Best Bait for Surf Fishing (Top 10 for Most Catches)

The first thing anglers are concerned with is tricking fish into the hook and catching them as effectively as possible.

Best Bait for Surf Fishing

However, having endless bait options across the sea market makes it challenging for anglers to decide which one is correct, especially if you are new. 


For successful surf fishing, the only practical way is to find the right bait.


Consider things like their effectiveness in attracting prey, availability, convenience, storage, transport, and rigging. 

If you are still confused, no worries. I am here with the ten best baits for surf fishing, along with useful tips and tricks, so keep on reading to know more.

10 Best Baits for Surf Fishing

1. Fresh Cut Bait

I am picking fresh-cut bait as the top bait on my list for its effectiveness in attracting big fish in the water. In addition, I really like the fact that the size of the bait is easily customizable.

Pro Tip

Use fresh-cut baits because their strong smell is more than sufficient to increase fish appetite.

It is preferred over live bait because of the convenient angling technique, as you do not have to work with the moving bait. The angler is also free to customize the bait size to target a specific fish size and species. For instance, if I want a big striped fish, I know getting a moderate-size bunker would be a better choice.

Fresh Cut Bait

It is better than artificial bait, as you can use everything from fish to clam, squid, crab, and shrimp to attract all sorts of fish. However, it is still limited in accuracy, which is why professionals prefer using live bait. All in all, it is a good kickstart for new anglers.


  • Easy to handle.
  • An effective technique.
  • Customizable bait size.
  • Great for catching specific fish species.


  • It may be less accurate than live bait.

2. Live Baits

Given by the name, live bait is any living bait you put on the hook. They are a great choice for surf fishing, as the temptation to eat living bait attracts prey to you. What’s even better is that you get live bait from the local area, as the target fish will already be feeding on that, making it more effective.

Another good thing about live bait is that it helps you improve your technique because nothing is better than putting a living bait on the hook. However, do consider that handling live bait is extremely difficult because of the constant movement. So, if you are a newbie, do not try using live bait.

Live Baits

A better way to approach this is to focus on the natural movement of your bait as you hook it up. Also, it is essential to make sure that the bait is fresh and does not have an off-putting smell, as it affects your catch rate significantly. Moreover, using larger bait is ideal if you are aiming for big fish.


  • Better attract big fish.
  • Improves your fishing technique.
  • Finding popular bait from local surroundings is easy.


  • It is extremely difficult to handle live bait.

3. Frozen Baits

If you are a literal beginner and have no clue which bait to use for surf fishing, definitely go for frozen bait. Frozen bait is the most convenient option out there, as it is easily available and easy to handle. You do not have to bother with the movement while putting it on the hook.

Also, storing frozen bait like shrimp, squid, and clam is easier than fresh options. The angler further has control over the bait size, so they can always personalize it to attract a specific target. Though these bait lack accuracy, they are still preferred over artificial bait.

Frozen Baits

It is still not the most effective bait, as most fish would prefer fresh bait that appeals to their appetite. Because it lacks a live presentation or fresh smell, target fish may not get attracted to the hook. But it still works if the water body is smaller and you are practicing the technique.


  • Conveniently available in local shops.
  • Storing frozen bait is easy.
  • Handling frozen fish is effortless.
  • Anglers can customize the size and shape.


  • It lacks the effectiveness of fresh and live bait.

4. Artificial Baits

Artificial baits are widely used as natural bait alternatives because they are easily available and offer a quick retrieving experience. The most common artificial bait used by anglers includes soft plastic worms, shrimps, squid, and lures, as they are affordable and stay in good condition.

These baits are equally convenient when it comes to storing and transporting them from distant places. The best part about artificial bait is that they never go rotten or smell bad. So, when you are traveling far for surf fishing, there is no need to keep an ice bucket to store your bait.

Artificial Baits

Now, finally coming to their technique, like frozen bait, they are absolutely easy to put on the hook and retrieve from it, as you do not have to bother with the movement. Lastly, though they are used as a natural bait substitute, their effectiveness in attracting targets is the worst among all.


  • They hook better than any other bait.
  • Artificial bait never goes bad.
  • Storing and transporting artificial bait is easier.
  • Takes less time to reel on the bait.


  • They are the worst at attracting big fish targets.

5. Shrimps

Now that we have covered the major bait categories, let us give you some recommendations for the best bait for surf fishing, shrimp being one of them. It is the best bait, given its freshness and a natural food source for most fish in the surf zone. Typically, fish cannot resist a fresh shrimp blood scent.

