How To Best Store Live Bait While Kayak Or Shore Fishing [VIDEO]

By: Joseph Simonds on June 7, 2017
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live bait kayak

Kayakers and shore anglers, this post is for you!

Fishing from a kayak or from shore can have its disadvantages when trying to store and keep bait alive.

Unlike most boats, we are restricted on space and how much we can carry.

For shore fisherman, it can be really tough lugging around a large bucket (along with all of your other gear) to your favorite fishing hole, especially if it’s hidden away and takes a bit of walking to get to.

And for kayak anglers, we are very limited on space inside of our small watercraft.

So this blog (and video) will address some of the best ways to keep bait alive without having large buckets and coolers (which add to the amount of weight in your kayak – making it dangerous and also make it tough to paddle).


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Live Bait Tips

First, I would like to point out some important factors to consider to help keep your bait alive, no matter what type of container you may be using.

live bait in livewell

  1. Aerate Your Bait! – Believe it or not, fish need oxygen just like us! However, they acquire it from water. Dissolved oxygen in the water is necessary for fish and/or bait to stay alive. By attaching an aeration system, this will help increase the amount of oxygen in the water. This can be done by using an external pump and air stones, or any type of water circulation device. If you can combine the 2, that is even better (aeration and circulation).
  2. Keep Your Water Cool – You want to maintain a cool water temperature for your bait. Hot or warm water has a lower dissolved oxygen content and will cause your bait to become very lethargic and die. Even if you have an aerator, the dissolved oxygen content depletes much quicker in hot water than cool water. A cool way to keep your water cooled down (pun intended) is to add a frozen bottle of water to your bucket or bait cooler.
  3. Keep Your Water Fresh – You may have nice clean water before you put your bait in, then 30 minutes later you may notice it become murky and have debris floating around inside. Any debris or organic matter inside of your baitwell will also use up oxygen as it decomposes. This will reduce the amount of dissolved oxygen for your bait to use resulting in your bait starting to die off. Every 30 to 60 minutes it is wise to remove old water and add some fresh clean water to your bait container.
  4. Don’t Overload On Bait – You may have heard the term “blacking out your livewell.” This sounds great and all because you’ll have bait to last you a week, but you are actually wasting way more bait than you need. Only keep what you need and don’t overload your bait container. This is especially important when using smaller bait buckets and/or coolers. This takes us back to fish needing oxygen. The more bait you have in a small container, the more oxygen that is being used up and it becomes a survival of the fittest in your bait bucket. In less than 10 minutes you may have a container full of dead bait. Bait can be very easy to catch, so if you need to refill, keep a cast net handy. Not to mention, you’re probably going to be fishing in an area with bait, if not, you may not be catching fish!
  5. Remove Dead Bait – It is important to remove any bait from your bait container that has died. You may see one dead baitfish, and next time you look into your bucket you have 5 dead bait fish. Not only do these floaters or sinkers take up space, they can cause a chain reaction of death in your livewell or bait container from what I have experienced. Once a bait fish dies, it begins to decompose releasing chemicals into the water, such as ammonia, which will start to kill off the rest of your bait. Remove the dead ones and replace some of your water with fresh clean water.
  6. Use a Dip Net – Since our hands can be pretty dirty at times, and you may also have sunblock on them, it is best to use a dip net to get bait out of your baitwell. Any chemicals we may have on our hands will transfer to the water and can kill off your bait.
  7. Catch Your Own Bait – If possible, it can be better to catch your own bait. They will be much more lively. In addition, bait caught using a sabiki rig will stay alive much longer as opposed to catching them in a cast net. The net removes much of the slime coat from the bait and stresses them out much more. Being banged around in a net and on the ground is much more stressful than a tiny hook in the lip.

Click Here To Learn How To Make Your Own Sabiki Rigs

Those are some important factors to consider to keep your bait alive, so now let’s talk about some of the best items I like to use to store and keep bait alive on my kayak or when fishing from shore.

My Favorite Live Bait Cooler

My top choice is a Live Bait Cooler, such as the one made by Engel.

(see it here on Amazon for $79.99)

engel live bait cooler

For one, it is a cooler, which helps maintain the water temperature inside.

It also comes with an aerator to help oxygenate the water.

This cooler is also available in a variety of sizes (13qt, 19qt, and 30qt). The 13 quart is a perfect size to carry in a kayak and can be easily slung over your shoulder using the shoulder strap that also comes with it – Great for shore fisherman.

engel live bait cooler

When you are not using this bait cooler as a livewell, it can also serve as a great regular cooler, or a dry box to keep your water sensitive items dry.

Of course, this cooler isn’t cheap, so if you are on a tight budget, then this next option might be best.

My next top choice for storing bait is a standard Trolling Bait Bucket.

live bait bucket

These are very affordable, easy to store, and are great in keeping your bait alive. Since these buckets can be placed in the water, you get a constant supply of fresh water to your bait.

They are also easy to store on your kayak and lightweight to carry if fishing from shore.

The only real downside is that they are fairly small and can’t hold as much bait as one of the coolers can.

Engel Live Bait vs Trolling Bait Bucket [VIDEO]

In the following video, I will be going over these 2 items – The Engel Live Bait Cooler and the Trolling Bucket.

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When you are fishing out of a kayak or from the shore, space and weight are critical.

And if you are using live bait, you know that you have to optimize every ounce.

Personally, I’ve found that the Engel Live Bait cooler is the best option for kayakers (and even live baiters – it has an awesome shoulder strap).

So what are your favorite live bait tips while shore fishing or kayak fishing?

Let us know in the comments.

Related Post: Inshore Fishing 101: The Ultimate Inshore Fishing Resource


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1 year ago

Great tips! Thanks!

Eric Black
1 year ago

Great tips. Exactly what I was looking for. I wasn’t familiar with the Engel live bait cooler. That’s exactly what I need. Thanks!

Ira Cohen
2 years ago


Dave Frymier
3 years ago

I have a 19 quart Engel I use in my boat. It’s great – a little loud as you say, but it keeps the bait lively. The water bottle works, as well.

Ron Collins
3 years ago

Using the hobie baitwell I found it will collect mud in skinny water. Thanks for the info on ammonia. Also I will use bait buckets when I’m on shore and refresh the water alot.
I do have a question. Are mud minnows tough or what?

John Kunzman
3 years ago

Hi: What do you think of the Frabill 1.3 gallon insulated and aerated bait bucket for use on a kayak?

James Moore
3 years ago

I also use the Engel bait cooler. I use (2) 18650 rechargeable batteries for the air pump. The 18650s will run for 2 days straight without a recharge. The batteries are a tight fit to start, but they stay in place and make a ton of oxygen.

2 years ago
Reply to  James Moore

hey man, I saw your comment on the rechargeable batteries. Are you running the 18650 batteries in the air pump that takes D size batteries or do you have the tiny pump which runs off double a batteries? I have had the small pump but, it kicked the bucket. I bought the D size pump this time and considered trying rechargeable batteries. Thanks to all. This is a great site with good folks.