You know hot weather and live bait are not compatible, whether you chase slabs with minnows or toss shad at big cats.
A top-quality bait bucket is essential to ensure that your bait remains fresh and palatable. It can hold cool, aerated water for hours, or even days.
Amazon and bait shops stock many products that are just too bad to consider. Yet, I am often struck by the fact that anglers are relying on substandard bait buckets with predictable results.
Avoid being seduced by styrofoam containers!
We have the right product for you if you are looking for a great live bait bucket. Below is a short buying guide and reviews of some of our favorite live bait buckets.
A glance at the topminnow buckets
- Engel Live Bait Cooler – The Best Bait Bucket For Long Trips And Big Boats
- Frabill Flow – Troll Magnum Minnow Bucket– The Best Bait Bucket for Wading
- Frabill 4825
- Marine Metal Cool Bubbles CB35– Best Live Bait Bucket
Review of the Best Minnow Buckets
Engel Live Bait Cooler – The Best Bait Bucket For Long Trips And Big Boats
Engel makes what by any measure are the Cadillacs in bait coolers. If you have the right power source and space, it’s simply unbeatable.
Engel begins with a high-quality cooler body. It is rugged, thick-sided, and well-insulated with molded plastic styrene foam. Engel’s bait coolers are sealed with high-quality gaskets. This ensures that even in the hottest temperatures, Engel’s coolers will keep their temperature at the bait-pampering temp.
The 2-speed aerator can be powered by two D-cell batteries, or via a plug into a 12v accessory socket. These batteries can typically last 72 hours or longer if they are used continuously.
This is the Engel system’s weakest link. It can sometimes stop working suddenly, making it quite loud. This can lead to serious bait problems. This is not a problem, as most anglers find this bait cooler to be very reliable season after season.
If this happens, I would recommend that you get an after-market aerator instead of an Engel replacement.
An Engel cooler comes with a bait net that makes it easy to retrieve your shrimp or minnows.
Overall, I highly rate this bait cooler. Engels can keep shrimp alive for days in Florida sunshine, while minnows are a breeze. This cooler is ideal for multi-day trips with live bait. It’s also great for those who are on-shore anglers such as surf-casters and crappie addicts.
- Available in a variety of sizes
- Excellent insulation
- No problem!
- There are no leaks
- Battery life is excellent
- It’s expensive!
- Sometimes, anglers have experienced problems with their aerators.
Frabill Flow – Troll Magnum Minnow Bucket– The Best Bait Bucket For Wading
Insulation is not required
Frabill’s Flow Troll is a favorite of bank anglers ever since its introduction. It’s a great way for live bait to last longer, whether you fish from a Jon boat, kayak, or canoe.
The Flow-Troll is intended to be partially submerged in water. This allows for natural aeration as well as ambient temperature. The Flow-Troll’s buoyancy is minimal, so it can ride low and keep everything but the hatch moist.
The Frabill is designed to be hydrodynamic so that it can be used in water. This is good for maneuvering with your trolling motor.
However, can you actually run from one place to the next using electric or human power?
This doesn’t seem like a good idea. You could rip off the handle or grab the Flow-Troll on any debris. For paddlers, it will cause significant drag.
Paddlers will have to contend with drag.
Anglers will often keep a bucket full of water handy to overcome these problems. They then take the Frabill out and place it in the bucket. It is up to you whether this serves the purpose.
My opinion is that the Flow-Troll’s best place to be is onshore or while wading.
The Flow-Troll is a great way to keep bait alive without worrying about drag and snags.
- It’s affordable!
- No power required
- Relies on the ambient water temperatures
- Too fragile to trolling when in use
Frabill’s 4825 has been through a lot of fishing adventures and is proving to be a good choice for keeping live bait alive.
The bucket is made of durable plastic and has plenty of insulation to keep temperatures comfortable, even at the Gulf coast. This bucket is used for live shrimp by many anglers that I know.
Four AA batteries power the aerator, and they typically last between 12-16 hours. If you plan to take a longer trip, you will need a boat that can hold an Engel-sized cooler. But, if you don’t have enough, make sure you bring lots of spares!
