how to keep bait alive

minnows are excellent bass bait

Catching Bass with Minnows

All game fish feed on minnows. They’re also known as “fatheads”, “shiners” and “golden shiners” and all bass love them.


Striped bass feed heavily on minnows, as well as other small fish like smelt and alewife.

Smallmouth bass, redeye bass, yellow bass and spotted bass will also go after them. Though don’t be surprised if you end up catching other less welcomed fish like sunfish.


The two species that are most common and recommended for bass fishing are the fathead minnow and the golden shiner minnow.


Like worms and leeches, they can be fixed to jigs, spoons and spinners.

minnow trapHow to Catch Minnows

Bait the minnow trap with either some cat food, a little dog food or dry crackers. These can be put into a small bait sack and secured in the trap. Alternatively a small tin of cat food that’s been pierced with holes top and bottom also works.


Secure the minnow trap by attaching to a dock or log in shallow water.

Keeping Minnows Alive

Use a minnow bucket with a portable, battery powered aerator. Keep the bucket cool with ice packs but don’t over-do it.


Use a flow through container when the surface water temperature is in the right range. Healthy minnows stick together in a group.

Fathead Minnow

The fathead minnow (Pimephales promelas) is a fish species found in freshwater in the United States and Canada. It’s a very important fish species for predatory fish being one of their main sources of food along with leeches, crayfish, insects and other baitfish.


The fathead minnow can be found in muddy ponds, streams and small rivers. It has a high tolerance for highly turbid waters that are low in oxygen.

Golden Shiner

To many, the golden shiner (Notemigonus crysoleucas) is thought of as a minnow, but it’s not. Even at we use the fatheads and golden shiners in the same sentence without clarification. However, the golden shiner is definitely a different species.


Golden shiners eat zooplankton as well as insects and algae. Like the fathead minnow, they can be found in lakes, rivers, ponds and streams, but unlike fathead minnows, they prefer low turbid (clear) waters.


This is an excellent bait fish to use to catch bass as well as any other fresh water predatory species.

Minnow Species

The availability of minnows varies from region to region.

Any of the minnow below provide a good substitute for the fathead minnow or the golden shiner. • Bluntnose (Pimephales) • Cardinal (Tanichthys) • Cheat (Pararhinichthys bowersi) • Cutlips (Exoglossum) • Desert (Dionda) • Eurasian (Phoxinus) • Loach (Rhinichthys cobitis) • Pikeminnows (Ptychocheilus) • Pugnose (Opsopoeodus) • Silverjaw (Ericymba) • Silvery (Hybognathus) • Suckermouth (Phenacobius)

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