Advance Cut Bait For Catfishing

Discussion in 'Catfishing Library' started by Whistler, Sep 9, 2005.

  1. Whistler

    Whistler Well-Known Member

    Original post made by Jerry O'Connor(Northstar) on January 14, 2003

    I have used worms, liver, minnows, shrimp, cray fish, hotdogs, bluegill, dip bait, grasshoppers and Lord knows how many other things for channel catfish bait over the years. These days if the boat goes out it always has worms, dip bait and cut bait on board. Of these three, cut bait is the #1 choice. Worms catch anything and everything that swims. Dip bait can be the best bait in the boat on some days particularly for eating size channel cat.

    Cut bait is the primary bait because nothing turns my crank like catching a big one. I love to feel the rod buck and surge and hear the drag on the reel sing. I fish almost exclusively for channel cat and consider the big boys and girls to be meat eaters. While I have had some luck over the years with live bait and would consider it number one if I was fishing prime hours and location for flatheads, cut bait has been my biggest producer of large fish.

    Cut bait presents its own set of problems. It absolutely must be as fresh as possible. A good bloody, greasy hunk of fresh cut bait sends a message down the river that channel cats find almost impossible to ignore. However, you have to aquire a suitable bait to use for cut bait and therein lies the problem. You either have to purchase what you need, seine or net it or fish for it. Purchasing can be expensive, netting in any fashion and fishing for it take up precious time on the water. I want to fish for channel cat, not take up my time fishing for bait. While I have done that many times and will continue to do it, I want planned channel cat outings reserved for channel cat fishing.

    Frozen cut bait is the easy answer, but most frozen cut bait does not retain that fresh look or flavor that I want or frequently and more important that the channel cat want.

    Coupled with this problem and the need to aquire the needed bait fish in the first place, I set out this summer to try to find a way to solve all these problems. Here is the answer I found. There is still much to do with this method of bait preparation and use. The members of the BOC could do us all a favor by extending and expanding my own research on this wonderful new method of preserving cut bait.

    First of all, not every species of fish is suitable for this method. Any species of sucker and carp are excellent. Goldeye, mooneye and shad will not work. There is something about freezing them that turns them to mush when they thaw out taking away that fresh look and taste which eleminates them from this process. I have use these species before frozen and caught fish, but they do not compare to this method of preparing bait. This is the first area that needs additional research. I have been pestering the members of the BOC about information on species that freeze well for some time now. It appears that skipjack herring will work well and we need someone to test that as soon as possible and add or subtract it from the list as quickly as possible. Creek chub is another species that needs to be tried.

    Here are the steps for preparing the bait:

    Catch, net or buy your bait fish. In the photos, I am using a Golden Redhorse Sucker, a common and easily caught fish in the Mississippi River north of Minneapolis - St. Paul, Minnesota.

    Carry and ice chest full of fresh ice and ice down your bait fish the minute you catch them to keep them as fresh as possible. You might consider wrapping them in plastic bags to keep them out of any water in the ice chest. You don't want to do anything that dilutes the quality of the bait.


    Cut the fillets from the fish.


    We make three cuts, the fillet from each side, then the belly strip. You want all the skin area of the fish as the skin is tough and makes the bait almost impossible to jerk off the hook.


    Do not cut through the bones of the ribs. On large suckers like the one shown and carp, these bones are very hard, dull the knife and are unnecesssary. The catfish don't care, they will eat them bones and all without a thought. For the person cutting up the bait it just slows down the process and isn't worth it.

    Once you have the fillets removed, cut them into bait size chunks.


    I use a large chef's knife as shown cutting down through the flesh to the skin. I do not own one, but I believe this would be an excellent job for an electric fillet knife.


    Don't bother trying to cut through the scales, they are very hard and just make the job harder than it has to be. Leave the scales, they are incidental and do not bother the catfish.

    As you can see, very little is left of the bait fish when you are done.


    So far, nothing much new about this operation. Now comes the new part. For years, dedicated cut bait fishermen liked to have a piece of gut on their bait. Just seemed to attract more fish and get better results. Of couse there was no way to have gut on every peice of bait, but you tried as best you could. With that thought in mind I decided to try removing all the guts from the bait fish and liquifying them in a blender. This is then poured over the prepared cut bait.


    Just enough water was then added to the blender to clean out the residue. This is fairly thick as you can see from the pictures and you don't want to lose any of this flavoring. You can cut out the eyes and gills if you want to go to the trouble, adding them to the mix.

    Stir the marinade up in a bowl.


    Laddel into bags.


    Seal, removing as much air as possible. Vacuum seal if you have the equipment.


    This is a place where a little research would help us all. Those of you who have and use vacumm sealers should see how well you can make this work. It would be a great help to know just how long this bait can be kept fresh. A very long time I believe.

    Done. A large sucker will make two sandwich bags full of first class bait. Sharp freeze and use when ever you go fishing.


    If the weather is cool, take a bag out of the freezer the night before. If the weather is warm, take it out just as you leave the house to go fishing. If it is hot, keep the bag in the cooler and use out of it as you fish. This bait retains that fresh feel and taste. It allows you to collect bait when catching bait is easy and preserving it for very long periods of time so that your time on the water is reserved for catfishing.

    The great thing about this bait besides the fresh caught flavor and feel is that when it hits the water, the bait produces its own chum slick. Natural oils, blood and bits and pieces of the ground entrals form a chum slick that leads right to your bait.



    There is much to do with this bait. I have already suggested a few things and will repeat them here for those who want to help us work on it. Some are easy, some will take time both in preparation and on the water to see what kind of results they give. All of it should be rewarding and make us better catfishermen.

    Species of fish that freeze well using this method and preserve that fresh caught feel and flavor: Sucker, carp. These species have been test and tried on the water and work.

    Using an electric fillet knife to cut up the bait fish.

    Vacuum sealing the bait bags.

    Here is a huge area of research that everyone will enjoy participating in. So far, I have not added anything to the sauce. This bait has been so good we haven't needed or wanted to try anything else. Just consider the possiblities though.

    Here is a list. Liquify and add your own ingredients to the sauce and let us know how it worked.

    Garlic salt
    Half a dozen chicken livers
    Shrimp or cray fish
    Two dozen nightcrawlers
    Two cups of grasshoppers
    The skin from a supermarket rotisseried chicken
    Half a dozen frogs
    Dozen minnows
    Two hotdogs
    Your favorite dip bait

    Many thanks to Mike Williams (Wilmik), Jim Schwarz, and Don Nissen for helping me field test this bait. Special thanks to Pat Saulsbury for the photography.

    It is highly recommended you buy a cheap blender at a garage sale or a new one (mine cost $18 new). Ma's martini might be a bit flavorful if she makes a mistake and uses the wrong blender.

    This is the best channel cat bait I have used in 50 years of chasing old whiskers. I hope you have as much fun with it as I have.

    Good Fishing