Did you know fishing with cut bait is just as effective as using live bait for giant blue and flathead catfish? At times, knowing how to fish with cut bait correctly can lead you to more success than using live baitfish.

Additionally, I like using cut bait because I don’t have to worry about catching much fish. Especially during the winter months when live bait is more difficult to obtain. For example, when I don’t have as much baitfish, I can cut them into smaller pieces to make my bait supply last for an entire fishing trip.

Furthermore, you can use various baitfish species for targeting catfish and choose from multiple ways to prepare them. Thus, this tutorial will go over how catfish sense food, which baitfish is best, and how to cut bait for catfishing.

Understanding How Catfish Sense Food

A catfish striking a jug line with cut bait at the end of it.

A catfish’s ability to sense for forage is actually quite astonishing. Catfish don’t taste food like you and me. Instead, a catfish’s body is covered in hundreds of thousands of external tastebuds, from its barbels down to its tail.

To illustrate, the taste buds on their whiskers and along their body allow catfish to detect and narrow down the exact location of nearby forage. Catfish have adapted these extraordinary sensory abilities to help them survive in murky waters where visibility is low. For this reason, the added scent of blood and guts from cut bait makes it a phenomenal choice for targeting catfish.

Which Baitfish Species Should You Use?

A bluegill on the end of a fishing line with mountains and a lake in the background.

Generally, when gathering baitfish to use as cut bait, you need to think about what the typical forage would be for catfish in the bodies of water you’re fishing. Here is a list of baitfish species you should gather:

  • Shad
  • Panfish, like bluegill
  • Freshwater drum
  • Carp
  • Skipjack herring
  • Crustaceans, like crayfish

Methods for Catching Bait for Cut Bait

There are numerous ways you can catch cut bait in your local waters. However, allowed fishing methods for bait vary from state to state. So, make sure the technique you plan on using is legal in your local waters. Here is a list of fishing methods you can use for catching bait for cut bait:

  • Cast net
  • Dip net
  • Seine net
  • Trapping
  • Rod and reel

Tools You’ll Need for Cutting Catfish Bait

Here is a list of items you’ll need for cutting catfish bait:

How to Fish With Cut Bait

Now, let’s examine the different techniques you can use for cutting up bait for catfishing. First, note, some anglers like to remove the scales and fins of their baitfish before cutting them up. Typically, anglers choose to do this because some believe catfish will spit out the bait if they aren’t removed. However, I find removing the scales and fins to be an unnecessary step. Although it all comes down to preference at the end of the day, so do what works for you.

Method One: Cut the Bait Vertically Into Equal Sections

First off, one way to cut up bait is by chopping the bait vertically into equal portions. For example, if your fish is around six inches in length, you can cut it up into thirds. I like this method because it works with virtually any size bait, and it’s a quick and easy way to chop up baitfish.

Method Two: Make an Incision Across the Belly

Another great way to fish with cut bait is by making an incision across the belly just deep enough to expose the fish’s guts. Having the guts of the fish hang out will really add some extra odors into the water.

Method Three: Fillet and Chunk It

Additionally, another way angler’s like to cut up large fish is by filleting them and then chunking up the fillets into one-inch cubes. This method is excellent if you’re really trying to make your bait supply last. However, one drawback of using this method is other fish can easily steal the chunks off your hook. So, you want to make sure to really pack them onto your circle hook before casting them out.

Method Four: Remove the Head or Tail

Lastly, an effortless way to cut up bait for catfishing is simply cutting off the head or tail of the fish. This technique is useful when fishing with crayfish or shrimp. Specifically, I like to cut off the tail with crustaceans, stick the hook point in, and push the hook out the belly or back.

On the other hand, I wouldn’t use this method for cutting up large bait because you wouldn’t get the most use out of the fish.

Make Sure the Bait Fish You’re Using Is Legal!

It is always crucial to make sure you’re allowed to fish with certain baitfish species in your local waters. In addition, to check your state’s fishing regulations, you need to remember to only fish with cut bait caught in the same body of water you’re fishing.

Whether you’re using crustaceans or panfish, cut bait is a splendid way for fish for all major species of catfish. You can use various techniques to catch and cut up bait for catfishing. So, pick the one that’s easiest for you.

Which of these ways do you use for cutting up bait for catfishing? Is there another way you like to cut bait that we didn’t mention above? Let us know in the comments below. Did you find this article helpful? Hit that share button, and let your friends know about us.