Building your first fishing bait pen on a budget

Bait pen and fish cage are great tools to have when you have constant access to a dock. Being able to catch your bait and then stock it up early before your fishing trip might mean you’re the first boat somewhere to take the whole day to catch your target, but the thing about these pens are those pens that you sell in the store are very expensive. Commercially available large bait pens usually start around $300.

You can make your own project at a much cheaper price, the whole project should cost at least 2/3 less than buying one. It will take a little work, but this is an easy project for a bad weather day when you can’t get out into the water. This project requires no expensive power tools, just a heat gun, scissors or clippers, and a PVC pipe cutter. If you don’t have a PVC pipe cutter, a saw works, but it will be more messy and more work. The materials you need for this precise composition

  • 4 – 10 feet long 3/4 PVC pipe
  • 14 – 3/4″ tee connectors
  • 2 – 3/4″ 90 elbow connectors
  • 2-1 to 3/4 Reduced Tee
  • 3ft x 25ft 3/4 Mesh Plastic Poultry Mesh
  • 50 zip links minimum
  • Synthetic rope ropes
  • 1 pool noodles

bait pen

Clear shot of PVC frame for bait pen

For the PVC pipe, you want to cut it into these lengths

  • 6 pieces – 2 feet
  • 4pc – 3.5ft
  • 10 pieces – 1 foot
  • 2 pieces – 2 ft 10 in
  • 3 pieces – 6 inches

Once all of these pieces are cut out, you can start assembling the frame. Start with the center square of the frame, cutting 2 – 2 foot PVC, 4 – 1 foot PVC pieces, and 6 – 3/4 Tee-connectors.

For the cover side, there will be slight modification upon assembly. You will need additional 2 – 2 foot pieces of PVC, cut 2 – 1 foot PVC, and cut 1 – 6 inch, 2 – 90 degree 3/4 inch PVC. 2 – 3/4 ohm, and 1-2 to 3/4 reduced tee.

bait pen
Close-up contact for bait pen frame

Begin by connecting two 1-foot pieces of one with a Tee connector in the middle, then attach a Tee connector to each end. Use the picture as a reference

Next, connect both assemblies together on both sides with a 2-foot piece of PVC to create a large square of PVC pipe. Then, using a heat gun, gently heat a 3.5-foot piece of PVC tubing, roll it up, and attach it to the PVC box. Once you’ve done this for both sides of the square, you now have the underside of the bait pen.

The top side of the bait pen assembly is pretty much the same except for one thing, you need to add the cap to that side. So assemble it as before except not to connect one side of the center square to the end. Pre-assemble the bait pen cap, from two pieces of 2-foot PVC, two elbow connectors, a 1 3/4″ tee connector, and two 1 to 3/4″ reduced tee connectors. You are making a U shape using the two shortened Tee connectors as the ends, and these 1 connectors can fit a 3/4″ tube through them. This will serve as your thing for the bait pen cap. The 3/4″ monofilament connector will have a cover knob attached to it.

Now both sides of the frame are finished and attached to each other using two pieces of 2″ x 10″ tube using the center tee connectors in the squares. Once everything fits pressed together at once, and all adjustments are made, you can use PVC glue to permanently attach everything. Or it’s not a personal preference, but a stick-on lure pen will hold up longer than a press-fit pen.

The final step for the frame is to put two holes in it to let the air out so the pen can sink in. You can use an electric drill or if you don’t have a drill available you can heat a nail with a lighter or a heat gun works as well. It doesn’t matter what you use to make them, just make sure the bait pen frame has two holes on either side.

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Attach the net to the bait pen using zip ties

Now the frame is very simple, you only need to use zip ties and plastic mesh to tack the frame. The more zip ties the better, this will help extend the life of the bait pen. Also, keeping the net taut helps maintain the pen’s rigidity and reduces the possibility of the bait getting stuck in a corner and dying. Also be sure to keep the zipper tabs out of the pen, sharp corners are best kept away from the bait pen.

The final step is to add the pond lattice as a floating material at the top of the pen. Cut one of the pool noodles in half and attach to the frame inside the top of the bait pen. While not necessary, you can also attach carry handles to the bait pen frame. I used some extra rope and a couple of 6-piece plastic tubing pieces to make the handles.

I have to say, however, I don’t think you should follow this design exactly. You can adapt to better suit your needs and desires. I needed a big pen to hold a largemouth bass culled in the lake, if you’re holding something like choffers or crabs you don’t need a pen that big. Or if you want to keep more crisp baits like sardines, you might just want to get a large circle shaped bait pen instead of this oval one. Adjust the design to your needs.

bait pen
Fish coop is floating in the lake, we keep butchering big fish inside for people to come to collect whenever they want fresh fish.

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