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Best Live Bait Coolers
Engel Coolers

5 Best Live Bait Coolers for Keeping Minnows Alive

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Are you determined to maximize the potential of your live bait? Or are you on the hunt for a convenient solution that minimizes your need to travel to the local bait and tackle shop? The right live bait cooler could make all the difference.

An excellent alternative to buckets, live bait coolers offer better capacity and temperature control. These and other attributes make them ideal for overnight fishing trips or settings in which significant temperature changes are likely.

While live bait coolers are nearly always preferable to buckets, not all are of equal quality. Proper selection is critical to ensure you make the most of this key investment. Equipped with the right cooler, you will enjoy extended access to the live bait needed to score your dream catch.

Best Live Bait Coolers Compared

Bait Cooler:
Engel 30 Qt Live Bait Cooler & Minnow Bucket -...
Frabill Magnum Bait Station 19 Quart Live Bait...
Frabill MIN-O-LIFE Personal Bait Station, 8-Quart
Capacity:
7.5 / 13 / 19 / 30 Qt
13 / 19 / 30 Qt
8 qt
Aerators:
Bait Net:
Check Price:
Bait Cooler:
Engel 30 Qt Live Bait Cooler & Minnow Bucket -...
Capacity:
7.5 / 13 / 19 / 30 Qt
Aerators:
Bait Net:
Check Price:
Compare:
Bait Cooler:
Frabill Magnum Bait Station 19 Quart Live Bait...
Capacity:
13 / 19 / 30 Qt
Aerators:
Bait Net:
Check Price:
Bait Cooler:
Frabill MIN-O-LIFE Personal Bait Station, 8-Quart
Capacity:
8 qt
Aerators:
Bait Net:
Check Price:

Last updated 2020-07-04 at 17:06 / Affiliate Links & Images from Amazon Product Advertising API


Live Bait Cooler Reviews

1. Engel Live Bait Cooler – Best Overall

Pros: The Engel bait cooler is well known for high-quality construction, its ability to maintain temperature, and keeping bait alive for several days. This is a highly versatile bait cooler, available in four sizes.

Cons: Aside from the premium price, downsides are almost non-existent for this cooler. Some users note the aerator can be noisy at times.

Topping our list of exceptional bait coolers, the Engel Live Bait Cooler stands out as the best. Notoriously reliable, this hard-sided cooler holds up to heavy use. From its tough molded shell, and 1” polystyrene insulation, to the built-in aerator and solid latching lid, the Engel is a sound investment for fishermen who regularly use live bait or take multi-day fishing trips.

ModelCapacityDimensionsDry Weight
ENGLBC7-N
7.5 qt (1.88 gal)11 1/2" x 10" x 8"2.5 lbs
ENGLBC13-N13 qt (3.25 gal)11" x 15" x 10"3.5 lbs
ENGLBC19-N19 qt (4.75 gal)13" x 16 1/2" x 11"5.5 lbs
ENGLBC30-N30 qt (7.5 gal)19 1/2" x 12 1/2" x 13"7.0 lbs

Engel’s Live Bait Cooler stands out, in part, due to its marine-grade construction. The cooler’s injection-molded copolymer body can take a beating. There is little to worry about temperature throughout the day, the high-grade molded polystyrene insulation keeps the cooler’s contents as stable as possible. Stainless steel screws secure the latches, while a beefy gasket lid seal also helps with temperature control and preventing spills.

Transporting this cooler is no problem thanks to the large handle, although the larger sizes could benefit from two side handles. One other convenient transport feature is the clever placement of the silicone air hose. Ported through the lid, this hose avoids the common problem of spilling water during travel.

Another underrated feature is the net basket, which dramatically improves access to bait while fishing. From the initial bait to those last few minnows, the net limits fumbling and searching, making it easier to remain focus on the fishing. Between this helpful feature and the use of high-quality materials, it is clear the Engel is the best live bait cooler for the money.


2. Frabill Magnum Bait Station – Runner Up

Pros: A tough bait cooler from a trusted brand, coming in multiple sizes. The handles are bigger than the Engel, especially on the 30-quart size. It is a durable option that can hold up to heavy use.

Cons: Despite hundreds of positive reviews, there is an issue with some aerator pumps failing prematurely. While pumps can be replaced or repaired, it might be concerning enough that you should consider the Engel bait cooler.

The Frabill Magnum Bait Station is bound to incite jealousy among your fishing friends on others at the boat ramp. This bait cooler may seem a bit expensive at first glance when compared to the Engel, but users have found it well worth the cost to keep your bait alive.

