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Artificial Bait vs Live Bait: Which is Better For Surf Fishing?

Artificial bait vs Live bait
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When it comes to luring a target fish species and landing a tight line, a lot of it comes down to which bait you use combined with other elements. Baiting a fish is one of the critical components in landing catches, and which bait you use has a colossal impact on the overall outcome of your trip.

Live bait is far more effective for surf fishing, particularly if it’s caught by yourself since it attracts fish more efficiently. Artificial bait may be more convenient and effective in the long run. Both baits can be utilized for optimum results in varying conditions. 

Whether live bait or artificial bait is better has been a hotly debated topic amongst anglers of all calibers for as long as artificial bait has existed. I’ve gathered the pros and cons of both of these baits to establish how, when, and why they would be beneficial for a great surf fishing day, which is ultimately more effective for which conditions. 

Which Bait Is Better For Surf Fishing Live Bait or Artificial Bait?

There are plenty of factors to consider when surf fishing – from the time of dayOpens in a new tab. to the winds and shore conditions, and some aspects are more flexible than others. This mainly depends on how much control anglers have, and the ability to attract species to your line isn’t something one can change.

The way fish are drawn to your line will predominantly be based on their feeding habits and their reaction to your bait, and various kinds of bait all have specific benefits and downfalls. 

Is Artificial Bait Better Than Live Bait?

Artificial baitOpens in a new tab. can be identified as anything that has never been alive. There is a wide range of artificial bait types that are made up of various materials to manipulate fish into thinking the prize on the end of your hook is real bait.

Materials like soft plastics, flash or vibration effects, and added scents make such bait imitate real fish characteristics, and real fish skin with bright colors is often used to make them more detectable. 

Artificial bait is excellent for attracting fish species of all shapes and sizes and may amount to a higher catch rate overall, depending on skill. Also, they cover more ground than live bait, leaving more opportunities for fishing.

Using artificial bait allows surf anglers to start fishing immediately after arriving at the surf fishing location and setting up, which may amount to a higher catch rate overall due to more time spent fishing your target species. 

Artificial lures are easy to store as they require far less space in addition to the benefit of not having to maintain their health like live bait, and they do not cause messy situations.

They are also far easier to control the presentation in waters, as anglers can manipulate them to look lively and appealing, but this would require skill. 

Even though artificial bait may last longer in terms of its reusability, it will still wear off over time due to damage from fish, rust, and many more factors that will necessitate replacement.

Artificial bait also comes with some impact on the environment since leftover debris is left in waters. However, manufacturers are creating biodegradable versions that will aid this issue. 

They require more skill and expertise to operate effectively since there is a knack for fooling a fish into thinking the bait is real. It’s not as simple as casting and waiting for a feeding frenzy in many live bait situations.

There needs to be ample knowledge on how, when, and where to cast, twitching a jig off the bottom correctly, and working a topwater plug. 

Is Live Bait Better Than Artificial Bait?

Live baitOpens in a new tab. can be considered anything that is or had been alive at some point, including dead, frozen, or cut baitfish. It’s far more effective at attracting fish of varying species since live bait is the real deal in terms of scent, visual appeal, and characteristics. Hence, it’s well-known for landing great catches with a lower level of surf fishing skill and expertise.

Using live bait is fantastic for attracting fish and getting some stunningly hefty catches in addition to landing more bites from larger species. Due to the way it naturally attracts fish, it’s far simpler to get one of the biggest catches of your life using live bait. 

It’s an excellent option for beginner or novice anglers since there is far less skill required in terms of how the bait is maneuvered and manipulated in the water.

There will still be plenty of knowledge and expertise needed in understanding when, where, and how to cast, but after casting is done, the bait will do most of the work for you to get bites. 

In terms of the practicality of using live bait, it seems only to be worth it if the bait is being caught yourself since live bait can become quite pricy if it’s being bought. Catching bait is a skill of its own that takes time to master and practice, requiring a different set of techniques and approaches in various water habitats. 

Popular options for catching live bait include using casting nets or Sabiki rigs. It can be rather time-consuming for an angler who doesn’t have much experience in luring baitfish and can take anywhere from 20min to a few hours to catch bait, depending on your expertise and knowledge of the habitat.

This leads to the time factor, since using live bait if caught by yourself can take up far more time, the bait caught doesn’t last long, and live bait does not cover as much ground as artificial bait does. 

Live bait also requires far more effort in order to keep them alive and healthy, as well as far more space for storage and plenty of cleaning once the day is done.

Live bait also poses issues for control since live bait can behave in various ways while trying to escape, which may jeopardize the catch. This would include anything from tangling itself inline or hiding from the prey, but frozen or cut live bait would allow more control. 

Which Bait is Better For Surf Fishing? 

Deciding whether artificial or live bait is better for surf fishingOpens in a new tab. would be based on various factors, and the reality is that they are both extremely beneficial for surf fishing.

This would be better for you would predominantly depend on the fish species being targeted, storage space, time availability, budget, fishing skill level, and the equipment and know-how needed to catch live bait effectively. 

The target species will play a significant role in determining which bait will be best. If you intend to fish for a high catch rate irrespective of size or shape, then artificial bait would be a better option. However, if you target fish at stupendous sizes, then live bait would certainly be more effective. 

Live baitOpens in a new tab. requires more effort than artificial bait, ranging from equipment used to catch live bait, to specific storage needed to keep them healthy or alive, as well as cleaning up debris.

At the same time, artificial bait requires a substantial tackle bagOpens in a new tab., maintenance, and routine cleaning or replacement, as well as outstanding organization beforehand. 

It can take hours to catch live bait, so this may be great for surf anglers spending an entire day or weekend fishing. But, if you’ve only got a couple of hours to enjoy this activity, then it would be better to come equipped with artificial bait and start fishing for your target species immediately.

Unless, of course, you are willing to buy live bait, in which case you would also be able to use them immediately, but this will be costly instead of artificial bait, which has a much lower summative cost in the long run. 

Both live bait and artificial bait can be effective for reeling in fish of varying sizes and quantities. But, using live baitOpens in a new tab. is excellent for novice and beginner anglers who want to get into the art of fishing and land a solid catch since artificial bait does require skill to fool fish effectively. Some artificial baits have added features like the scent and visual effects to attract fish more easily. 

Live baitOpens in a new tab. will be a more effective option if you are catching and storing it yourself in relatively low timespans. If you aim to get large catches, it may even be worth it to buy some for that particular trip.

Artificial bait will be a much more convenient and straightforward option if you have the skill to work with them. Use bait, which has added attraction features if you plan on catching fish of various sizes and shapes or if you have a limited time to spend at your surf fishing spot. 


There are many benefits to live bait and artificial bait, and both types can be used for great results. It’s best to use a combination of live bait and artificial bait, as this will leave more room for fishing opportunities and result in a more balanced bottom-line cost over time.

Use a live bait – preferably caught yourself – for specific or larger fish targets and artificial bait for everyday surf fishing with standard fish species as a backup. In case live bait runs out, or in case you’re not getting lucky catching live bait that day.

Zaldy G.

I love feeling the cool ocean spray every time I hit the beach with a rod and a bucket of bait. I love the thrill of feeling bites on my line whenever I hook a big one. And I especially love the pride that comes with cooking a fresh catch and sharing it with my friends and family. Thank you for stopping by. Let's go catch some fish!

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