How to Fish with Clams as Bait

How to Fish with Clams as Bait

Clams are an ideal bait for many types of fish. Clams are known for their use as bait for striped bass. However, plenty of other fish will also bite a clam on a hook, such as a fluke, flounder, sea robin, bluefish, sea trout, blackfish, sea bass, porgy, whiting, rockfish, surf perch, and many types of sharks. 

Clam bellies have a distinct taste and smell compared to most other forms of bait. Understanding some of the basics of clams and learning simple angler tips can easily teach you how to fish with clams as bait like a pro.

Can You Use Clams as Bait for Fishing?

Yes, clams can be excellent bait for fishing. They can attract a variety of fish species in both saltwater and freshwater environments. 

Freshness is crucial when using shellfish as bait. Fish rely on their sense of smell to locate prey, so using fresh clams with a strong scent can be more effective.

Present the clam bait naturally, ensuring it is securely attached to the hook or rig to withstand casting and remain intact in the water.

When using clams as fishing bait, you can rig them in different ways depending on the fishing technique and target species. Some common methods include threading whole clams onto a hook, cutting clams into smaller pieces, using them as cut bait, or wrapping clam strips around hooks or jigs.

What Fish Are Attracted to Clam Bait?

Clams are commonly used as bait for both freshwater and saltwater fishing. 

They can attract a range of saltwater species, such as flounder, striped bass, redfish, black drum, sea trout, and various bottom-dwelling fish species. Different types of clams, such as surf clams, soft-shell clams, or quahogs, can be effective depending on the fish you’re targeting.

They can also be used as bait for certain freshwater species. Freshwater clams or pieces of saltwater clams can attract fish like catfish, carp, and certain species of trout, particularly in environments where clams are naturally present.

Where Can You Find Clams to Use as Bait for Fishing?

Catching your own fresh clams can be done with a bit of research. Identify areas known to have clam populations. Clams are typically found in coastal areas, including beaches, mudflats, and estuaries. Look for sandy or muddy bottoms, as clams tend to burrow in these substrates.

Clams are often easier to find during low tide when more of the beach or mudflat is exposed. Clams are typically found within a few inches to a foot below the surface of the sand or mud. Keep an eye out for signs of clams, such as small holes or “shows” in the sand. These indicate the presence of clams beneath.

There are a few ways to catch clams. My preferred method is to walk barefoot in the sand to try to feel the clams. By digging the heels of your feet into the sand, you can easily feel the shell on the clam. When you do, reach down and grab the clam with your hand.

The other method is to use a clamming rake. A clamming rake does work well when clamming, but it can be an exhausting arm workout after a while.

If you aren’t able to catch your own clams, don’t worry about it! Clams are a popular frozen bait available at most bait and tackle shops. In most instances, clams are sold in a plastic vacuum-sealed bag containing anywhere from 4-6 large clam bellies.

Be sure to check the size of the bag you are purchasing to have plenty of bait when you are out on the water.

Fresh clams
Fresh clams

How to Use Clams as Bait

Start by acquiring fresh clams suitable for use as bait. Keep the clams in a well-ventilated container or mesh bag, ideally with some damp seaweed or in a cool, shaded area. This helps maintain their freshness until you are ready to use them as bait.

Salted clams can also be a useful bait option for fishing, particularly when fresh clams are not readily available. Salting clams helps preserve them and enhances their durability, allowing them to stay on the hook longer.

Thread a whole clam onto a hook, ensuring the hook is securely embedded in the clam. This method works well when fishing for larger species or when targeting fish that prefer larger prey.

You can also use clam strips or chunks. The size of the strip can vary depending on the hook size and the fish you’re targeting.

You will notice that the more fresh the clam is, the easier it is to keep on your hook. Keep an eye on your bait, as it may need to be refreshed if it becomes damaged or starts to lose its scent.

Check below my preferred circle hook choice (from Amazon) for hooking a clam.

Our Pick
Gamakatsu Octopus Hooks, Circle Offset Point (25-Pack)

It is a proven and reliable hook in saltwater for species such as bass. It's almost self-hooking and it works really well.

How Do You Keep Clams on a Fishing Hook?

Bait elastic is a stretchable thread or elastic material that can be used to secure the clam to the hook. After threading the hook through the clam, wrap the bait elastic tightly around the clam and hook multiple times.

Small rubber bands can also be used to keep clams on the hook. After threading the hook through the clam, slide a rubber band over the clam and hook. Position the rubber band so that it holds the clam firmly against the hook bend.

Another option is to use thread or a fishing line to tie the clam onto the hook. After threading the hook through the clam, tie a few wraps of thread or fishing line around the clam and hook shank.

Bait holder hooks have small barbs or spikes on the shank that help hold the bait in place. When using clam bait, consider using bait holder hooks designed specifically for this purpose. Thread the hook through the clam, ensuring the barbs or spikes penetrate the clam’s flesh, providing a secure hold.

triggerfish caught on clam meat
Triggerfish caught on clam meat

Does Clam Bait Work Well for Striper Fishing?

Clam bait can be highly effective for striper (striped bass) fishing.

Fresh clams are generally more attractive to striped bass. If possible, use live or freshly harvested clams. Alternatively, store-bought or frozen clams can also work well when properly thawed.

Use an entire clam belly on your hook, even if it is really big. Striped bass are able to open their entire mouths in order to swallow the large clam. If the bait is too small, it won’t carry as much flavor and scent to attract a striper.

How to Hook Clam Bait On a High-Low Rig for Striper Fishing

When striper fishing, my favorite type of rig is the high-low rig. This setup works extremely well when I have fresh clams as bait. You only need two circle hooks, a leader, and a weight.

The benefit of using a high-low rig while bottom fishing is that the sinker drops first towards the bottom, allowing the clam bait to sit above the sinker off the floor. This helps avoid tangles, excess seaweed and even provides more flexibility when casting for distance. This is a popular rig when surf fishing since it helps with long casts off the beach.

When the striper bites on the clam bait on the circle hook, it gets hooked as it swims away. The circle hook catches the corner of the striper’s mouth. It is advised to let the striper run with the bait and the hook that it now has in its mouth.

By waiting, it’s easier to hook the fish and avoid scaring it off with a sudden pull.

How Much Does Shucked Clam Bait Cost?

Shucked clam bait can be priced per clam, by the pound, and by the bushel. A common price that we see in the New York & New Jersey area is around $0.75 per clam, $7.50 per pound & $75.00 per bushel of salted or fresh clams. Clams can also be sold for chumming. Chum can be sold by the quart (~$3.50) or in gallons (4 gallons = ~$20).

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