ModelCapacityDimensionsBait Net
FRBBA21313 qt (3.25 gal)19.5" x 11.5" x 13.8"Yes
FRBBA21919 qt (4.75 gal)19.5" x 17.75" x 13.8"Yes
FRBBA23030 qt (7.5 gal)27.8" x 14.5" x 13"No

The Bait Station is most loved for its heavy-duty construction. The cooler body and lid are made from injection-molded plastic and 1-inch thick spray foam insulation. The cooler is sturdy enough to double as a fishing sea. Anglers can sit on it without fear of collapse, perfect for fishing from the bank or on the big water.

The components are ruggedly designed as well. The handles are rugged plastic, and large enough to handle a cooler fully filled with bait and water. The latches might look cheap to some, but they are composite and will not rust.

The 13 and 19-quart models have the built-in bait net, but the 30 quart only has a divider. One other thing to keep in mind is the 30-quart model has two aerator pumps, you’ll need twice the batteries.

Despite its durable build and components, there is one issue that drops the Magnum Bait Station to runner-up status, and that is the aerator pump. The Frabill unit’s aerator has been known to fail prematurely. It seems isolated to period last year, as there are so many other positive reviews. It could be just a bad production run? The pump is replaceable, but this represents a potential cost and commitment that most anglers might prefer to avoid. If that is a concern you should consider the Engler Bait Cooler instead.


3. Frabill Min-O-Life Bait Station – Good Cheap Bait Cooler

Pros: An affordable live bait cooler, best for light-duty use. Even though inexpensive, it still has a sturdy build with a helpful lift out net liner.

Cons: It comes only in one size, and some users report that the cooler is prone to leaking when filled to max capacity.

Specs:

  • Capacity: 8 qt
  • Rod Holder: No
  • Aerator: Yes

If the Engel or Frabill Magnum is too expensive or more than you need, the Frabill Min-O-Life Bait Station provides a great alternative. This is a great bait cooler for the casual fisherman who needs a bait keeper for the occasional fishing trip.

The Min-O-Life is available in an 8-quart size, perfect for the weekend fisherman. For brief fishing excursions, this cooler provides a degree of convenience rarely found with bait storage. Not only is it uniquely portable, but it can also fit nicely in otherwise cramped spaces. As such, the smaller size is not as useful to anglers looking to stock up for overnight trips.

The Min-O-Life boasts a quiet and reliable aerator pump. Oftentimes the pumps on cheap bait buckets and coolers are aggravating with their loud pumps. Overall, the Min-O-Life grant anglers all the benefits of the more expensive coolers, without the hefty price tag. This model is the perfect solution for the weekend angler who just needs a light-duty bait keeping solution.


4. Engel Live Bait Cooler w/Rod Holders

Pros: Same great cooler design with 4 built in rod holders, perfect for shore, pier, and kayak fishing.

Cons: The rod holder version is only available in the 30-quart size.

Specs:

  • Capacity: 30 qt
  • Rod Holder: Yes
  • Aerator: Yes

All the best aspects of Engel’s top bait cooler are clearly present in this model, with one key difference. The addition of rod holders brings a new level of convenience to a variety of fishing styles.

While its large size may not seem conducive to kayak fishing, many kayak anglers prefer this model, complimenting the rod holders for making it easier to stay organized. Fishing from shore or the pier is also made easier thanks to the rod holders. Mount the cooler to a cart or trolley and you have an all in one fishing setup.

Beyond the rod holders, this cooler is favored for its excellent design and build quality. Its dimensions exceed that of the equivalent size on the standard Engel model highlighted above, although both achieve a maximum capacity of 30 quarts. Still, at a total weight of 8 pounds, this cooler remains decidedly portable.

As with other Engel coolers, this model benefits from the inclusion of a useful hang net, which speeds up the process of changing water and accessing your bait.


5. Magellan 30 Qt Insulated Bait Box

Magellan Bait Box

Pros: This Magellan bait cooler box comes equipped with a detachable lid for easier access. It also features removable rod holders, and is very affordable, especially given its size.

Cons: Not everybody wants a 30-quart bait box, but that is the only option available for this model.

Specs:

  • Capacity: 30 qt
  • Rod Holder: Yes
  • Aerator: Yes

Customizable features are few and far between on most live bait coolers, but this Magellan bait box provides a clear exception. Equipped with removable rod holders and a detachable lid, this insulated model can be adjusted as needed before or during fishing trips to make it as convenient and functional as possible for the situation at hand.

In addition to its rod holders, this rugged option includes useful features such as a drain plug and a shoulder strap for easy transport. These details make all the difference for many pleased fishermen, who appreciate the added convenience.

Magellan’s 30-quart bait box does not come with a mesh net, but not all users believe one is necessary, given the convenience of the detachable lid. Those willing to go without nets will enjoy access to one of the largest and most affordable options available.


