The Bait

Timon: What's the plan?
Simba: Live bait.
Timon: Good idea—HEY!

The Heroes need to lure the Big Bad into a trap.

For this you are going to need bait. While you could use a MacGuffin, we all know that the best bait is live bait.

But who is going to take on this wonderful job?

If you're the Heroes then you need to look for volunteers. There are two versions that pop up. The first is one of the Heroes agrees to be The Bait risking a Heroic Sacrifice. The other version is for the resident Butt Monkey or Chew Toy to become a Less Than Willing Volunteer. A common resulting conversation in a Five-Man Band is as follows:

The Hero: I'll be the bait.
The Lancer: What are you talking about? I'll be the bait, you need to lead the attack. Just make sure you don't screw it up, 'cause if I end up dead I'll kill you.
The Chick: If this is to succeed it will need both of you. I'll be the bait. (It's all I'm good for anyways.)
[Hero and Lancer strenuously disagree with this idea.]
The Big Guy: I could be the bait.
[Everybody else looks at him like he's crazy because who would even think of the Big Guy as bait?]
Comic Relief Guy or The Smart Guy: Hey, don't look at me, I'm not gonna be the bait!

Of course, the bait ends up being The Smart Guy (Cue the "Why do I always have to be The Bait?" whining) or The Chick. Occasionally it will end up being The Lancer, which is more likely if he and The Hero are Rivals.

Sometimes the argument between Hero and Lancer will get so fierce that, instead of volunteering to be bait, The Chick or whoever will just sneak out and make themselves bait, while the argument rages on. Or possibly the Hero or the Lancer may decide to use Percussive Prevention on the other so they can do it themselves. If anyone insists there is no way they will act as the bait, expect a Gilligan Cut to prove them wrong.

Villains usually just get themselves a hostage for bait—although occasionally a Mook will get stuck with the job. Being villains, they usually are not happy about it.

Compare We Need a Distraction. Sometimes overlaps with Why Are You Looking at Me Like That? on the part of the bait.

Examples:

Anime and Manga
  • Lelouch Lamperouge of Code Geass uses his Geass to make himself forget that his partner Suzaku is sneaking towards the detonator connected to the bomb keeping his sister hostage. Using himself as The Bait to distract the Mind Reading Mao to buy time for Suzaku to get close enough to catch Mao without him realizing it.
  • Dororon Enma-kun. In one chapter, everyone fights over who has to be The Bait to catch a Youkai. Nobody wants to be it, but Dororon, Yuki, and Chapeauji finally agree on Kappaeru, who is still refusing. However Hitomi took pity on him and volunteers. Given the followings events, maybe she should have shut her mouth.
  • In Mazinger Z, often Kouji volunteers to be The Bait. Sayaka, too. Boss is more willing or more reluctant to play bait depending on the situation.
  • In one Crossover movie between Great Mazinger and Getter Robo, he plays bait to lure a monster to a deserted island.
  • On the rare occasions on Pokémon where the kids need live bait for a plan, they either go for Team Rocket or Ash. The giant Claydol has Ash and James (dressed as eggplants no less).
  • In one Flashback episode of Yu-Gi-Oh! 5Ds, Team Satisfaction set a trap to ambush the Magician's Four. Unfortunately for Crow, he has to be the bait. (It isn't revealed who decided he'd get that role. Fortunately for him, the plan worked.)
  • In Attack on Titan, this is the standard operating procedure, where one group distracts the titan and the second group (usually more skilled) goes for the kill. Sometimes this works and sometimes it doesn't.
    • Mikasa ends up being decoy for the Female Titan as Levi demonstrates why he deserves his title of Humanity's Strongest.
    • Armin uses this to deal with the titans invading the supply room.
    • This is the primary mission of the surviving soldiers in the Battle of Trost, to lure the titans to the opposite side of the city so the elite team can plug the wall.
    • This turns out to be Eren's true role in the 57th Expedition, with Erwin secretly using him to lure out titan shifters infiltrating the military.

Comic Books
  • Marv and Dwight both do this in Sin City. Marv draws Kevin out into a series of traps by firebombing his house. Dwight draws Manute and his men out to a back alley by using Miho's archery skills.

Fanfiction
  • This is basically Shinji's role against the 3rd Harbinger Asherah in Aeon Entelechy Evangelion.
  • A Flashback in Shadowchasers Torment shows Nichole as a young girl following her brother—who's been running with gangs—without his permission, and having to watch as he's beaten up by a rival gang. Then it turns out that he was the bait for an ambush on the attackers by his gang members. Her brother tells her sternly to listen to him next time, although his friends tell him not to blame her, seeing as it can't hurt. (A crucial turning point in Nichole's life was when she had to choose between this type of life (which her brother didn't recommend) and something better. She chose the latter.)

