Proficient Portage

In a perfect world, every angler would be able to simply jump on a boat, load up the livewell and head out for a productive day on the water. However when it comes to keeping their ever-important bait alive, fishermen are bound to run into obstacles sooner or later. Whether faced with the task of transporting live bait or accessing a landlocked sweet spot, having a reliable, yet portable pump system to keep baits happy and healthy can be the determining factor in a successful day of fishing.


There are numerous options available when it comes to transporting and holding bait, with different situations warranting slightly varying approaches. Sometimes all that’s needed is a 5-gallon bucket with a AA, C, or D cell battery-powered aerator. This minimalistic approach will suffice for keeping small baits alive for a short period of time, yet can be greatly enhanced with the addition of a low-pressure diffuser.

...maintaining live bait in a portable, enclosed system can be challenging.

KeepAlive ( manufactures one such product, the KA975 ceramic diffuser, which produces a uniformed bubble pattern with micro bubbles that dramatically improve the efficiency of standard battery-powered aerators. While Marine Metal Products ( produces portable Bubble Box units that operate for upwards of 40 hours with standard alkaline cells, the provided blue air stones that we are all so familiar with create very large air bubbles that hinder the unit’s potential maximum performance. With aeration, the smaller the air bubble, the slower it will rise to the surface, therefore enabling greater time to dissolve and oxygenate the water.

Frabill ( is another trusted name in the game and introduced its Aqua Life series in 2015, offering an extensive line of bait care and aeration products. This array of aerators and pump systems gives anglers the ability to turn any cooler, bucket or watertight container into a portable livewell and can handle anywhere from 6- to 100-gallons of water. Though many anglers use coolers as portable baitwells for their insulation properties, they are best suited for holding baits like shrimp, crabs, mullet, pinfish and croaker. More fragile scale baits like herring and sardines that prefer to swim in a circular motion can become trapped in the corners of square coolers and ultimately perish because of the insufficient design.

Included in Frabill’s line of products are simple yet effective aerators that run on D cell batteries. For anglers with larger live bait operations, it is necessary to scale up with 12V DC aerators suited for bait containers with upwards of 100 gallon capacity. All of these options are relatively inexpensive, ranging from $16.99 to $74.99, and offer anglers both temporary and permanent solutions to keeping bait alive.

When a large number of baits need to be kept alive for greater periods of time, anglers turn to options that provide a more resilient solution. In addition to KeepAlive’s highly effective ceramic diffuser, they also manufacture an extensive line of high quality aeration and oxygen infusion systems to cater to live bait needs big and small. KeepAlive’s portable pumps make housing massive quantities of bait very much possible. These pumps are offered in four different styles to suit varying needs.

The KA500 and floating KA500F can each pump 500 gallons per hour. For even larger livewells, KeepAlive offers the KA700 and the KA1100, pumping 700 and 1100 gallons per hour. Though many believe larger pumps can provide for more bait, water velocity and overcrowding are critical considerations no matter the size and shape of your livewell. The KA500 and KA500F each cost $59.95, while the KA700 and KA1100 cost $79.95, respectively.

When designing a portable livewell it’s important you can regulate the velocity and direction of water flow. Circulating water that is too turbulent may actually do more harm than good by forcing your baitfish to work against the current where they will ultimately tire too quickly.

Unfortunately, maintaining live bait in a portable, enclosed system can be challenging. Unlike your boat’s livewell where water is constantly circulating through the tank, baits housed in a cooler or bucket will suffocate without sufficient oxygenation, so if you need a solution for lengthier captivity you may want to invest in an oxygen infusion system that increases oxygen content by splitting water molecules into separate elements—hydrogen and oxygen.

When fishing with live bait is a must, the minimal time, cost and effort it takes to equip yourself with a portable livewell is certainly a major advantage. Fortunately, the wide range of aerators and pumps readily available are sure to have anglers everywhere soaking healthy and happy live baits in no time.