Top 5 Surf Fishing Baits (For Pompano, Whiting, Redfish & More)


Want to know what the best baits for surf fishing are?

There are so many options, but if you stick to matching the hatch and getting the freshest bait, you’ll have a good shot to land some really nice fish on the beach.

In this video, you’ll learn:

  • The best baits for spring and summer
  • How to prepare and hook the bait
  • The one secret weapon to take to the beach
  • And more

Check it out below!

Surf Fishing Baits [VIDEO]

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Bait selection will vary from region to region but the fundamental concept of matching the hatch applies everywhere.

And if you didn’t listen to the Surf Fishing Mistakes podcast, where we discussed the importance of this, check it out.

Here are the best live baits to use when targeting whiting, pompano, redfish, trout, black drum, and more from the beach.


Everything eats shrimp.

That can be a good thing and sometimes it can be a bad thing.

The integrity of the shell and the firmness of the meat plays a crucial part in keeping this bait on the hook so always try to get the freshest shrimp.

Match your hook size to the size of the shrimp (you don’t need a huge piece).

Cut the head off, rip the tail off to release the scent, and cut the shrimp into small chunks.

Put your hook through the center of the meat and out of the top of the shell.

If you notice that you are catching tons of fish that you may not want to catch, it’s time to switch up baits.

Sand Fleas

One of the greatest things about sand fleas is that you can catch them fresh yourself (and in numbers)!

Even if you pick them up from your local bait shop, you’ll still want to make sure that they are fresh and hooked properly.

Put the hook through the underside of the sand flea, going through the digger on the bottom, and out through the top.

This allows the sand flea to stay nice and snug on the hook.

And it keeps the sand flea alive!


Make sure your clams are alive (the shell will be fully closed).

Crack open the clam using your pliers, a knife, or by smashing two clams together.

You’ll want to focus on the top piece of the clam that is darker in color and super firm.

Take your hook point through the firm piece of the clam and, for longer pieces, you can thread it onto the hook to hold in place when casting.

Blue Crab

Crabs make fantastic bait for surf fishing.

The key is knowing how to create the perfect crab knuckle.

First, you want to release the pinchers (be careful) and cut off all of the legs just past where they meet the body.

Cut the crab’s body in half then pull off the top shell.

Starting with one half, cut in between every knuckle (sometimes every other knuckle for bigger pieces) to make single pieces of crab bait.

Put the hook point through the tough knuckle and push it out through the meat or shell.

The knuckle section keeps the bait on the hook through hard casts, tough current, and rough surf.

Cut Bait

Cut bait fishing seems to really heat up in the warmer months.

Catching in those smaller whiting, ladyfish, and especially mullet during the mullet run gives you a great opportunity to make cut bait for bigger predator fish.

If you want to target big sharks, bull redfish, and tarpon this summer, I highly recommend using cut bait.

Bonus Bait: Fishbites

Artificial baits can be a game-changer on the beach.

And using Fishbites as your secret weapon will have you out-fishing everyone around you.

There’s no mess involved and it makes for an easy clean-up.

Also, Fishbites will stay fresh for a long time if you keep the packages sealed and store them in a cool, dry place.

Just like with live baits, you still want to try to match the hatch.

They come in a variety of scents and colors so you can match the same baits listed above based on what’s working.

Best Hooks

An important part of surf fishing is using a strong circle hook that matches the size of your bait.

My go-to circle hooks are the Owner Mutu Light and the Gamakatsu Octopus hooks.

For smaller bait, I recommend a 1/0 or 2/0 size hook.

But if you are going after much larger fish with big pieces of cut bait, you can go all the way up to an 8/0 size hook!


surf fishing bait

Choosing the right bait is key when surf fishing.

But preparing and hooking your baits properly also makes a big difference.

Do you have any other baits you love to use on the beach?

Want to see a deep dive into all of these baits?

Let me know down in the comments!

And if you know someone who wants to start using live bait for surf fishing, please TAG or SHARE this with them!

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1 year ago

in FL, what months and type of fish to target each month? I have hard time being successful in summer from shore or pier. others seem to be in the same boat. central FL from Jax to Melbourne and same range on the gulf side – cedar key to Tampa .


Timothy Cox
2 years ago

Great video. Couldn’t see where those broken clam shells were going behind the table but they will be sharp like broken glass. Would definitely recommend disposing as trash and not on the beach where they can cut feet.

jules dupont
2 years ago

courtney,am interested in a weapon surf rod for florida gulf coast.the 9 1/2 foot for 1/2-2.5 ounces looks great.What do you rec?thanks,jules

2 years ago

Great post Courtney.

Nikolay Marinov
2 years ago

Courtney, do you ever use bait fish caught with cast net on the beach?

Will Cox
2 years ago

I use all the ones you mentioned with the exception of clams. I also incorporate a artificial attractant called Fishgum along with using Fishbites. I like to stack the odds in my favor when fishing.

David Carrizales
3 years ago

Please have more of surf fishing videos very informative

Jason Duncan
2 years ago

Agreed! This has been an under reported on salt strong method so far!

Rod Rice
3 years ago

Courtney, great information! I would be really interested in 2 more beach fishing scenarios.

  1. Using artificial bait only (ex: Fishbites). When I’m on vacation with the family we usually stay right on the beach but we don’t have room in the SUV to bring a beach fishing cart or keep fresh bait in the hotel room… so artificial lures and/or fishbites are my go to baits.
  2. Surf fishing at night. I’ve got an upcoming family vacation next month in Myrtle Beach during the full moon. The beaches are packed during the day so my plan is to go fish the surf around 2am until 7am using artificial baits (ex: Fishbites) or top-water plugs, swim-baits, paddle tails in dark colors to silhouette against the moon. I’ve never done night surf fishing so I would like the know and tips or tricks you can offer.
Rod Rice
3 years ago

Awesome info, already got plenty of slam shady’s & Gotchas 😉

3 years ago

Courtney, Great information, thanks! I inshore fish alot from a kayak, but I have wanted to step up my beach game! My wife is severely handicapped and enjoys the beach, so beach fishing will allow me to take the love of my life out with me and we can both enjoy our time together (yes, I actually mean that! Lol). This is GREAT information and extremely timely for me! Obviously it’s time for me to give Fish Bites a try too!

Mike Foy
3 years ago

Great video. very informative and specific. Have you ever tried “tipping” certain baits with a small piece of fishbites for additional bait and to hold the original bait on the hook better. As we know, those fishbites “stay” on the hook. If you have used them to tip some baits, which ones have seemed to work best when “tipping”? thanks again


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