Why Live Bait Coolers are Better Than Bait Buckets

Live Bait Cooler Features
Engel Coolers

Bait buckets may be more affordable than coolers, but the price is not the only attribute worth considering. Coolers outshine buckets in every other way. Not convinced? As the owner of a live bait cooler, you will enjoy the following key benefits:

  • Larger Capacity – Where most live bait buckets are sized from 7-10 quarts, bait coolers run from 7.5 to 30 quarts. This range of sizes creates options for the portable fisherman to the big boat fisherman.
  • Maintains Temperature Longer – The thicker foam insulation (1”) found in coolers keep live bait cool and oxygenated longer. Temperature control is much more difficult in buckets, even if insulated. This can be problematic both on hot days and while ice fishing, as both activities expose your bait investment to extreme temperatures. As a rule, coolers are constructed from higher-quality materials and are better insulated, and therefore better capable of shielding bait from overly hot or cold temperatures.
  • Best for Multi-Day Trips – The larger capacity, better build, and improved temperature control allows you to buy and keep bait for multiple days. You can also buy bait the day before you go fishing and be ready to go without making stops at gas stations or bait shops.
  • Built-In Aerators – While some buckets have aerators, they are typically small and underpowered. Coolers are built with bigger air pumps, some with multiple speed settings, and optional 12V cigarette plugin cords for boats and vehicles.
  • Lift Out Net/Basket – Many coolers come with helpful features such as nets and baskets for lifting out bait. Useful for all types of live bait, these features provide greater ease of use for all styles of fishing including ice fishing and tip-ups, and kayak fishing. Regardless of the setting, built-in nets and baskets eliminate the need to soak your hands in cold water, fumbling for a minnow.
  • Big Beefy Handles – The top bait coolers have big heavy handles for lifting and carrying their load, which cannot be said for the lowly bait bucket.
  • Solid Lids & Latches – Bait stored in buckets are notoriously easy to spill. With coolers, such mishaps can be avoided with the rectangular base and solid lids with latches. This design keeps the containers buttoned up with minimal spillage. Even with the jostling and shaking of traveling to the lake, and on the water itself, lids with latches ensure that your bait cooler contents always remain fully contained.

Should You Use a Bait Cooler or Bucket for Kayak Fishing?

Kayak fishing poses unique challenges worth considering. Bait containers that work well on docks, piers, or in other settings could prove disastrous in a kayak, where space is limited, and tipping is more likely. Still, many coolers provide easy access to bait even when stored in kayaks.

Kayak anglers can opt for the smaller coolers for the most stable solution on the water. To get the right size, measure the compartment size where you want to store your bait and compare it to the specs in our reviews. Regardless of the size or model, any bait cooler will be the preferable alternative to bait buckets.

What Size Batteries Do Live Bait Coolers Use?

For most standard bait coolers, you can expect to use two D batteries. These are essential for powering several favorite models, including Engel, Frabill Magnum, and Min-O-Life. Additionally, many coolers can be powered via a 12V DC cigarette lighter adapter that most boats are equipped with.

How Long do Bait Cooler Batteries Last?

Battery longevity largely depends on the quality of the battery itself, and how long you continuously run the pump. If batteries run almost constantly, a life of at least eight hours should be expected. With high-quality lithium D cells, however, fishers can enjoy full use for several days. If your batteries should run out, the previously mentioned cigarette adapter can provide the necessary power.

How Much Bait Can the Coolers Safely Store?

Live bait coolers may boast impressive capacity, but they still possess hard limits worth considering. The smallest coolers, at a capacity of about 7.5 quarts, can store up to 5 dozen minnows, shiners, or shrimp. For 13-quart coolers, the capacity increases to 10 dozen. The capacity may be greater if the batteries are supplemented by the 12V adapters.

Conclusion

You should now be able to see why live bait coolers are preferable to bait buckets. With the right cooler, live bait can remain in exceptional condition for multiple days, even when dealing with hot and cold temperatures.

While no live bait cooler will be perfect for every angler, select models stand out for their design and performance:

For the best design, construction, and performance, the Engel Live Bait Cooler is by far the best choice. It can be counted on to keep your live bait in great shape, is incredibly well built, and has the peace of mind that comes with a 5-year warranty.

The Frabill Magnum Bait Station should be considered if you like the beefier handles and the seamlessly integrated aerator pump. For a cheaper, lighter duty option, the Frabill Min-O-Life is an excellent choice. If you do not need all the bells and whistles, or the overbuilt cooler body, this is the bait cooler for you.

Last updated 2020-07-04 at 17:06 / Affiliate Links & Images from Amazon Product Advertising API


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