Films—Animated
  • Iago, from Aladdin, much to his everlasting chagrin.
  • In the original The Land Before Time, the main characters (minus Cera) have a plan to kill the Sharptooth by leading him near a deep area of water and dropping a rock over him. They immediately choose Ducky to act as the bait.

Films—Live Action
  • In Jason X, a virtual reality simulation meant to distract Jason creates a pair of scantily clad teenage girls who exclaim (among other things), "We love premarital sex!" (It works, temporarily.)

Literature
  • In Dan Abnett's Gaunt's Ghosts novel First & Only, Larkin wanders into the Jantine Patrician quarters and runs when he spots some of them. They give chase and are struck down by his companions. Only then does Larkin complain that he always gets to be the bait.
    • And in one of the short stories that make up the majority of Ghostmaker Bragg (The Big Guy of the Ghosts) is used as "big dumb trooper" bait to get a traitorous supply convoy driver to feel safe enough to tip off his bandit friends to raid the convoy.
  • In James Swallow's Blood Angels novel Deus Encarmine, Iskavan is told that his force has been sacrificed as bait to draw the Blood Angels in—and is jeered at for not even being able to die when he ought.
  • In Chris Roberson's Imperial Fists novel Sons of Dorn, Captain Taelos suspects something about his being left with the scouts on-planet. He learns in due course that the rest of their force had lurked until the scouts had drawn out the full Chaos force (and died nearly to the last man).
  • In the Imperial Guard novel Baneblade, the taskforce led by Mars Triumphant is this, distracting Ork forces from one side while other Imperial forces attack elsewhere.
  • During the Yuuzan Vong invasion in New Jedi Order, Jaina Solo used herself as bait to lure the Vong into a trap in the Deep Core; it was a success, destroying the Vong fleet and scoring a big victory for the New Republic.
  • Both played straight (with Tracy) and subverted (with Lindsey) in Into the Storm. The girls' employer is conducting training sessions against Navy SEALS, and at different times they get tapped to play the hostage. In Lindsey's case, she was told to make sure both teams lost by sneaking out of the field.
  • The Tripods: In order to capture one of the Masters, the protagonist rides a green-painted (to catch their attention) horse past one of their Tripods, and when it gives chase lures it into a hidden pit.
  • In Brandon Sanderson's The Stormlight Archive, the bridgemen are this.
  • In Robert E. Howard's Conan the Barbarian story "The Devil in Iron", Octavia is used to lure Conan.
    • In "The Frost-Giant's Daughter," the title character lures Conan into a trap—and discovers this is not wise unless you know that your defenders can take him.
  • In Jack Campbell's The Lost Fleet novel Invincible, Geary sets up the fleet in a compact formation to provide the bear-cows with a nice, neat target.
  • Rephaim gets volunteered as this for Stevie Rae in Tempted.
  • Avalanche Express by Colin Forbes involves Western intelligence escorting a defecting Soviet general across Europe on the Orient Express. The Soviet wartime sabotage network along the route is activated to kill him, giving counter-intelligence agencies a unique opportunity to round up these cells in peacetime.

Live-Action TV
  • Bait duty debates happen a lot on Buffy, and usually Xander gets the job, being as he's the Butt Monkey of the series. This was reversed at the beginning of season three: Because Buffy was "absent", the Scoobies had to work without her, and the role of bait was passed to Cordelia. Subverted when Xander and Cordelia are too busy arguing over this, they fail to notice the vampire is sneaking up on Willow.
    • In Season 4, the Initiative is searching for Spike and come across Buffy sitting on a park bench, waiting for Spike to come and challenge her. Unaware of her superhero role, the soldiers get into an argument over whether to use this hot-looking chick as vampire bait. Riley Finn, who fancies Buffy as a Love Interest, refuses to play along, and so tries to persuade Buffy to go home. Hilarity Ensues as each tries to get rid of the other (Buffy is equally ignorant of Riley's demon-fighting role) while waiting for Spike to jump out of the shadows. As before, said vampire ends up attacking Willow instead.
  • In Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon, Sailor Venus takes on this role for much of the show. She sees this as a good use of her life because she has a terminal illness and knows she'll reincarnate before long anyway.
  • In Smallville, Chloe and Lana sometimes do this voluntarily, despite Clark's protests.
  • Supernatural: Sam and Dean sometimes use someone as bait when they don't have a better plan. Bait duty (if necessary) usually goes to Dean (unless there's some reason it has to be someone else), both because he looks the part more (Sam's got three or four inches on him) and because if he can keep Sam out of danger, he will.
  • In Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers, the first time Rita's brother Rito appeared, Rita "suggested" he lead a gang of monsters against the heroes. Actually, he was meant to be the bait for an ambush by said monsters, which wasn't mentioned until he had left. (This actually proved a far more clever plan, because while the villains actually scored a victory there, when Rito did face them by himself the next time, he had his ass handed to him.)
  • In Power Rangers Lost Galaxy, Damon ends up playing the bait/decoy at least twice, and is vocally unhappy about it both times.

