Fishing with Cut Bait for Stripers, Catfish, Bluefish

So you heard about fishing with cut bait and wondered what all the fuss is about? Fish love cut bait especially bottom feeders like catfish and saltwater species such as striped bass, blue fish, drum, etc.. Surf casters have been using cut bait for as long as people have been fishing the surf, but the boat anglers have stayed clear of chucking bait chunks, which makes me wonder why?

Recently we have been doing a lot of fishing on the Hudson River in NY and doing awesome with cut bait catching striped bass, catfish, monster sheepshead and other fish species.

Fresh cut bait was out fishing whole live hearing ten to one which lead me to believe the fish were more attracted to the bait chunks than the whole herring. Fresh cut bait is a must due to its fish catching ability and the ability to stay on the hook better. Try to get the freshest bait you can get if have the means to catch your own bait do so, if not and you're purchasing bait at a bait store look at the fishes eyes. If the fish has a glazed over look or has yellow eyes the fish has been sitting to long also make sure there is still slime on the fish and after purchasing bait you will want to layer it in a cooler using a little salt on each layer to keep the bait as fresh as possible.

Good Baitfish for Cut Bait

  • Norfolk Spot - Fish love spot when you can get them one of my favorite things to do is to take the kids spot fishing and keep them for bait. Kids have fun and you get bait.
  • Menhaden / Bunker - catching these guys will require you to either use a throw net, or snag them in the surf or just buy them at the local tackle store that's what I do. Just check them out good to make sure they look fresh.
  • Herring - herring is a great bait to use as cut bait and can be caught on Sabiki rigs very easily. If you have hearing in your area find them with your fish finder then drop down Sabiki Rig and reel them in it won‚Äôt take long to get enough for bait.

Those are many types of baitfish that make great choices for cut bait but these are just some of the more common in my neck of the woods on the east coast.

Preparing Cut Bait

Well I could type out how to prepare cut bait but a picture says a 1000 words so I've included a picture at the top of the article on how to prepare cut bait. The picture is of a bunker where the lines represent cuts. When cutting bait make sure you have a good bait knife which will have a serrated blade.

Rigging Cut Bait

Basically rigging cut bait is just using a hook large enough to hold the bait chunk such as a 3/0 to 8/0 circle hook depending on how big the chunks are. A circle hook is not required but they do hook fish when dead sticking cut bait due to the fish picking up the bait and running off which generally hooks the fish before you get to your rod due to how a circle hook works. If you are using circle hooks don't set the hook just reel to bury the hook into the corner of the fishes mouth. If you set the hook with a circle hook you will pull it out of the fishes mouth.

Great rigs for fishing with cut bait are Carolina Rigs, Fish Finder Rigs, and Top Bottom rigs all of these rigs have there place fish finder rigs are great for surf or river fishing you just change the sinker from a pyramid to a bank sinker when fishing in a river. If you are drifting in a boat a great rig would be a Carolina Rig and when fishing in places like the Chesapeake Bay it's hard to beat a Heavy Duty Top Bottom Rig with 2/0 hooks.

So the next time your out searching for fish such as stripers, bluefish, croaker, or catfish cut yourself up some baitfish and chuck it out there and see what bites. I'm sure you'll be surprised to see what you bring in at the end of your rod.


+1 #4 Guest 2012-09-24 01:09
In regards to the presentation question Dan asked... On a clear day when presentation matters I prefer to fillet the fish, use the head like normal, but cut the fillets diagonally alternating direction so I end up with long triangles. I hook it through the skin at the wide part of the triangle then flip the bait on the hook and go through the meat and out the skin. If done right it will appear similar to a minnow. I also will sometimes put a piece of squid on after the cut bait if it's real rough.

0 #3 Guest 2012-08-29 02:26
I surf fish and am amazed at how underated fresh cut bait is! Frozen bait is useless for cut bait most of the time IMO. Its mushy and wont stay on the hook. My strategy is to catch a small fish using fishbites bloodworms or some squid than sacrifice the fish and start using Real bait!! :lol:

Reply from Dave - - No doubt that fresh bait will out catch frozen for sure!! My favorite is cut spot when you can get them. Not to many critters can turn down a spot chunk sitting out there. I use bloodworms and fishbites together on the same hook just little pieces to catch bait fast.
0 #2 Guest 2012-08-02 18:38
I live near Allentown,Pa. Where can you buy herring or Bunker (fresh or frozen) for stripper fishing in the Chesapeake Bay?



Note from Dave - Hey Rich, the closer you get to the middle bay region the easy it will be to find bunker. Peanut bunker is often caught with nets offshore then brought in for sale. It will be frozen, but will work if chunking it up. If fishing in the bay during the summer fish for spot and use them for bait much better option than bunker for sure. Good luck - Dave
0 #1 Guest 2012-07-13 17:31
Well the picture for cutting up the chunks is great, really tells the story. However, you don't show (preferred) how to secure the chunk to the hook to get the best presentation, and have the bait stay on the hook. I am sure that many of your other readers along with myself would greatly appreciate an update.

Dan C.

Note From Dave :) Keeping the bait on the hook is a big part of the battle when surf fishing, crabs, waves, etc.. What I've found is if I put a small piece of Fishbites on both sides of the hook it helps keep the bait on. Also have used rubber bands / string to tie on the bait utilizing the eye of the hook. Hope this helps. Thanks, Dave

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