How to Hook Live Bait
How you put a live bait on the hook can make a big difference in how long it stays alive, how it moves, and how easy it is to hook a fish when one bites. Minnows and baitfish can be hooked in several different ways, as can earthworms. Leeches, crayfish, and crickets are best hooked just one way. Always try to put the hook through just enough of the bait to hold it without killing it or impeding its action. For the best results using live bait, learn the best way to put it on the hook.
Hooking Freshwater Bait
An earthworm can be hooked in the middle with both ends dangling or hooked near one end so it stretches out its full length. In either case it's best to run the point of the hook all the way through the worm's body and then back through so part of the worm rests on the crook of the hook. This will hold it better and keep it from tearing off as easily.
When putting on a gob of worms hook several in the middle so you have many wiggling ends. With big night crawlers, stick the hook into the worm about an inch from one end and run the point inside the worm down and come out an inch or so below the entry point. That will make two ends that dangle some and hide the hook inside. You can also leave the hook inside the worm to keep the hook from snagging weeds, but since earthworms are so soft, the hook will penetrate them easily.
Hook crickets under the collar behind their head, sticking the hook in under one side and bringing it out the other, being careful to keep the hook near the surface. Hook leeches through the sucker by sticking the hook through one side and out the other. Salamanders can be hooked through the lips, and frogs through one foot, allowing them to swim.
With crayfish, hook them through the tail with a light wire hook. Grub worms, wasp larvae, wax worms, and mealworms are best hooked by running the hook through their body one time. Sometimes putting a gob of the smaller worms on the hook works best.
Minnows can be hooked though the lips or eyes; hooking them up front is best when trolling with them. When hooking them through the lips, start the hook below the mouth and run the hook back far enough to get some of the hard nose gristle in the hook crook for better holding power. When tail hooking minnows or baitfish, hook them up near the dorsal fin and they'll try to swim down against the pull of the hook. Hook them near the tail and they'll try to swim up. In both cases keep the hook near the surface, getting just enough meat in the hook to hold without getting near the backbone.
Putting Saltwater Bait on the Hook
For fishing an eel, hook it through the lips. You'll need a rag to hold these slimy bait to get a hook in them. Run a sharp hook through the back of a small crab's shell or though one side just behind the claw arm for different actions. You may want to pinch off the claws on fiddler crabs and others to make them more appetizing to the fish and easier for you to handle.
Hook minnows and baitfish for saltwater fishing the same way as for freshwater fishing. Always use a hook with a big enough gap so it doesn't pinch the body of the minnow or baitfish when hooking them in the back. You want them to be able to swim and move freely. Fishing minnows without weight and hooked so they either swim up or down works well around offshore oil rigs.
If you handle live bait gently it will last longer and be more active, resulting in more bites. Make sure you don't injure the bait more than absolutely necessary when hooking it. Don't squeeze too tight when putting the hook in.