Fly Fishing Vs Bait Fishing: Everything You Need to Know

Thomas Krik

Written by

Thomas Krik

Marc Lowe


Marc Lowe

fly fishing vs bait fishing

Fly and bait fishing are two distinctive methods of catching fish. The most notable difference between them is probably the bait being used. Fly fishing uses artificial flies, while bait fishing attracts fish with natural or artificial baits.

In this post, we’ll examine the similarities and differences between these two angling methods. After reading it, you should be able to choose the best way to enjoy your hobby!

From lures to techniques and gear, fly fishing vs bait fishing differ in many ways. To get a better idea, refer to the following comparison table:

Fly Fishing Bait Fishing
Lure Synthetic flies or insects Natural prey and lures
Weight of bait Lighter Heavier
Target species Trout, salmon, carp, and some specific fish species All fish species like bass, catfish, and more
Lines Heavier and longer Lighter and shorter
Rod and reel Fly Baitcasters
Presentation Mostly on topwater and slightly below the surface All water depths
Cost More expensive Less expensive

Fly Fishing – Fish With Synthetic Flies


One of the most rewarding and artful casting techniques is fly fishing. It’s an action-packed fishing method that relies on synthetic flies to catch fish. Here, the focus is to imitate the natural prey of your target fish, the flies.

Fly fishing has become increasingly popular as more people discover the thrill of catching a fish on something that floats. You can use it to catch several freshwater and saltwater fish, such as salmon, trout, carp, and grayling. These species feed on flies and other insects moving on water.

Unlike other methods, your lure shouldn’t sink into the water. That’s why the synthetic insects are designed to be lightweight, while your line is heavier.

How does fly fishing work?

In this fishing method, your goal is to mimic the natural movement or behavior of a flying insect (or other prey) to attract fish to strike it. You’ll use specialized tackles to present a moving insect or baitfish to your target. These flies resemble various insects in their life cycle, including amphibians, rodents, and invertebrates.

To use it, you must snap the rod and reel in tandem to cast your line. Afterward, it’s just a matter of reeling in the line and casting it out again. Also, you need to pay attention to your line and lure.

If you enjoy spending time outdoors, fly fishing can be a rewarding and immersive activity. Let’s discuss the pros and cons of fly fishing, so you’ll have a clear picture of this technique.


  • Easier method to catch specific types of fish.
  • Better accuracy due to its weighted line.
  • A thrilling and enticing pastime.
  • Suitable for fresh and saltwater fishing.
  • Widely available flies.


  • Costly equipment and gear.
  • Challenging to master.
  • Requires patience.

Bait Fishing – Fish Using Natural or Artificial Baits


Bait fishing, along with spin fishing, can be the regular type of casting you may have tried. Typically, this form of fishing doesn’t use specialty fly fishing equipment. However, it’s also an excellent way of enjoying the outdoors while catching fish.

With bait fishing, anglers harness the power of live or dead bait to lure fish. Baits can include minnows and worms, but can also be dough balls, cheese, and other natural food for fish. In some cases, you may also try artificial lures like crankbaits or plastic worms.

Instead of a fly rod, you’ll use a baitcasting rod and reel. In addition, you’ll use a lightweight line to cast a weighted bait. Usually, this method is ideal for catching catfish, bass, and other fish species.


  • Beginner-friendly
  • Can catch a wide range of fish species
  • Cheaper baits and equipment
  • More durable rods


  • Needs more baits
  • Rods are difficult to contro

Fly and Bait Fishing – Similarities


While these forms of fishing are unique from each other, they also have a couple of similarities. These include:

1. Purpose

Fly and bait fishing are angling techniques to catch fish. They provide anglers with recreational enjoyment, a sense of challenge, and the satisfaction of hooking their target species.

2. Gear and equipment

Both methods require specific fishing equipment, such as a rod, reel, fishing line, bait, or lure. You may need to use specific gear for each method, but the need for basic equipment remains the same.

Notable Differences

1. The bait


Fly fishing lures include synthetic flies made from materials like feathers, fur, and thread to replicate insects. Whereas, bait fishing uses a variety of natural baits like worms, minnows, and maggots. Anglers can also leverage artificial lures, such as plastic worms and crankbaits.

2. Rod Type


The difference between fly fishing and regular fishing rods is significant. Fly fishing uses a longer, slimmer, and lighter fly rod (and reel). This rod is designed to cast the weighted line and provide better control and accuracy when presenting the synthetic fly.

Bait fishing, on the other hand, uses baitcasting rods and reels. Generally, these are shorter and more durable. They’re designed to handle the weight of the lure while providing more accurate casting.

3. Line Type


Since the flies are extremely lightweight, fly fishing uses a specialized, heavier fly line. Made from heavy-duty nylon, the line will aid in casting the weightless lure.

Meanwhile, bait fishing employs monofilament, fluorocarbon, or braided lines, which are thinner and less visible than fly lines. These lines are made to cast heavier baits and lures while providing the necessary support to tackle larger fish.

4. Catch Rates

The number of fish you can catch can vary depending on your skill, target species, and fishing conditions. With fly fishing, anglers often focus on certain species, such as trout and salmon. As a result, they may have lower catch rates, considering the specialized nature of the method.

