Fishing Bait for Sunfish

The sunfish, one of fishing's simple joys. If you have ever fished fresh water in north america, you have probably caught a sunfish. From crappie, to bluegill, to the less common warmouth and rock bass, all are sunfish. So how do you catch them? What's the best lure or bait to use? All of these questions depend on what kind of sunfish you are targeting and what habitat they live in.

Sunfish Fishing Gear:

When fishing for sunfish a high tech, high cost fishing setup is completely unnecessary. People have been catching sunfish for years with nothing more than a stick with line tied to it, a hook, and a worm. That however does not mean it's the best method. Fishing bait for sunfish tends to be pretty small, so there are two dominant fishing techniques to utilise them:

A Typical Sunfish
A Typical Sunfish
  • Ultralight Fishing, which consists of a rod/reel combo that is very light action and uses line that rarely exceeds four pound test.
  • Fly-Fishing, one of the oldest forms of fishing. Fly-Fishing utilizes specialized rods, reels, and line to cast tiny lures known as flies.

Both techniques work very well when fishing for sunfish. As fly-fishing is a very advanced form of fishing, I would suggest focusing instead on ultralight if you are new to the sport. Getting started in ultralight fishing also tends to be much less expensive.

Sunfish Habitat:

Sunfish can be found in a wide array of habitats from large slow moving rivers, to tiny farm ponds. It's important to take note of the kind of water you are fishing in as it can dictate where the fish are, and more to the point, what they are eating. It's important to know what the fish are feeding on so you can match your fishing bait accordingly.


In the warmer months sunfish in these quiet bodies of water can be found hanging around shoreline cover during the day, and spreading out into more open water during the early morning and evening hours. Typical forage for sunfish in these locations include larval insects such as dragonfly nymphs, terrestrial insects like grasshoppers, tadpoles, and small fish.


Sunfish in rivers and streams behave much the same as their lake dwelling cousins. During the day they can be found in any kind of overhead cover or eddies behind large rocks in the shallower parts of the river or stream. Sunfish in rivers and streams typically feed on much the same prey as their pond dwelling brothers and sisters, but with a larger emphasis on crayfish and terrestrial insects.

Sunfish Fishing Bait

A nice assortment of baits.
A nice assortment of baits.

There are as many baits, rigs, lures, and setups for sunfish fishing as there are, well, sunfish! You also have to consider what species of sunfish you are persuing, as some have diets and behaviors much different than their cousins. There are however a few tried and true sunfish fishing baits that have, over the years, consistently cought fish.

  • Bluegill, Pumpkinseed, Green, Longear, and Red Breasted Sunfish all have similar diets and behavior. Small aquatic and terrestrial insects make up the bulk of their menu. These species can readily be taken on small jigs, grubs, spinners, and even small crankbaits. If you are fly fishing most anglers use top-water popping bugs and small, buggy nymphs. As for live bait you can't go wrong with good old fashion worms, or you may even wish to try meal worms or freeze dried shrimp.
  • Crappie, Rock Bass, and Warmouth tend to be more predatory in their diets compared to the other species in the sunfish family. The diets of these fish focuses mainly on other fish. When after these species lures that mimic small baitfish are a must. Small minnow shaped jigs, spinners, stick baits, tube baits, and other soft plastics can be deadly when fishing for these aggressive predators. Fly-fisherman will mainly focus on small streamers and wet-flies, which most closely resemble baitfish. When using live bait the choice should be obvious, minnows!

Comments 14 comments

Reed Talonario profile image

Reed Talonario 7 years ago

These things used to frustrate the heck out of me when I was a kid!

RobynW profile image

RobynW 7 years ago from Taipei

I still remember fishing with my dad when I was a kid. We would fish for salt-water fish though. He wasn't into trout or other fresh water fish so much.

geezer profile image

geezer 7 years ago from Swifts Beach, Wareham, MA

Ah, Sunfish. My Dad taught me how to catch them and they were the first fish I ever caught. We always threw them back as my Dad said they were too bony to eat. More into ocean fishing now.

david 6 years ago

I grow up fishing lot mostly nearby pond. when i caught something and always let it go. Sometime i go saltwater fishing, i keep everything when it is bigger than my hand and eatable...

colten zombeck 6 years ago

its fun to just be fishing and just keep catchin them its easy and they bite on just about any thin my dad said he has caght them on paper

bob 5 years ago


justin 5 years ago

Fun fish to catch........... I like to use bread to catch them.

DICK POWERS 5 years ago



durf 5 years ago

worms are the best bait 4 sunsih!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

durf 5 years ago


Micheal 4 years ago

Sunfish are really fun to catch!

keith 4 years ago

Try Waxies

daniel 4 years ago

how do ya trap 'em.

Wardy 4 years ago

Use hot dog pieces to catch them I do it at a Pond in New Hamshire

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