7 Best Bait Buckets (with Aerators): Keep Your Bait Alive!

If you’re looking for the best live bait bucket on the market, look no further! We’ve compiled a list of the top 5 live bait buckets, each with its own unique benefits.

Using live bait is a great way to catch more fish. And with an aerator bucket, you can keep your live bait alive longer and increase your chances of landing the big one!

Why use live bait?

Live bait is a great way to attract fish, because it looks and smells like the prey they normally eat. There’s a time and place for artificial lures, but I’ve always had more success using live bait.

Closeup of a person hooking a minnow
Hooking a minnow

Companies like Berkley go a long way to make their artificial bait look and smell like the real thing. Fake bait can be convenient, but there’s nothing better than fishing with live bait.

How does an aerator work?

An aerator is a device that pumps air into the water. Live bait buckets usually have a small aerator built in. By pumping air into the water, it oxygenates the water and keeps your live bait alive longer.

Fish, like humans, need air to survive. The difference is fish get their air form the water. With an aerator to pump oxygen into the bucket, the fish will quickly deplete the oxygen in the water.

Aerators require power to pump air into the water, so bait buckets with aerators will need a battery to operate. The number and type of batteries differs between aerators.

How long does bait stay alive in an aerator bait bucket?

The length of time live bait stays alive in an aerator bucket varies depending on the type of fish. In general, live bait will stay alive for several hours in an aerator bucket.

Closeup of a shrimp with a hook through it
Hooking a shrimp

Some live bait, like minnows,can live for days in an aerator bucket. If you’re planning to use live bait for an extended period of time, it’s best to check on the bait periodically and replace the water as needed.

No matter what type of live bait you’re using, an aerator bucket is a great way to keep your bait alive longer and increase your chances of success while fishing.

The main differences between bait buckets

There are a few things to consider when picking a bait bucket. The main differences are the size, additional features, and quality.

Shape and Size

The shape and size of these bait buckets vary. Some are round buckets, similar to the 5-gallon bucket you’re familiar with. Others are rectangular and look more like a typical cooler than a bucket. Both work fine and are versatile enough to go from the beach to the boat to the river or lake.

Additional features

Some buckets are pretty basic, but other come with “extras” like rod holders, removable nets (a nice feature), and even clips for a glow stick. We’ll explain what features each bucket has below.

Quality and price

Most of these buckets are made to last for years, however the “cooler” type buckets are usually bigger and sturdier. That usually comes with a higher price tag, so go with whatever your budget will allow.

The top 7 live bait buckets with aerators

Now that we’ve gone over the basics, let’s get to the good stuff! Below are our top live bait buckets.

Flambeau Outdoors Bait Butler

Flambeau Outdoors 6092BB Bait Butler- Live Bait Retrieval System, Integrated Lid System with Net for Easy Bait Retrieval

The Flambeau Bait Butler takes the hassle out of using live bait. The patented retrieval system has a built-in net that lets you pull the bait out of the bucket water. That means no more fishing around for your bait!

Another advantage to this system is that you can take the net with your bait out of the water while you replace the water with fresh water. This helps keep the fish alive even longer. It’s a nice backup plan in case your aerator runs our of batteries.

Flambeau Outdoors 6092BB Bait Butler- Live Bait Retrieval System, Integrated Lid System with Net for Easy Bait Retrieval

Speaking of the aerator, this model includes the “Flambeau Portable Aerator One” which will run for 40 hours on (2) “D” batteries.

And there’s a lot more to this bucket. Additional features include slots for your hooks or extra bobbers, a rod holder, and even a place to attach a glow stick for fishing at night.

The Bait Butler attaches to most 5 gallon buckets. Keep in mind the bucket isn’t included, so you’ll need to get one somewhere else.

Frabill Insulated Bait Bucket

Frabill 4822 Insulated Bait Bucket, One Size, Multi

This Frabill bait bucket is the affordable, no frills, gets the job done option. It has a flip up top to access the bait and an insulated liner to keep the water from getting too warm. And that’s pretty much it as far as features go.

**This one doesn’t come with an aerator pump. You’ll have to purchase the aerator separately. We recommend the Marine Metal Bubble Box. You can get both of them together for around $20 or less.

At 1.3 gallons, this bucket is big enough to hold your minnows or other small bait fish. It’s easy to carry and it won’t take up too much space.

Marine Metal Products Cool Bubbles Plastic Bucket & Pump

Another basic but effective option is the Marine Metal ‘Cool Bubbles’ insulated bucket. It’s an 8 quart bucket and it does come with a pump.

