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Best Bait for Snakehead: The Complete Guide

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We’ve been hearing a lot of whispers about snakehead in the fishing community recently. Instead of the usual negative comments about how they’re an invasive species, the talk has been more around how much fun they are to catch

Snakehead are natural-born killers; they eat everything from medium-sized frogs to small rodents who get too close to the water they live in. We went over the general techniques on how to catch snakehead, but what’s the best bait for snakehead? If you’re wondering the same thing, we’ve got you covered. It’s worth noting that all of these baits will also work great for the snakehead’s similarly looking cousin, the mudfish.

We spent several hours doing research and talking to snakehead fishermen to learn the best type of bait to use. In the below article, we’ll go over the best artificial bait for snakehead, best live bait for snakehead, as well as artificial lures that also work well. If you want to learn even more about snakehead, check out our How to Catch Snakehead article. Let’s start with a quick summary of the best bait for snakehead as well as additional tools needed for catching snakehead.

Best Artificial Bait for Snakehead

Additional Tools for Snakehead

What are Snakehead?

Snakehead are a kind of freshwater predatory fish that are long and muscular. They’re also covered in brown and green spots and vaguely resemble a large snake. Their name actually comes from some species having a bright spot on their tail that they use to fool other animals. Divers have reported snakehead swimming up to them and flashing their tail to try and mimic a larger predatory animal. This tactic has allowed them to scare off other fish that might consider young snakehead a meal. Some other fish species like redfish and mudfish have also developed this tactic.

Authors Note: Most types of snakehead grow to be several feet long and around 10 lbs. Snakehead are big-time predators and eat all sorts of animals that live in their habitats. Small fish, frogs, rodents, and even birds have been known to be eaten by hungry snakehead.

Snakehead are an Invasive Species

It’s worth noting that snakehead received a lot of bad press in recent years when they were marked as an invasive species in the Potomac River. No one knows who introduced them to US waters, but the initial siting has grown into a large population across many states on the East Coast. Florida seems to be hit hardest as the snakehead enjoy a similar climate there as they would in their native Africa and Asia.

Best Tackle for Snakehead

The best tackle for snakehead isn’t necessarily dependent on the size of fish you’re going for. Snakehead have very bony mouths and require a firm rod to set the hook once they’ve bitten your bait. Couple this with their tendency to live in shallow water, and you never know what size snakehead you’ll hook into. We always recommend sizing up no matter what size snakehead you’re trying to catch. 

A bass spinning reel or a medium-sized baitcasting reel paired with a medium-sized spinning rod or crankbait rod are the best bet for snakehead. As far as the type of fishing line to use, we think that both an 8 to 15 lb braided line with a monofilament leader and +10 lb monofilament work well. Use a brightly colored line so you can see when a snakehead eats your bait.

Authors Note: Snakehead have nasty teeth in their mouths, so don’t forget to bring a pair of fishing pliers for unhooking them. If you don’t have pliers, unhook them by holding pressing on hand into their gills and the other quickly pulling the bait out.

Best Bait for Snakehead

So what’s the best bait for snakehead? We split our favorite bait into two types: artificial bait and live bait. Live bait should be hooked through the nose or back so the fish can still swim and attract the snakehead to it. For artificial bait try to imitate a wounded baitfish or whatever animal the lure is modeled after. Since snakehead are such active predators, they’ll strike at lures that look like frogs, mice, fish, and more!

Best Artificial Bait for Snakehead

If an artificial lure works well for bass, it most likely will work well for snakehead. They feed on the same type of prey as largemouth bass and go after similar types of lure presentations. Topwater frogs, (check out our bass frog buying guide for more info) swimbaits, and skirted jigs all work great when fishing for snakehead.

You can also try musky bucktails if you’re going for a large snakehead. If you like using rubber lures, the Carolina Rig, Texas Rig, and Wacky Worm Rig also all work well when fishing for snakehead. For more info on how to catch snakehead with these lures (jigging technique, retrieval speed, etc.), check out the in-depth articles we’ve written. 

Burning spinnerbaits and buzzbaits on the surface is also a very effective tactic due to the snakeheads’ aggressive nature, just be sure to bring spare skirts because you will likely need to replace them.

Mouse imitations work great for snakehead as well, so don’t be afraid to throw terrestrial prey imitations for these fish, as they will be more prone to hit them than say a bass, and bass aren’t picky when it comes to mouse imitations.

Authors Note: You can also try using the following types of scented bait if lures aren’t working. Sometimes snakehead are looking for something that smells like what they want to eat.

  1. Powerbait. The generic flavors of Powerbait have been known to work well with snakehead if they’re hungry (which they often are). Combining Powerbait with a topwater lure is almost always a better bet than just a plain hook.
  2. Nightcrawlers. Dead or alive, worms can also work for snakehead. Try and cast the worm past where the snakehead are hiding and drag it overtop them. If you can mimic a wounded swimming animal, even better.

Best Live Bait for Snakehead

If you have access to live bait and your local regulations allow it, we recommend the following types of fish. We’ve done the research and the following three types of fish seem to work the best.

  1. Golden Shiner/Fathead Minnows. These are some of the most common baitfish you can get at your local bait shop, and they work really well for snakehead. Once you hook them through the back, cast them near where you think the snakehead are hiding. The Golden shiners will swim around frantically and entice even the laziest snakehead to strike.
  2. Banded Killifish. Studies have shown the banded killifish are snakehead’s natural prey in the US, so it makes sense to try and use them as live bait. They work great, except that extra leg work is going to be required on your end to fish them. You’ll need to buy a minnow trap and catch them before you plan on fishing for snakehead. Hook them through the back just like the golden shiners.
  3. Shad. Shad are another small baitfish that snakehead will go after. The great thing about shad is that they are very easy to catch and buy during their spawning season. If you live in Florida or plan on snakehead fishing there, the shad spawn occurs in the fall. Hook the shad just as you would the other types of baitfish.

How to Find Snakehead

snakehead caught

Snakeheads can typically be found in very shallow water with thick cover, this means you will be throwing a lot of weedless lures to get to them.

Areas like lilypads, thick submergent vegetation and areas with high amounts of roots, stumps, and logs are prime snakehead habitats.

Throwing lures in these areas that cause a lot of commotion and spit water like topwater baits are a great option to get explosive strikes from snakeheads, and other lures that create large amounts of vibration like spinnerbaits will work great as well.

Due to their aggressive nature, reeling in your lures at very high speeds can cause reaction strikes, and you won’t be able to crank your baits in faster than a snakehead can swim.


When it comes to snakehead, there are many types of bait that work well. Hopefully, you now know the best bait for snakehead and can choose what makes sense for where you live. End up catching a monster snakehead using our bait recommendations? Let us know in the comments below!

Happy Hunting!


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