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Top 7 Snapper Baits to Use on Your Next Fishing Trip

Snapper fishing typically targets two common species of snapper: red snapper and Mangrove snapper, but there are many more.

florida fisherman holding a snapper

Either way, these fish are fast-moving and hard to catch. Many fishermen make some common mistakes when fishing for this species. 

Some of the biggest snappers can weigh as much as 20 or 30 pounds, making them excellent trophy fish. The smaller ones are just as fun to reel in and make for a tasty meal. 


Best Baits for Snapper

  1. Squid
  2. Pogies 
  3. Cigar Minnows 
  4. Pinfish 
  5. Bonito Strips 
  6. Tomtate 
  7. Pilchards


When it comes to fishing for snapper, a combination of live and cut bait is going to serve you well. Squid is an ideal cut bait that can help you reel in these picky fish. 

squid for fishing bait

Squid is best during the late afternoons and evenings. This is because, at these times, snapper fish will be feeding near the surface. It’s easiest to put a cut piece of squid on a small hook and sit it near the water’s surface. 



Pogies are great bait options for offshore and deepwater snapper fishing. They are ideal as cut bait or strip bait, and you can find them either fresh or frozen at many local bait stores. 

a school of pogie swimming

As popular as pogies are for cut bait, they are also excellent live bait. They have a naturally oily smell and flavor that snappers love, and the live option is much more likely to get you a good bite. 


Cigar Minnows 

One of the best live bait options for snapper fish is the cigar minnow. Snapper fish aren’t picky; in fact, they’re pretty aggressive and will go for any food that looks good. However, they’re smart creatures who won’t go after anything that looks suspicious, which is why live bait is best.

Cigar minnows dead fish bait

Cigar minnows are easy to catch, and some anglers like to cut them in half to use as bait. We recommend keeping them alive for snappers, though. 



Pinfish are small yet mightily popular baitfish. They are abundant and easy to find, but they’re also extremely hardy and snapper fish love them. 

pinfish for fishing bait

You can find pinfish pretty much anywhere on the east coast. The easiest way to catch them is to lure in a large group using chum and cast a net. You can grab a bunch at once and keep them alive for your snapper expedition. 


Bonito Strips 

Bonito strips are some of the smelliest, oiliest cuts of bait you can buy. For this reason, they’re perfect for luring in some huge snapper fish. 

bonito fish for bait

Bonito strips come from the bonito fish. These tiny guys are available near the edge of the water pretty much year-round. They don’t taste very good to people, but predatory fish love to snack on them.

To use bonito strips, cut their skin into strips and hook it into a small rig. Remember: snappers mustn’t see your hook. 



The tomtate fish, also known as the brown grunt, is a small fish that grows only about as long as ten inches. It lives in coastal water, and you can easily catch it using cut bait on a small hook. 

a live tomtate used for fishing bait

When hooked through the back using a small rig, the tomtate fish makes excellent live bait. Some anglers prefer to make the most of one fish by cutting it up, so it does make a decent cut bait as well. 



Pilchards make perfect live bait for snapper fishing during the day. As opposed to the evenings, snappers spend their days about 15 to 20 meters deep. By using live pilchards, you can get your hook far enough down and within a snapper’s reach.

pile of pilchards for bait

Pilchards are not only good live, but they’re a lot less messy than some of the other options. Many anglers find them easiest to use. Their shiny bodies quickly catch the eyes of fish. 


Final Thoughts

Snapper fish are a beautiful species – especially the red snapper, which has scales that truly live up to its given name. Because of this fish’s ability to grow very large, it can be a fun yet challenging catch for fishing enthusiasts. 

Using the baits above, you can yield the most success fishing for snapper across the Gulf of Mexico and in the South Atlantic. 

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