It’s the perfect size bucket to keep minnows alive for days. The pump runs on (2) “D” batteries. It advertises a 44 hour battery life, but it seems to last even longer.

Frabill Bait Box with Aerator

Frabill Bait Box with Aerator | Live Bait Storage Cooler with Portable Aerator | 8-Quart Capacity

This Frabill Bait Box is considerably more sturdy than the previous option on this list. It’s actually more similar to a cooler than a bucket.

It comes with the super-quiet Frabill aerator pump that easily clips onto the side of the cooler.

Another great feature is the lift out net, which makes grabbing bait nice and easy (similar to the Flambeau above).

Because of it’s sturdy design and thicker walls, the Frabill Bait Box is a great option for boats or taking to the beach.

Engel Portable Insulated Live Bait Bucket with Aerator

This bait box is on a different level. The 30qt size is perfect for larger bait fish, like spot. It also works great for minnows, shrimp or pretty much anything you want to throw in there.

Engel Coolers Live Bait Cooler with Net & Four Rod Holders, White, 30Qt.

This Engel bucket has four sturdy rod holders. It also has a 2-speed pump. Which gives you some control over how much oxygen you want to pump into the water.

It latches shut (with stainless steel latches) so it happens to tip over you won’t lose your bait. Plus it comes with the lift out net that makes grabbing your bait easier.

The Engel bucket comes in a few smaller sizes and it available in white and tan.

With the larger capacity comes more weight. The bucket is 8lbs empty, so it’s one of the heavier options on this list.

Mr Lion Foldable Fish Bucket

The Mr Lion bucket is another “cooler” type bait bucket. Unlike the Engel above, this one is collapsible. This bucket closes with a zipper that is sturdy and seems like it’ll last a long time.

MR LION Fishing Bucket, Foldable Fish Bucket, Live Fish Container Multi-Functional Fish Live Lures Bucket Outdoor EVA Fishing Bag for Fishing, Keep The Bait Fresh or Fish Catch Alive (6 Gallon)

There are two size options: 6 gallons and 10 gallon. And there’s a bunch of different colors available.

It’s not as durable as the Engel, but the Mr. Lion is a good value for the price – even with the cost of buying a pump (not included).

RITE-HITE Fisherman’s Bait & Fillet Cooler

We had to include the RITE-HITE cooler on this list for a few reason. First off, it double as a fillet table. There’s actually a built in cutting board with a clamp. It’s perfect if you want to cut your bait down OR fillet your catch – hopefully the latter.

RITE-HITE Fisherman's Bait Fillet Cooler - Includes Cutting Board with Clamp, 2 Speed Aerator and Removable Cooler, Use as a Live Well when Fishing to Keep Bait Alive and Your Catch Fresh

The bait bucket can hold up to 5 gallons of water. It can also double as a cooler and hold 24 cans of your favorite beverage.

The shape is a bit different too. It’s round like a bucket, but it’s wider and lower to the ground. That makes it less likely to get kicked over, but it can be a bit awkward to carry, especially when filled with water.

It comes with an aerator that runs on only (1) “D” battery, although the run time is only 24 hours. Compare that to the Frabill or Marine Metal pumps that take (2) batteries but last around 44 hours.

Tips for keeping live bait fresh

Now that you’ve seen some of the best live bait buckets on the market, it’s time to talk about using live bait.

Using the aerator will go a long way to keep your bait fresh, but changing the water once or twice a day will extend the life of the bait.

Second, you need to keep your live bait cool. So if you plan on fishing from the beach in the middle of summer, pick a bucket that is well insulated. And try to keep the bucket shaded if possible.

Wrapping up

Fishing with live bait is fun and effective.There are many different types of live bait buckets to keep your bait fresh. Hopefully this article provided some clarity and helped you make a decision.

Be sure to check out our other fishing articles for more tips and tricks.

Happy fishing!

Frequently asked bait bucket questions

Can you use a bait bucket aerator with freshwater and saltwater?

Yes, you can use a bait bucket aerator with both freshwater and saltwater. If you’re using the bucket near saltwater, rinse off the bucket and aerator to increase its lifespan.

What is the best live bait for saltwater fishing?

Some of the best live bait for saltwater fishing includes shrimp, crabs, and spot fish. However, there are many options depending on what kind of fish you’re trying to catch.

Can you use an aerator with any type of bucket?

Yes, you can use an aerator with any type of bucket. Most aerators come with a clip that can be added to any bucket. However, live bait buckets are usually insulated to keep your bait cooler.

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