Catching bait is almost as much fun as catching fish, ... sometimes, even more fun.
In the South, fish seem to feed on a seasonal curve. For example, in the spring, they may bite better on worms or minnows. But, in the summer, crickets or wasp larvae or grass shrimps may work better. Or, in the fall, minnows or shiners or crawfish may be best. But, in the winter, slow fishing with worms or even cutbait may be the answer.
Worms - We used several methods to get worms. Sometimes, we would go under the house where a leaky pipe kept the ground wet and red wigglers could grow. Sometimes, we would dig around the pond edges and find a few. Sometimes, we couldn't find enough to go fishing, so we would buy from the local tackle shop.
Crickets - We used methods like: searching in tall grass, under grass clumps, under lumber and tin laying in the yard. This usually yielded enough crickets for a fishing trip without having to buy any from the local tackle shop.
Wasp Larvae - THIS SHOULD NOT BE DONE IF ALLERGIC TO WASP STINGS.
We would use a long pole to knock down the wasp nest. Then wait for the wasps to fly away before we retrieved the nest. We preferred not to spray the nest as this can kill the larvae along with the wasp. The nest was kept in a glass jar, so any hatching wasp would be noticed before reaching for bait. Gently tear the cover from an individual cell and remove the larvae and thread on your hook.
Minnows - We use several strategies to catch minnows. Sometimes, we use a dip net and just scoop anything near the bank. Sometimes, we use a long handled rake and drag the bottom for grass and debris. Once, we even tried a minnow trap.
Crawfish - We use a long handled rake to drag the bottom for grass and debris. Once, we pulled up a water moccasin. Crawfish can be fished live, use a small hook in the tail, or dead, cutbait.
Grass Shrimps - We use a dip net in the submerged grass, and a bucket with a lid! Shrimp can be threaded on a number 6 hook.
Shiners - We use several methods to catch shiners. One of the best, - DOUGHBALLS ! Just put a pea sized dough ball on a # 8 hook ( no sinker , no cork , small test line ), ease the ball into the water and be ready. We use a 10 foot bream pole with 10 # line. Some of the shiners are only 6 - 8 inches long, but most are 10 - 14 inches. The doughballs can be as simple as old bread pinched and gently rolled into a ball. Raw canned biscuits, or a homemade mixture of flour, water, and flavoring of choice can be used. Some people use cotton balls or cotton mixed into the flour mixture or even marshmallows.
Catalpa Worms - I used these a few times, after I heard they were good catfish bait.
These are just a few examples of the methods that can be used. We also have used a seine net, castnet, various traps and devices not listed.