The demand for bait by recreational fishers has led to significant commercial and recreational harvests of polychaete worms, primarily from wild resources. In this global review of over 200 papers, we identify 12 of the 81 families of polychaetes are used for bait (the most popular are Arenicolidae, Eunicidae, Nereididae and Onuphidae), and include over 60 species. There are clear regional patterns in the supply and demand for bait, reflected in harvest levels. For example, fisheries for polychaetes in many countries throughout Asia are focussed on the supply and export of nereidids, yet in Japan, the nereidids are imported from China. Determining the sustainability and managing polychaete fisheries is extremely difficult due to: (1) a lack of a knowledge of the biology and population dynamics; (2) limited understanding of direct harvests as well as indirect impacts of harvesting; (3) reliance on wild harvest with few cultured species; and (4) problems with biosecurity associated with live exports. Improved understanding of the taxonomy, population connectivity, dynamics of polychaete populations and the fishery activities they support will support more effective and efficient management and secure more reliable access for user groups.