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Best Bait for Surf Fishing

Surf fishing is one of the most popular forms of salt water fishing around the world. The ease of access and quality of fishing locations make this the preferred method for those looking to find a cheaper alternative to boat or charter fishing.

Choosing the best bait is essential to beach fishing success. The key is matching the local fish diet to the presentation you are using for your fishing. Both live and dead baits will due the trick and there are usually many local bait and tackle shops with the supplies and knowledge you need no matter where you decide to fish. Here we break down the most popular baits to use when surf fishing.


What’s the best bait for surf fishing?

If you are wondering which baits are the best for surf fishing, there are a few that always seem to work throughout the seasons.  Here are the most recommended baits when fishing from the beach.



Clams are a choice bait with surf fishing enthusiasts. You can buy clams or there is fun in digging for clams on your own. There is a technique to using clam the right way and some time they are difficult to keep on your hook.  Here is a popular video explaining how to shuck and hook clams for surf fishing.



Shrimp are one of the most popular baits to use when fishing in shore or from the beach, bridges and other coastal areas.  Using dead, frozen and live shrimp are common among fishermen.  There are different methods to how you hook shrimp and present ti to the fish whether it is grouper, snappers, tarpon, drum and other near shore species.  This video will demonstrate the different ways to hook a shrimp to your line.


Sand Fleas

Sand fleas are small, crablike creatures that dig into the sand and can be seen throughout the beaches.  They are also called mole crabs.  Best way to catch these little critters is using a rake to dig them out of the sand and store them in a bucket with wet sand. Just don’t fill the bucket with water.  Below is bar far one of the best videos on how to catch sand fleas.  This guy is a pro!




Menhaden / Bunker

Menhaden, also know as buncker in some parts, are flat, have soft flesh, and a deeply forked tail. These fish are popular baits for the surf and are used live, dead (fresh) and frozen. Most fisherman, especially those going for Striped bass, prefer fresh dead bunker which was never frozen.




Squid is one of the most widely used fishing baits among all ocean fishermen. You can buy squid fresh or frozen at saltwater bait shops near the beach towns and coastal waterways. Use whole squid, or cut them up into strips.



Mullet are an abundant source of food for most coastal fish species.  There are many areas around the world that have massive mullet migrations or “mullet runs” as they make their way along the beaches and waterways.  Predator fish love these bite size bait fish.  Check out this gigantic school of mullet traveling along the surf and getting hammered by all kinds of fish.  Now you can see why mullet is a popular surf bait.




What would the beach be without crabs and surf fishing bait would be incomplete without using crabs.  One of the most popular crabs for surf fishing bait is the fiddler crab.  They are small and easy to hook, then cast into the waves.  Other crabs include Pass Crabs and the classic Blue Crab.


Cut Bait

Cut bait is exactly as it sounds.  Using larger whole fish like bluefish, mackerel and others, you cut pieces or strips off the fish and use them for surf bait.


If you have any other suggestions for surf fishing baits, feel free to leave some comments below.

Also make sure you have the proper surf fishing rod with the bait you plan to use.  Heavier baits need to be cast farther out into the surf and having the right gear will help get it there.

Another new technique for 2020 is using a remote piloted drone for surf fishing.  These small air craft can take your baits much further than regular shore casting.


1 comment

  • In my area, barred surfperch are a popular catch on the surf!
    You can use a Carolina rig with a 1oz egg sinker and 2.5″ Berkley gulp sandworm on a #4 regular hook.