Cut Bait Q&A: How To Catch Fewer Catfish, How To Rig Cut Bait, & More


Are you catching too many catfish when you use cut bait?

Or are you missing too many hook sets?

If you are, you’re going to love this video.

A few weeks ago we published a video about the best ways to cut up baitfish to use as cut bait.

We got a lot of great questions in the comments section, but we don’t always have time to answer each one individually because we spend most of our time in our Insider Community answering our Insiders’ questions.

However, since we did get a lot of great questions on that video, I decided to make this video answering a few of them publicly, since I’m sure many of you had the same questions.

In this video, you’ll learn:

  • How to make sure your cut bait doesn’t get mushy (which will cause it to fall off the hook or make an easy meal for a pinfish — either way, you’re not catching anything if this happens)
  • How to catch fewer catfish, stingrays, and sharks with cut bait
  • Mistakes people make when rigging cut bait
  • And much more

Check out the video below.

Cut Bait Q&A [VIDEO]

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Let’s dive right into the questions!

Does it matter how you store baitfish to use as cut bait?

Yes! If you leave your bait out in the heat, it’ll get mushy, which will make it much more likely to fall of the hook.

Also, bait that was previously frozen is more likely to attract trash fish, such as catfish.

Fresh bait is best, and the second best option is to brine your bait.

What size hook do you recommend for cut bait?

I like to use a 5/0 circle hook for cut bait.

Whether I’m using a small piece of pinfish, or a large chunk of mullet, I almost always go with a 5/0 hook.

Also, a bigger hook will make it harder for small catfish to get hooked.

As far as which hook in particular, I like to go with the Owner Mutu Light circle hook.

How much hook should you leave exposed when rigging cut bait?

You should at least have the barb of the hook exposed.

This is why I like bigger hooks — you can hook more of the meat while still leaving a enough of the hook exposed.

Also, if there are any scales on the hook point, make sure to brush those off so you increase the chances of you getting a good hook set.

How can you reduce the amount of catfish, sting rays, and sharks you catch with cut bait?

For catfish, in particular, using a bigger hook and a big piece of bait will help you catch fewer cats.

The good news about catfish, though, is that when they pick at your bait they’ll attract more attention to it.

Oftentimes you’ll be getting a bunch of nibbles, then your rod will go silent, then the next thing you know, you have a big red on.

Using fresh bait will help attract more more gamefish and fewer catfish, too.

As far as sharks and sting rays go, if there are too many around, you might just need to move — there’s not much you can do about them.

Usually, when sharks know there’s food in the area, they’re not going anywhere.

And finally, it may help to have more than one bait out.

If you catch a trash fish on one rod, but you still have more baits out there, you can still catch your target species even though one rod is occupied with a cat or shark.


Thanks to everyone who asked these questions in the comments.

If you have any other questions, let us know in the comments below this post, but if you want direct access to me and the other Salt Strong fishing coaches, join us in the Insider Club.

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1 year ago

GREAT info to know

Derek Kalweit
3 years ago

I’ve tried using cut bait(big mullet and small pinfish that I got in the cast net) for the first time, and had some really hard hits by what I’m sure were large fish, but I was extremely disappointed when they got off the hook, somehow…my bait even came back with the hook. I was using a 4/0 offset(shank and eye) snelled circle hook(I have the hooks you suggest on order). Seems odd the fish would fight for 30sec+ and then just let go. I’m operating on the assumption these hooks I have are the problem, but maybe this just happens sometimes? Overall, my hookup ratio on all sorts of bait on these hooks seems to be <50%(snelled, snug, or loop connection), but some could just be smaller catfish and mangrove snapper. Thanks for any insight you might have.

Derek Kalweit
3 years ago
Reply to  Tony Acevedo

Thanks for the reply. I ordered the 5/0 hooks you recommend, so I should have them for next week’s trip. I’ve often used artificial baits where my hookup rate approaches 100%(just far fewer strikes), so using live and dead natural baits with a hookup rate closer to 20-40% has really made me wondering if I’m doing something wrong… I thought going smaller on the hook would help with small fish mouths(while I’d love huge fish, I’m trying to be realistic about the size of the fish I’ll catch), but maybe I should tend larger. Thanks.

Regis Platek
3 years ago

Is it effective to suspend cut bait using a large enough float? Would that help avoid rays?

3 years ago

At the very least I will put fresh caught bait in a cooler with ice and seawater which helps al lot. When I had an offshore boat I always kept salt on the boat. I’ll never understand these boxes of sardinas etc…that are mush when they thaw out making the borderline useless except for the head so I fish them whole. In my opinion dead spanish sardines are one of the very best baits for mangroves

Tom keller
3 years ago

I’d be interested in a good chart that gives me the kinds of fish, the distinguishing marks to tell the differences, and the size and limits. I grew up in Maryland and now live on the GA coast. I caught perch, blue, spot croaker, and red fish in Maryland.

In GA I’m catching the red fish that I called the spotted drum in Maryland. I’m catching whiting and what I think is a couple of species of trout. I’m also catching some shark and I’m not always sure what kind they are. Of course with uncertainty of species I can’t check the size and quantity limits if I choose to keep them. I’ve googled, checked GA fishing sites and I haven’t found one that is completely helpful. I don’t want to be caught with illegal sizes or limits because I’m not 100% sure of the species.

Tom Keller

Pablo Diaz
3 years ago

Thanks for getting back to me

Clay Whitmire
3 years ago

Tony, you seem to always wear gloves. Why, what kind, and how to care for them.

Rick Davis, Cape Coral FL
3 years ago

Tony, Have you guys done any videos on best techniques for unhooking fish? For example, when the fish has engorged/swallowed the bait/lure/hook, etc. Types of “de-hooking” tools, etc.

Ian Cordova
3 years ago

Thanks Tony for answering my question and thanks for the tip on the brining. I’ll give that a shot but hopefully I will be purchasing a cast net in the next week or two so I can work with fresh bait versus frozen.

Andrew Heitman
3 years ago

Dear Joe,

Receiving your emails is the first thing I do when I wake up. Whether it’s catfish tips, spot dissections, or lure advice, I am always excited to see what I can learn. I recently signed up and am impressed with the content, web page accessibility, and updates. I am a teacher and my wife is a teacher so we are very stringent with our finances. We have decided the Salt Strong membership is worth it. My wife doesn’t really fish but she sees how much it means to me. By frugal I mean we have 2 large gardens and can jars like mad. When I’m not canning, gardening, or teaching, I’m fishing. I love Salt Strong and have put your stickers on my cooler and tackle box. The scissors are great for kayak fishing due their size and functionality as pliers. Thank you for making this network of information. 

Your Thankful Member,
Andrew Heitman


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