Live bait best for predators

July 12, 2014

Most striper anglers know that live shad is generally the best bait to use to catch stripers and hybrids, especially when the water temperatures get above 60 degrees.

The shad species is the most abundant baitfish species, and is the main forage for all predators in our local lakes.

Right now the Brazos Lakes, namely Possum Kingdom, Granbury and Whitney, are making a grand recovery on striped bass after deadly fish kills from the golden algae blooms in the past years. The lakes have been restocked and small stripers are being caught in numbers on all three reservoirs.

Barring any additional golden algae blooms, the future looks unbelievably good for the Brazos.

At the moment, you can catch all the small stripers you want with slabs and spinners. However, once these fish start growing, live bait will be the bait choice of many in the summer months when trying to coax a bite, especially on those finicky days.

Catching and keeping shad alive, especially in the summer, takes a little effort. Once you have a method that works, keeping them alive for a day of fishing is not that difficult.

Have a good bait tank with a good aerator and you are in business.

Shad is not the only live bait that can be used for stripers. Bream, large minnows or shiners will work as well. Bream, sunfish or perch, whatever you want to call them, are excellent bait for stripers and/or hybrids. In fact, at certain times of the year stripers will actually take a bream before they will take a shad.

Minnows and perch/bream require a whole lot less care to keep them alive, which makes them a good choice for many anglers. Though they are good bait, I still recommend that you carry live shad as there are times where only shad will work.

Perch/bream and/or minnow/shiners can be purchased from bait stores where shad cannot. Throwing a cast net or seining bait may be more than most folks want to deal with.

There also may be times when the shad are not available on certain reservoirs or they may be difficult to come by. Then, purchased bait may be the best choice for the live bait angler.

Shad are very sensitive and are difficult to keep and sell. I am not aware of anyone in recent years that had shad for sale. Many years back they used to sell some at Lake Whitney.

Active baits this time of year are important. In order to get a bite on some days, you may need to have your baits moving. Good live active baits are important, as well as drifting or strolling through suspended fish may be a good choice.

Bream are quick, which gets these aggressive predators going on some days.

Another place I have noticed where bream are preferred is when stripers and hybrids hold near underwater timber. Again, this is a typical summer time pattern.

Bream hold close to this structure (underwater timber), and this may be more of what they are feeding on in these areas.

There are many different ways to present a perch (bream) on the end of a hook. One method, of course, is to hook the bream through the lips (this is what I typically do).

I will also at times hook the bream behind the dorsal or in the tail which will allow the fish to swim a little better and may actually provide more action.

The defense mechanism for a bream is to stand it’s dorsal fin straight up, which may make the predator more likely to spit it out or not to take it all. On the bigger bream, many anglers will actually clip off the main dorsal spike, which allows the predator to take the bait a little easier.

If you’re a yellow cat angler, live perch or bream is your primary bait of choice for big cats. The yellow cat is more apt to take live bait, and many will bait their trotlines with perch trying to catch the big yellows (flatheads).

The official name for the yellow or flat head catfish is the Opelousas.

Try a few different bait options and you may be surprised. Have a little patience and put your bait down in known striper hold outs and more than likely the fish will find you….. when they get hungry.


Granbury water temperatures were around 83 degrees the Fourth of July weekend. Black bass are good to 4 pounds on power worms near flooded brush.

Catfish are good on a variety of baits under docks near deep water around midlake. Sand bass and small stripers are good near Western Hills, Indian Harbor, Striper Alley and in front of deCordova.

Squaw Creek water temperatures are hot (90 degrees-plus). For those who can find the bait, you can find the black bass. Best bait for black bass is soft plastics and deep diving crankbaits.

Tilapias are also being caught in numbers, mainly on worms.

Possum Kingdom and Whitney continue to boast of reports similar to Granbury for striped bass and white bass.

Hybrids action is good on Bridgeport and Lewisville.

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Category: Sports