Various fishing baits, including topwater lures, soft plastic worms, crankbaits, jigs, and live bait, arranged neatly on a wooden surface with a calm summer lake and sunrise in the background.

Best Baits for Summer Fishing: What to Use and Why

Fishing during the summer can be an exciting and rewarding experience. However, the heat and changes in water conditions can make fish behavior unpredictable. Understanding the best baits for summer fishing is crucial for a successful outing. This comprehensive guide will explore the best baits to use during the summer, why they are effective, and how to maximize your fishing experience.

Understanding Summer Fish Behavior

Before diving into the best baits, it’s essential to understand how fish behavior changes during the summer. Fish are cold-blooded animals, meaning their body temperature and metabolism are influenced by the surrounding water temperature. As the water warms up, fish become more active, but they also seek cooler, oxygen-rich areas to avoid stress.

Key Points:

  • Water Temperature: Fish are more active in warmer water but may seek cooler, deeper areas or shaded spots.
  • Oxygen Levels: Warm water holds less oxygen, so fish often congregate in areas with higher oxygen levels, such as near vegetation or in flowing water.
  • Feeding Patterns: Increased metabolism means fish need to eat more, but they may feed during cooler parts of the day, such as early morning or late evening.

Best Baits for Summer Fishing

1. Topwater Lures

Topwater lures are highly effective during summer, especially during early morning and late evening when fish are feeding near the surface. These lures create a commotion that attracts fish looking for an easy meal.

Types of Topwater Lures:

  • Poppers: These lures create a popping sound that mimics distressed prey.
  • Walk-the-Dog Lures: These lures have a side-to-side action that resembles an injured fish.
  • Buzzbaits: These have a propeller-like blade that churns water and attracts fish from a distance.

Why They Work: Topwater lures take advantage of fish feeding behavior during low-light conditions and can trigger aggressive strikes.

Recommended Products:

  • Heddon Super Spook Jr.
  • Booyah Pad Crasher
  • Rebel Pop-R

Check out topwater lures on Amazon

2. Soft Plastic Baits

Soft plastic baits are versatile and can be used in various fishing situations, making them a staple for summer fishing.

Types of Soft Plastic Baits:

  • Worms: Can be rigged in multiple ways, such as Texas, Carolina, or wacky rig.
  • Creature Baits: Mimic crawfish or other bottom-dwelling creatures.
  • Swimbaits: Resemble small fish and are effective for both slow and fast retrieves.

Why They Work: Soft plastics can mimic a variety of prey items and can be fished at different depths, making them adaptable to changing conditions.

Recommended Products:

  • Zoom Trick Worm
  • Gary Yamamoto Senko
  • Berkley PowerBait Power Worms

Explore soft plastic baits on Amazon

3. Crankbaits

Crankbaits are hard-bodied lures that can dive to various depths, making them ideal for targeting fish at different levels of the water column.

Types of Crankbaits:

  • Shallow-Diving Crankbaits: Ideal for fishing near the surface or in shallow waters.
  • Medium-Diving Crankbaits: Reach mid-level depths and are effective in lakes and reservoirs.
  • Deep-Diving Crankbaits: Designed to reach deeper water where fish may be seeking cooler temperatures.

Why They Work: Crankbaits can cover a lot of water quickly and are effective at triggering reaction strikes from fish.

Recommended Products:

  • Rapala Shad Rap
  • Strike King KVD Square Bill
  • Bomber Model A

Find crankbaits on Amazon

4. Jigs

Jigs are versatile and can be used in various fishing conditions, making them a go-to bait for many anglers during the summer.

Types of Jigs:

  • Flipping Jigs: Ideal for fishing heavy cover such as weeds or fallen trees.
  • Football Jigs: Effective for fishing rocky bottoms and deeper water.
  • Swim Jigs: Designed for a steady retrieve through vegetation or open water.

Why They Work: Jigs can mimic a variety of prey, including crawfish and baitfish, and are effective for fishing both shallow and deep water.

Recommended Products:

  • Strike King Tour Grade Football Jig
  • Booyah Boo Jig
  • Z-Man ChatterBait

Check out jigs on Amazon

5. Live Bait

Live bait can be incredibly effective during the summer as it provides a natural and enticing option for fish.

Types of Live Bait:

  • Minnows: Effective for a wide range of fish species.
  • Worms: A classic choice for bass, catfish, and panfish.
  • Crickets and Grasshoppers: Excellent for targeting panfish and bass.

Why They Work: Live bait provides a natural scent and movement that can be irresistible to fish, especially in clear water conditions.

Tips for Using Live Bait:

  • Keep live bait fresh and lively.
  • Use the appropriate size hook to match the bait and target species.
  • Fish live bait near structure or vegetation where fish are likely to hide.

Recommended Products:

  • Berkley Gulp! Alive Minnows
  • Nightcrawlers (available at local bait shops)

Explore live bait options on Amazon

Tips for Summer Fishing Success

1. Timing Is Key

Fish are most active during cooler parts of the day. Early morning and late evening are the best times to fish during the summer.

2. Fish Deeper and Shadier Areas

During the heat of the day, fish often seek out cooler, deeper water or shaded areas. Focus on fishing near drop-offs, underwater structures, and vegetation.

3. Match the Hatch

Pay attention to the local forage fish and other prey species. Using baits that resemble the natural prey in the area can increase your chances of success.

4. Adjust Your Technique

Be prepared to adjust your fishing technique based on conditions. For example, slow down your retrieve in hotter water or use a more erratic action to entice strikes.

Scientific Insights and Studies

Several studies have highlighted the impact of water temperature and oxygen levels on fish behavior and bait effectiveness. According to research published in the Journal of Experimental Biology, fish metabolic rates increase with water temperature, leading to higher feeding activity during summer. Another study from the North American Journal of Fisheries Management found that fish are more likely to be found in shaded or vegetated areas during hot weather due to higher oxygen levels.


Fishing during the summer can be both challenging and rewarding. Understanding the best baits to use and why they are effective can significantly enhance your fishing experience. By considering fish behavior, selecting the right baits, and adjusting your techniques, you can increase your chances of a successful and enjoyable fishing trip.

Remember, the key to summer fishing success lies in your ability to adapt to changing conditions and continuously learn from your experiences. Happy fishing!

Buy the best summer fishing baits on Amazon


  1. Journal of Experimental Biology: Study on fish metabolic rates and water temperature
  2. North American Journal of Fisheries Management: Study on fish behavior and oxygen levels
Raphael Dume
Raphael Dume

Raphael Dume is a passionate outdoor enthusiast and the visionary behind Outdoor Doer is a passionate community of outdoor enthusiasts dedicated to inspiring and equipping adventurers. We offer expert advice, unbiased product reviews, and comprehensive guides on camping, hiking, fishing, and more. Our mission is to promote outdoor accessibility, holistic well-being, and sustainability through high-quality, engaging content and top-tier gear. Join us to explore, discover, and thrive in the great outdoors.

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