Another good thing about shrimp is that you can buy them fresh and frozen to your suitability. Also, their shiny and brittle skin further appeals to most fish and attracts them from a farther distance. While you are out there buying fresh shrimp, it is ideal to have one that has the shell intact and a firm texture.


However, if the shrimp has a pungent scent or looks discolored, it probably means that it has gone bad, and you should not get it. Finally, speaking of the method, it is comparatively easy to rig the shrimp. Mostly, anglers prefer two methods: the Carolina rig and the Popping Cork rig. Also, learn how to hook the shrimp as bait.


  • They are highly effective in attracting big fish.
  • Rigging them on the hook is easy.
  • Fresh blood smell has high predatory properties.


  • Most anglers find it difficult to retrieve the shrimp hook.

6. Sand Fleas

San Fleas, also known as beech hoppers, are a great way to catch bluefish and whiting from the surf zone without putting in much effort and work. The fact that most fish in the surf zones are natural predators of sand fleas, along with their availability in the local surroundings, makes them the best choice for surf fishing. Plus, they work for almost all budgets.

They are highly durable and produce a strong scent, which is pretty effective in attracting big fish near the shoreline. I usually prefer using them fresh from the shore, without paying any money. All in all, sand fleas are an excellent substitute to catch striped bass, large drums, pompano, whiting, and redfish, which are mostly everything in the surf zone.

Sand Fleas

However, before getting them for fishing, do consider that rigging live sand fleas on the hook is tricky, as they have an outer shell, and putting them on the hook might injure them. You can get over this either by using dead sand fleas or hook them through their body, which would require precise technique.


  • They are easily available on the shore.
  • Sand fleas can last for a long time on the shoreline.
  • They are highly effective in attracting prey.


  • Rigging them is tricky because of their hard shell.

7. Fish Bites

Over the years, fish bites as artificial baits have come to be proven as one of the best baits for surf fishing despite the hesitation from anglers. The best thing about fish bites is their ability to mimic the movement of natural baits like crabs and shrimp.

The first thing that makes fish bites a better choice is their durability. They are available in large filet pieces, so there is no chance that they will fall off the hook or will be stolen by small fish in the water, giving you extra time to catch the hook. Also, rigging and retrieving them is relatively easy, even for new anglers.

Fish Bites

Fish bites come in multiple flavors, like shrimps, squids, clam, bloodworm, and clam, so you have the freedom to choose and customize the desired bait. Plus, they are highly textured and produce a strong scent to attract fish of all sorts in the surf zone. Hence, you can use them at night time in the murky water to resist the impacts of the casting distance.


  • They are highly convenient to use
  • They mimic the flavor and smell of the natural baits really well
  • Anglers can customize the taste of the bait
  • Storing and transporting it is really easy


  • Professional anglers are skeptical of their effectiveness

8. Squid

Squid is yet another popular bait choice for surf fishing, all thanks to their textured surface and ability to catch both saltwater and freshwater fish targets. Whether it is Pompano, striped bass, surfperch, or mackerel, squid is your one solution to attracting almost every fish in the surf zone. Plus, it is easier to hook, rig, and retrieve the squid than shrimp.

First, let us discuss its predatory selectivity properties. Squid is a highly versatile bait, as it can work in both fresh and saltwater because of its natural shrimp-like texture and strong fresh blood scent. I have caught many flounder, bluefish, and striped bass with it, and I can guarantee that the experience was worth it.


They do not easily get off the hook, which means you get more time to attract the fish from the water, irrespective of the long casting distance. Lastly, if we talk about availability, you can buy them fresh as well as frozen from most bait and seafood markets. Storing them is also easier than live bait.


  • Squids are highly durable and stay on the hook for the longest.
  • It is available as fresh and frozen bait in the bait markets.
  • They can attract most fish in the surf zone.
  • Squids have a sharp, fresh blood scent.


  • Small fish can easily steal squids off the hook. A wise way out of this situation would be multiple hooks.

9. Mullet

The next bait on my list of the best bait for surf fishing would be mullet, as it is the native inshore bait to the Gulf of Mexico and Western Atlantic, not to mention Florida and New York. Mullets are known as the veg fish that attract a number of fish in the saltwater. Typically, they are used most in the spawning season.

The best part about using mullet as bait in the surf zone is that it is available both live and fresh; however, using it is not everyone’s cup of tea. Whenever I am using dead mullets, it is a habit to cut them into long and narrow strips, which mimics the natural movement of swimming seafood in the water. Also, this way, it is difficult to steal them from the hook.