Video Games
  • In Dragon Age II, Isabela's personal quest in chapter 3 requires her to take on the role of bait.
  • Dantes Inferno Beatrice. The whole "drag one innocent human's soul into hell" thing was just a means of getting the ultimate killer in the Crusades, strong enough to kill a grim reaper after dying, to inadvertently break Lucifer's chains scattered around Hell.
  • A long and cherished tradition in EVE Online. Poorly-equipped ship flown by a 'newbie' presents easy kill, enemies go for kill, react in surprise and alarm as six battleships jump in and snipe them to death. Heartwarming.
  • A common strategy for Klingons in Star Trek Online, both in Player-versus-Player combat, and as NPCs. Since all Klingon ships can cloak, one of them will fly around as bait, while the rest cloak. When the enemy ship flies in, expecting to deal with a single target, the rest decloak and begin curb-stomping.
  • In Mass Effect 2, Shepard is used as the bait by Samara to lure her serial killer daughter into a place where Samara can safely kill her.
    • And in the third game's Citadel DLC, Shepard uses Joker as bait when CAT6 starts shooting up the sushi restaurant by telling him to go warn the crew, then grabbing and killing the first merc who sees him to acquire a weapon. Joker is pretty furious about it.
      Joker: You used me as bait? You used me as bait! Did everybody see that? Savior of the Citadel uses the brittle bones guy as bait!
  • A villainous example in Tears To Tiara 2. Izebel use the freaking Kraken as bait when she intercepts The Party on the high seas.
  • Taunt creatures in Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft force enemies to attack them until they die. If the taunt creature has a good attack stat, that can end badly for the enemy.
  • In Super Dangan Ronpa 2, Chiaki is tasked with acting as bait in Chapter 5 during Kazuichi's ill-fated plan to apprehend the unstable Nagito. The entire thing doesn't work, however, because Nagito knows about the plan beforehand and promptly ruins everything by blowing up the hotel.

Tabletop Games
  • The function of several cards in Magic: The Gathering. One of the best examples is the Taunting Elf, which has the ability that when it attacks, everything capable of blocking it has to. This can be used to allow all the other creatures to attack unimpeded or to lure out a creature that normally wouldn't be used as a blocker. Since the elf is a 0/1 and thus, unless enhanced, is incapable of dealing or taking any damage, it generally doesn't survive the process.
    • Some strategies are built around getting your opponent to take the bait and then swooping in for the kill.

Web Comics

Western Animation
  • Jonny Quest TOS episode "The Invisible Monster". In order to lure the title creature into the trap, Dr. Quest must act as the bait. He turns on a flashlight to lure his energy-eating opponent to its doom.
  • In DuckTales episode "Launchpad's First Crash" a matriarchal tribe hunts giant crabs using their diminutive men as a bait. When Scrooge and Launchpad arrive, all the men have just had it and left, thus amazons use Scrooge and Launchpad. In the end Granta tells that men and women reconciled with each other and now take turns as a bait.
  • In Batman Beyond episode "Final Cut", where Society of Assassins member Mutro Botha persuades (okay, blackmails) Terry into helping him apprehend Curare, Botha doesn't see himself as bait for the plan, but Terry clearly does. (It ends very badly for Botha, but it's hard for anyone to feel sorry for him.)
  • Both April and Michelangelo serve as bait for less intelligent mutants in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2012). Mikey even fails to notice what's happening on one occasion and just thinks the plan is an excuse to wear a silly costume.
  • In Ultimate Spider-Man, Norman Osborn tricks Spider-Man into becoming bait, so Osborn can take down the Frightful Four. Spidey's not happy when he realizes that he was tricked into becoming bait.
  • In the "King Homer" segment of the "Treehouse of Horror III" episode of The Simpsons, Mr. Burns and Smithers bring Marge to Skull Island to use as bait for King Homer, which leads to an awkward situation for Burns when they get there:
    Marge: Am I coming too?
    Burns: Of course! We wouldn't dream of going ashore without the bait...Er... ing... beauty, the... bathing beauty! That's it. [Aside, to Smithers] Think I covered that rather well...