Are you new to angling? Do your fishing buddies talk about slaying catfish with cut bait, yet it sounds like they’re speaking a foreign language? Generally, cut bait is just a term used to describe cut-up pieces of baitfish. You can use various fish species for cut bait, and the best part is you can use it on virtually any rig. So what is the best cut bait for catfishing?

What You Need To Know Before Using Cut Bait

Here are some things you need to know before using cut bait for catfishing:

10 Best Cut Baits for Catfishing


A bluegill against a white background

Bluegill is a staple in a catfish’s diet. In addition, bluegill and other panfish are well-known amongst anglers as prime flathead food. Not only is bluegill an effective live bait, but they’re also just as enticing to flatties and big blues as a dismembered head. I like to use cut-up bluegill on circle hooks at the end of limb and jug lines.

Green Sunfish

A green sunfish against a cream background

People often mis-identify green sunfish as bluegill. So the easiest way to tell the two apart is to start by looking at their mouths. A bluegill’s mouth is small, and its upper jawline doesn’t exceed past the front of its eye. In contrast, a green sunfish has a bigger mouth, and its upper jawline only goes to the middle of its eye. Like bluegill, depending on the size of this panfish, I like to cut them vertically into halves or thirds.


A school of shad swimming with water in the background

Both threadfin or gizzard shad are excellent blue catfish bait. In addition, you can land some big blues using cut-up shad. I often catch an abundance of shad by using a cast net and chop them vertically for cut bait. A very effective way to fish with strips of shad is to drift fish using a Santee rig with a kahle hook. Specifically, I like to use kahle hooks when drifting or anchored down because I can choose to set the hook.

Skipjack Herring

A school of herring fish

Along with threadfin and gizzard shad, skipjack herring is another member of the herring family. Additionally, many anglers obtain skipjack using a sabiki rig if they are legal in their state. Typically, I like to cut skipjack in chunks and drift fish in river bends where trophy-sized blues and flatheads like hanging out.

Bullhead Catfish

Bullhead catfish against a white background

Dead or live bullhead catfish are stellar bait for those hungry opportunistic flatheads. The easiest way to catch bullhead to use them as bait is by using dough, punch, or dip baits. Instead of chopping up bullheads, I like to keep them whole and cut their bellies open. For example, I make an incision across their bellies to where their guts are exposed and throw them on a double hook rig.


A man holding a carp with tall grass in the background

Whether it’s a common, grass, or bighead carp, they make some tasty catfish food. To prepare carp as cut bait, use a serrated or electric fillet knife to help you cut into their scales. Then fillet and chunk them into smaller two-inch strips. You can leave the skin on if desired; however, some anglers believe catfish will spit the bait out if they feel the scales. Additionally, another critical piece to use as cut bait is the carp’s head.


A black drum against a white background

Like carp, freshwater drums are often referred to by anglers as trash fish. However, drums are perfect candidates for being used as cut bait. I like to fillet and chunk drum up into nugget-sized pieces. In addition, you can also use the rest of the drum by grinding it and turning it into chum. Before doing so, make sure your state allows chumming in your local waters.


A woman wearing red nail polish, holding a shrimp with an ocean blurred in the background

If you live in waters where shrimp are abundant, consider using them as bait for catfishing. The most common way to obtain shrimp is by cast net or trapping. Additionally, with shrimp, I like to cut off their head or tail and rig them by pushing the hook point out the belly or back. Plus, shrimp make superb cut bait for targeting channel catfish.


A crayfish on an opened palm with water in the background

Crayfish is another freshwater crustacean channel catfish go wild over. The easiest way to catch crayfish is by trapping them and using spoiled chicken or bacon in your trap. Furthermore, if you’re using traps to catch crayfish, make sure to follow your state’s guidelines on size restrictions on the trap and its throat opening. I rig crayfish by cutting the tail and hooking them up through their back or belly.

Leopard Frog

A leopard frog on a rock with grass in the background

Leopard frogs are known as killer bass bait; however, they’re also excellent catfish bait. To capture leopard frogs, you can either use a fine mesh dip net or, if you’re quick, by hand. In addition, the best way to rig leopard frogs is by hooking them through the lips and cutting their belly open.

Which of These Species Make the Best Cut Bait?

Honestly, whether you get a panfish or a carp at the end of your line, they’re all great cut bait contenders. Thus, the best way to get more bites from catfish is to use various baits. For example, you may catch cats on cut-up shad one day, yet you have more success with drum chunks the following day. Whichever cut bait you decide to use, make sure it is legal in your local waters.

What’s your favorite fish species to use as cut bait for catfishing? Let us know in the comments below. Did you find this article interesting? Then, consider sharing it with your fishing buddies via social media.