Moreover, mullets are larger than squid and shrimp, which is why it is a great option for attracting bigger fish, like striped bass, mackerel, trout, snook, and stingrays. Now, speaking of rigging them, I would say using dead mullets on the hook is comparatively easier than live mullets. In this case, most professionals like to hook the skin twice.


  • They are available as live and fresh bait.
  • Anglers can customize the bait size to catch bigger fish.
  • They do not feel mushy.
  • They are highly effective in attracting rare fish species.


  • Rigging and retrieving mullets can be challenging.

10. Cut Baits

Lastly, cut bait is the perfect choice if you want to have a relaxed surf fishing and search for big fish targets. Cut baits are effective in catching fish and offer convenience for hooking, rigging, and retrieving for beginners. All you need to do is put them on the hook, throw them in the sand spike, and wait for a fish to bite your rod.

First, let us discuss what makes them one of the best bait for surf fishing. Well, for the most part, they are available as both fresh and frozen bait, and you can always customize the shape and size according to the target. Typically, I like using them in large filet pieces, as it prevents small fish from stealing the meat off your hook.

Cut Baits

What’s better about cut baits is that they have a textured surface and a strong scent that can attract targets from farther distances. It works especially well in the dark and colored water at night time when most fish won’t be visible to you. All in all, they are great for catching pinfish, blue runners, jacks, and whiting.


  • Anglers can customize the size and shape of the bait.
  • They are available as fresh and frozen bait.
  • Storing cut baits is easy.
  • They are effective in catching big fish.


  • They might not attract some fish in the freshwater.

Best Baits for Surf Fishing: Tips and Tricks

There are many things you need to consider when it comes to surf fishing. Everything matters, from the selection of bait to the time of fishing and the place where you are going to fish. Here are some tips and tricks that may help you through the process.

Best Baits for Surf Fishing

Selecting the Right Bait

Finding the bait is by far the most important thing you should consider when planning for surf fishing, and most of it comes down to your skill set, preferences, and budget. The fishing bait can be divided into natural and artificial categories, both of which have their own advantages.

If you are someone searching for a big fish and don’t need to spend extra time waiting for it, natural baits, preferably live and fresh, are the best option. The good thing about live bait is that you can find them from local areas. Frozen baits are also highly effective in the natural category, but they are better for anglers who are just starting out.

On the contrary, if we talk about artificial baits, they are great for anyone who is angling for fun and does not want to spend money on it. They are designed to mimic the natural taste and smell of the natural bait, which makes them equally effective. Also, the fact that they offer customization makes them a preferred option among modern anglers.

Rigging Live Baits

Rigging live baits has been a game-changer for me as an angler. I have used pretty much everything living, from mullets to crabs, shrimps, and squids, and I can guarantee that it cuts the time in half and easily attracts the fish in the water, even when it is murky. The best practice to rig your bait is by poking them through the nose and the top fin, as it prevents the bait from getting injured or dying, providing you a better chance to catch the target. You can also check the best surf fishing rigs.

Soft Bait Technique

Whatever bait you choose, it is ideal that you pair it up with a soft bait. This is because they are already embedded with a strong scent that improves your bait effectiveness and helps you attract fish. Especially when you are using fresh and frozen bait and do not have the ice bucket available, using it will mimic the natural flavor of your bait.

Best Time to Surf Fish

Your bait also determines which time is suitable to surf fish. If you are using natural baits, I would say golden early hours are the best, as the fading daylight makes it easy for fish to see and track bait. Moreover, if you are able to find the high tides near the beach, it is a bonus, as it exposes most big targets, helping you track them easily.


What is the best bait for surf fishing?

Live and fresh-cut baits are one of the best for surf fishing, as they offer presentation and smell to attract big targets in the surf zones. Living baits have natural movements and a strong fresh blood smell, making them highly effective. Plus, they are locally available on the beach, so you don’t have to invest anything.

Are natural baits better than artificial baits?

Well, most anglers prefer natural baits because targets usually prefer living baits and their flavors over artificial ones. However, artificial baits are getting better each day, as they are able to mimic the movement of natural baits. So, in the end, it all comes down to your preferences.

Is artificial bait worth it?

Yes, artificial baits are a great choice for anglers who want to have control over the entire process. The artificial nature of bait allows anglers to mimic the taste, smell, and movement of the natural bait just how they like. Also, they are equally effective in attracting the target.

Final Thoughts

Choosing the right bait for surf fishing is not as challenging as it seems. All you need to do is understand the nature of the bait, apply it to the condition, and decide whether it is up to your liking. I hope this guide has helped you find the right bait and adopt practices that help you effectively catch big fish in the surfing zone.

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