Although the aerator is reliable, it can be fragile. The hose can sometimes come off the styrofoam lid, which I have seen more than I would like. However, it is easy to put back together. You can use silicone at home or duct tape on the water for quick fixes. A quick dab of silicone can solve the problem permanently, according to me.
Although the lid on the 4825 does its job well, it will not stop splashes from over-topping the bucket. It’s not an issue on the water or in your truck bed, but it is a concern if you are transporting this bait bucket in your vehicle.
This Frabill bait bucket is durable. It should last for many years, even if it gets bumped or knocked.
The Frabill 4825 is a good buy and can be trusted by hot-weather anglers.
- It’s affordable!
- Battery life is excellent
- Be well-insulated
- If you don’t do an at-home repair, the aerator hose could come loose.
Marine Metal Cool Bubbles CB35 – Best Live Bait Bucket
Marine Metals Cool Bubbles is a great option for hot-weather anglers. Although it isn’t as well-known as the Frabill it’s a bit larger and better designed and, to my mind, a better purchase. It is twice as costly as the Frabill. It’s not clear if this is a dealbreaker. However, I’d bet that the bait cost would make it a no-brainer.
Cool Bubble is a 5-gallon bucket that’s tough and no-nonsense. It has a 3/4-inch thick styrofoam liner, inner lid, and a 5-gallon capacity. This bucket is great for keeping bait alive during high temperatures, especially if you add some cubes or ice to the container.
It will take the heat, trust me!
Cool Bubbles’ aerator works well. It runs on 2 D-cell batteries and can last for 72 hours. If you need it, it can also run on one. This is huge battery life and it will last you through the longest fishing trips if you have enough ice.
Cool Bubbles come in different sizes and with different aerators.
The CB-115 can also be used as a 5-gallon model.
However, its aerator won’t provide the same battery life as the CB-35.
- Battery life is excellent
- Be well-insulated
- Excellent aerator
- ?? ??
How to Evaluate a Bait Bucket
Style and capacity
Bait buckets are available in many sizes, from the Frabill Flow Trom to the Engel bait coolers of 30-quarts.
This Engel has a lot to offer, but it also takes up lots of space.
It’s not rocket science to find the best one for you, but you must ask yourself some questions.
Is your bucket intended to be a minnow angler or a live bait such as shrimp?
Shrimp require more space than minnows and being crowded can dramatically reduce their life expectancy, even if they are kept cool and aerated. A slab chaser might want to keep their bait bucket smaller to avoid it taking up valuable deck space, but inshore anglers have more space.
What is the space you have available for a bait bucket
These questions are crucial. Although you might technically have enough room for an Engel bait cooler, in reality, you may find it impedes your ability to do other things. Make a realistic assessment of how much space you have, and then make a wise choice.
This means that kayak and canoe anglers have to choose small options that do not rely on aerators.
Every time I go to the bait shop, I find styrofoam buckets for sale.
These are temptingly cheap, so you may decide to give them a shot. Let me warn you: They will break, leak, or tip over with even the slightest bump.
They are not worth the money you spend on them.
You want a bait bucket that is strong enough to withstand a few drops of water without leaking, just like an old fitting under a sink.
If the weather is cool, I’m fine with a simple bucket and a clip-on airer. You will need insulation for hot weekends when there isn’t a cloud in sight and the mercury is soaring out of control.
Even with excellent insulation, water can quickly heat up in a bucket, which can kill bait.
You can keep your bait alive in the event of severe weather by keeping a small container of frozen water or small amounts of ice, as well as a well-insulated bucket.
However, don’t go overboard! A little bit of ice can make a big difference!
Many bait buckets have aerators that can power via a 12v accessory socket. If your boat has one, it’s no problem.
For most anglers, however, the aerator is battery-powered and battery life is important. Live shrimp bait can be costly, and dead shrimp can make it expensive to return to the shop.
It is important to have long battery life. This is something we think about carefully.
A fishing trip can be ruined by dead bait faster than a damaged outboard. A good live bait bucket is essential to get the best out of your investment in shrimp or shiners. It should have thick insulation, a quality aerator, and lots of battery life.
We hope this article helped you to choose the right bait bucket. If not, we would love to hear about it!
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