Bait fishing, being more versatile, can potentially result in higher catch rates. It’s because anglers can target several species using multiple baits and lures.

5. Fishing Success


Success is dependent on the angler’s goals and skills. While considered challenging, fly fishing can be highly rewarding if you’re enjoying the process and the satisfaction of catching fish on artificial flies.

Bait fishing can provide greater success in terms of the number and range of fish caught. Hence, it’s befitting for anglers who prioritize quantity and versatility.

6. Casting Technique


Fly fishing vs baitcasting techniques are distant approaches to catching fish. Fly fishing involves artful techniques of swinging, tight lining, and other skills, using the weight of the fly line to create momentum and propel the lightweight fly toward the target. The presentation of the fly is also crucial as the angler must imitate the natural movement of the insect.

Bait fishing casting techniques rely on the weight of the bait or lure, using either an overhead or sidearm motion to achieve the desired distance and accuracy. Depending on the type of bait, you may need multiple casting techniques to achieve the desired distance and accuracy.

7. Fishing environments


You can go fishing in both fresh and saltwater environments using either method. However, do note that fly fishing is most effective in waters where the tide is. Bait fishing is best on calm waters like ponds and lakes.

Which Fishing Method is Affordable?

Bait fishing is an excellent choice if you like to enjoy your hobby on a budget. While baitcasting equipment is more expensive than its spinning alternatives, they’re much cheaper when compared to fly fishing gear.

As discussed, fly fishing utilizes more specialized tools than baitcasting. The price of synthetic flies may be cheaper. However, when you have to invest in waders, quality rods, reels, or lines, the cost can be steeper than bait fishing.

Which is Better?

Understanding the differences between fly fishing and bait fishing is the key to deciding the best method and having a more enjoyable time on the water.

From the rods and lines to the flies that tempt fish, fly fishing is an art. It’s a meditative activity that requires patience and a calm demeanor. It may require finesse, but once you’ve mastered the art of casting, the experience can be fulfilling.

  • Bait fishing can be more accessible for beginners and less time intensive. In addition to the ability to catch a variety of fish, you don’t need special equipment or complex skills.
  • Overall, if you want to catch fish for a meal from a nearby lake, bait fishing is probably the best way to go. Meanwhile, if you would like to get close to nature and experience the best of angling, fly fishing is an excellent choice.

On the bright side, consider trying these two techniques. You can experience the benefit of each method, which may help you find the best approach for your needs.

Choosing the Right Fishing Method


Choosing the ideal method for your hobby will increase your chances of success and enhance your fishing experience. To achieve that, here are some factors you need to consider:

1. Your skill level

If you don’t have sufficient experience, it may be better to start with baitcasting. As you become more experienced, you can level up to fly fishing.

2. Fishing location

While both methods can be used on salt and freshwater, flies are more effective on moving waters like rivers and streams. Bait fishing is better suited for catching fish in lakes and ponds. That said, you should consider which body of water you want to spend your time fishing.

3. Target species

It’s also necessary to understand the specific species you want to catch and choose an effective technique for that particular fish. For example, fly fishing is excellent for trout, bass, and carp, tarpon, bonefish, while bait fishing is effective for casting salmon, catfish, walleye, and so on.

4. Budget

Before you invest in a specific technique, think about how much you’re willing to splurge. This will help you make an informed decision and enjoy your time on the water without breaking the bank.

Frequently Asked Questions


Is fly fishing harder than regular fishing?

Yes. On top of learning the line and rod, you need precise casting techniques to present your lure accurately on the water’s surface. Unlike baitcasting, you need more patience and time before you can master and appreciate the art of fly fishing.

Can I use bait in fly fishing?

Yes. Fly bait fishing is becoming a popular technique. However, synthetic flies are often more effective baits. Lightweight and flexible, they can be presented in several ways to resemble natural fly movements.

Is fly fishing more effective than bait fishing?

Depending on your skill level and other factors, fly fishing can be more effective than baitcasting. Fly fishing offers unique benefits in terms of presentation, stealth, versatility, and control. Thus, if you have the skill and patience, it can increase your success on the water.

What is the best fly fishing bait for trout?

The best bait for trout depends on the area’s conditions and the type of trout being pursued. However, the general rule of thumb is to “match the hatch,” which means selecting a fly that closely mimics the natural prey in that specific fishing location.

It’s essential to observe the environment and adapt your fly selection accordingly. That said, some of the premium baits for trout include woolly bugger, nymph, elk hair caddis, and more.

Can you use a bait casting rod and reel to fly fish?

Yes. However, it may not be as efficient or effective as using dedicated fly fishing gear. The reel is also smaller and may not accommodate multiple fly lines. Moreover, the heavier rod will make your experience uncomfortable and affect your chances of success.

Final Thoughts

In conclusion, fly fishing vs bait fishing are two different approaches to angling. Each method has its unique strengths and weaknesses for varying experiences.

Fly fishing can be challenging but interesting. On the other hand, bait fishing requires simple techniques that are easier for beginners.

Both methods are relaxing activities to spend time outdoors and connect with nature. Whatever your choice, we’re sure you’ll have fun hooking your target fish!

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