy, squirmy, and tough as nails, eels rank among the most favorite live bait of Cobia’s. Hook an eel through the chin, cast it, and let the eel do the rest.

You can buy eel at bait shops, although you should research ahead of time who has them. Eels are popular bait and can be hard to find.

Croakers

Croakers hang out on the bottom and range from Maine south to Argentina. Croaker are prolific from the Chesapeake Bay down to Northern Florida.

a croaker for fishing bait

They are related to the red drum and weakfish and work best as bait when hooked through the back.

You can buy croakers at some bait shops or online, but you should check to make sure that it is legal to use them as some jurisdictions have restrictions depending on the season.

Pilchards

With silver sides that flash when they move and giant eyes for their size, the Pilchards are a member of the herring family and a popular bait fish for several species.

pile of pilchards

Cobia love Pilchards. Fish them by drifting, slow trolling or drop and suspend.

Hook them through the “V” on their forehead. You can trap pilchards or buy them at bait shops or online. Pilchards are school fish so if you see a school try and target along the edges.

Pinfish

Pinfish live along the entire east coast of the USA, through the keys, and in the Gulf of Mexico. They are a popular bait fish because they are prolific.

a pinfish for fishing bait

Hook them through the head or mouth with a circle hook and drift them to have the best chance at attracting a Cobia.

You can trap or catch Pinfish. They are also available in many bait shops. If you do fish for them, targeting shallow water structures is the best strategy.

Mullet

Netting mullet is the most popular way to get a supply of bait. You can buy them at some bait shops but should make sure they are available ahead of time.

a single mullet for bait

Aerodynamic and sleek, they are ideal for casting or trolling. Mullet last a long time in a live well and are known for their feistiness one in the water.

Hook them through the head or back, drop and suspend or let them have their heads.

Crabs

If crabs were hardier, they would probably be the only bait anyone ever wanted to fish with when fishing for Cobia.

blue crab for redfish bait

It is not uncommon to find more than a few remnants of crab in a Cobia’s stomach. Unfortunately, they are difficult to cast, which reduces their effectiveness.

You should brush up on laws about using crabs for bait. Most jurisdictions have licensing and size requirements that apply to crabs, whether they are used for bait or table-fare.

Catfish

You will need to live catch hardhead catfish before using them for bait. Not many bait shops stock them. Aim for those in the 8 to 12-inch range.

saltwater catfish on a fishing line

Use a medium-size hook through the lips, cast them and let them drift, and have their heads.

Remember that catfish are extremely tough. They will last a long time as bait, and you do not need many, even for an entire day’s worth of Cobia fishing.

Final Thoughts

When Cobia are biting, you can use just about anything to catch them. When, however, they get stingy, and they do, the best bait for Cobia will be live bait.

Watch what is around you and match your bait to that, and chances are, you will be on the Cobia before long. Don’t be afraid to invite one back to the dinner table, either!

If you opt to go with one of the favorite baits on this list, be ready. Cobia love these live baits, and any one of them could land a triple-digit monster.

Rocco Smith

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