Close this search box.

The Best Snook Bait: Live or Artificial?

Our editors at Finn’s Fishing Tips independently research, test, and recommend the best products to help you make purchase decisions. You can learn more about our review process here. We sometimes get a commission through purchases made via our links.

Snook are one of the coveted saltwater gamefish in the southern United States. They go after many types of bait and put up a fight worthy of your most heavy equipment. If the other common species of gamefish aren’t biting, you should try your hand at the always-hungry snook. But what bait is best for fishing for snook?

We’ll first cover the essentials: what are snook, what they like to eat, etc. Then we’ll focus on the best snook bait options for both live bait and artificial bait. After this article, you’ll be ready to catch snook no matter what the conditions are!

What Are Snook?

Snook are a common game fish in the southern United States that has a large mouth with a protruding lower jaw. They have a high dorsal fin that is divided, and black lateral lines that extend down their tail.

Their bodies are slightly yellow in color with a white belly. Snook grow up to 48 inches or 50 lbs and feed on baitfish and large crustaceans like crab and shrimp. They can live in both saltwater and freshwater, and enjoy living where the two meet.

Author Note: Snook prefer water temperatures above 60 degrees Fahrenheit and form schools during their spawning season. The world record for the largest snook caught is 53 lbs and was caught off the coast of Costa Rica.

Where Do Snook Live?

Snook inhabit the coastline of Florida down to Rio de Janeiro. Similar to Rainbow Bass, they love nearshore locations – such as mangrove forests, beaches, estuaries, nearshore reefs, and salty marshes.

The habitat preferences of the snook mean that they are always fished for in shallow water, making finding them relatively easy, but catching them can be a challenge as anglers need to be on top of their stealth game.

If they’re near a river estuary, they often travel up the freshwater – especially when they are young. Snook congregate in large numbers to spawn during the full moons in May through September. This makes this time period especially prolific for catching snook. 

Best Live Bait for Snook

school of snook

Snook enjoy a varied diet of small freshwater and saltwater creatures, which gives you many options to use for live bait. As with most saltwater gamefish, if you’re allowed to use live bait it’s your best bet. Snook love a wounded shrimp or baitfish.

We’ll cover them by order of effectiveness. It’s also worth noting the snook love hunting at night, so you should try fishing these baits both during the day and after dark.

  1. Shrimp. If can catch or buy some live shrimp before fishing for snook, you’ll be presenting one of their most common meals. Shrimp are cheap to buy and easy to hook (due to their hard shells). Shrimp stay on the hook for a long time and will stay alive after they’re hooked longer than other species.
  2. Mullet. Mullet are another great option for live bait when going for snook. Mullet can often be bought from local fish shops, or you can catch your own. During a mullet run, they become especially easy to catch and a go-to for snook fishing. Any extras you catch can also be used for snakehead!
  3. Crabs. As we mentioned before, snook love eating large crustaceans and crabs are no exception. A day or two before going fishing for snook, look for crabs under rocks near where you plan on fishing and collect a couple in a bucket. They should be between 2 and 4 inches in size. Hook the through the side of their shell to keep them alive but ensure they stay hooked.
  4. Sardines. Sardines are a great option in the summer when they’re plentiful near shore. Either buy some at the local fishing shop or catch them with a net the morning you go fishing for snook. Hook them through the ridge on their back so they’re still able to swim but don’t come unhooked.
  5. Herring. Threadfin herring are a great option when going for larger snook. They often grow several inches larger than sardines and are also a natural baitfish for snook. Jus tas you did with sardines, hook them through the ridge on their back.

Best Artificial Bait for Snook

snook and lure

If you aren’t allowed to use live bait where you’re fishing for snook or you didn’t have time to buy/catch any, artificial lures can also be a solid option. Casting a spinning lure or topwater floating lure can induce some of the strongest snook bites and battles. We’ll list our favorite artificial snook baits below. In need of a saltwater spinning reel? Check out our buying guide.

Jigs, spinners, crankbaits, and soft plastic imitations like swimbaits and shrimp will also work for snook well.

  • Topwater artificial bait. Snook are designed to attack fish from below. This means they love biting a wounded fish (or artificial bait) that’s swimming above them. Topwater lures such as floating Rapala, propeller lures, and skippers. It’s important to note that when a snook hits your topwater lure, it will be difficult to not jerk your rod in reaction. Try to let the snook take the lure underwater before setting the hook.
  • Midlevel artificial bait. Similar to the topwater lures, midlevel lures that are retrieved underwater but below the surface are also effective with snook. These can be large saltwater spinners, midlevel Rapala, or buzz baits. Retrieve slightly slower than the topwater lures to allow them to sink a few feet below the surface. The same rules apply for when you feel a bite: let the snook eat the bait and pull firmly before you try and set the hook.
  • Sinking artificial bait. Sinking lures can work especially well when snook are moving in or out of deeper areas of water. Rubber worms, sea shad, and bucktail snook jigs are all great options for sinking artificial lures. Let your lure sink to the bottom then bounce it every few seconds to imitate a wounded crustacean. Hungry snook will find it irresistible.

Pro Tip: Snook can be selective when it comes to feeding, this means that at certain times they will prefer shrimp presentations over baitfish imitations, and vice versa.

Don’t be afraid to change lures often and experiment while on the water to determine what lure works best.

Presentation of Bait to Snook

The way you present your live or artificial bait to snook can be just as important as which bait you choose.

  • Live bait. Snook fishing is much more effective when you’re sight fishing (you can see the fish you’re going for). Once you spot a snook, cast your live bait near where it’s hanging out or in front of where it’s swimming. Be sure to not cast it too close or you might spook the snook. If the fish doesn’t show interest try recasting several times or switch bait types.
  • Artificial bait. The rules for artificial bait are similar to live bait. Cast your lure in front of where the snook is swimming and retrieve so it swims right past it. You can also cast past where the snook is swimming and retrieve directly over it. If the snook isn’t showing interest in your lure, try a different action or color to see if that entices it.

Fly fishing for snook

Fly fishing is also very popular when fishing for snook.

Fly fishing for snook typically consists of slowly stalking through the shallow estuaries either on foot or in a skiff, and is typically done by sight fishing.

Flies typically consist of artificial baitfish or shrimp imitations, and some good choices are gummy minnows, clousers, crazy Charlies, and deceivers.

Authors note: Fly fishing for snook can actually be pretty challenging, and their presence in very shallow water means that they will spook easily, when all factors are combined it’s no wonder it is a popular fish among fly anglers.

Final Thoughts

Out of all the saltwater gamefish, snook is often looked over for the members of the grand slam (tarpon, permit, bonefish) or deep-sea giants. But snook can be just as much fun to catch, and often in greater numbers.

We hope after reading this article you now have a better idea of what kind of bait to use for snook. Have a favorite snook bait we didn’t cover?

Let us know in the comments below!

Happy Hunting!


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Related Posts