Cut Bait for Catfish | 3 Ways to Cut for Rigging

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Blue and channel catfish prefer cut bait or other natural food items over live bait. The best forage is fish with high oil content, such as gizzard shad, which delivers a strong scent that carries a long distance and is easily detectable by catfish. There are several ways to rig cut bait for catfish, and likewise, several ways to cut the bait itself. Professional catfish angler Tommy Vaughn shares his 3 most regularly used methods for cutting bait. All it takes is a basic fillet knife and a cutting board. Keep in mind that these methods work well on other forage species like suckers, skipjack herring, sunfish, and even carp.


Scent coupled with cut bait action can be the ticket. Vaughn fillets each side of the cut bait from behind the gill to about 1/3 down the sides and leaves them hanging. The connected fillets create a tumbling effect in the water that aids in spreading scent, with catfish sometimes preferring a bait with some motion. The partially filleted sides act as wings that catch the water and move the bait to and fro.


A smaller chunk of cut bait is often the ticket, especially when catfish are finicky. Cut the cut bait into chunks and rig it on a hook. Such was the case when filming how to catch blue catfish in the winter. The blues were finicky, and a smaller piece of bait worked best.


Vaughn’s final cut bait method for catfish involves making a series of perpendicular cuts down the body of the fish and on both sides. Additionally, he cuts the tail off. You end up with a cut bait that emits abundant blood and oil.