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SteveD

Cat Tip of the Day: Cut Bait Tutorial

30 posts in this topic

I took the grandkids out fishing yesterday afternoon and we caught a ton of fish and had a great time. My grandson, Tony, caught a beautiful 15" sucker that went right in the livewell to become some evening cut bait. When I took him out of the livewell to cut him up it seemed like an excellent time to make a quick post on how to prepare a large sucker for cut bait. Most people use the medium / large bait store bought suckers for their cut bait and aren't quite sure how to make bait from a river caught large sucker. I'll try to use some photos to show the process:

#1: I like the 15" to 18" suckers that can be easily caught on the St Croix. We were just using a simple plain hook and split shot rig with a piece of nightcrawler for bait.

7-14-08CBT.jpg

#2: Run the fillet knife down one side of the bait and make your standard fillet. You will end up with one standard fillet and then the other half of the fish which will be pretty thick and still have the backbone attached. I do not skin the fillet - I leave the scales and everything attached to fillet.

CBT2.jpg

#3: Cut up the thinner fillet into strips about 1" wide and about 3" long. I don't remove the scales (some people do but I don't think it matters). Cutting up the fillet with the scales still on can be a chore with a knife. I use a Cabela's Game Shears which makes the whole process effortless. This picture shows what that fillet looks like when it has been cut up:

CBT3.jpg

#4: Now you need to deal with the rest of the fish. Cut off the head and the tail and discard in the trash. You will have a very thick and heavy fillet. This is where the game shears is worth its weight in gold. It will cut through that thick fillet, the backbone and all the other bones to make some great cut bait chunks. I leave as much of the gut attached to the chunks as I can. You want lots of blood and juices attached to the pieces as possible. Here is a picture of the final product:

CBT4.jpg

#5: Put it on the hook and you are ready to go. Be careful that the point of the hook has not picked up any of the thick scales from the sucker. I normally fish a piece of cut bait like this for about 15 - 20 minutes and then put on a fresh piece so that there is a good scent trail going into the water.

CBT5.jpg

#6: Get set for a fierce strike. I fish my cut bait on circle hooks and set the rods in rod holders. The channel cats will hammer this bait and hook themselves. You will have a tussle just trying to get the rod out of the holder:

7-14-0829inch.jpg

I hope this post has helped you catch and make good cut bait.

Good Luck -

Steve

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Wish I had a spot close by that I could catch these.

Thanks for taking the time to do this Steve it will make a great reference post for future questions.

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Wish I had a spot close by that I could catch these.

Thanks for taking the time to do this Steve it will make a great reference post for future questions.

Dtro,

one trip=full year supply grin

At the right time of course.

Steve another good post.

One other thing I have found this year (advice from Dtro) is the steak cut's (from the top of the back down). I even throw the head and tail into the zip lock, they do work also grin. Throw an 8/0 circle threw the spine (top area) and you have a monster T-bone. wink

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Great pics Steve, the "chunk" I like to use the most is the carcass. I've had luck on both cats and big pike tossing the hole sucker minus the fillets back out on a quick strike rig. It's a trick that can save the day if you have bait go belly up. All the blood and guts make a serious sent trail and the bait still looks like something the fish are used to eating. Hans

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Great post, I appreciate the time you put into this. As a newcomer to the sport of catfishing I've always wondered how others cut up bait. Much thanks.

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What's the best bait to use when you see a school of suckers hanging around? They seem to ignore nightcrawlers and leeches for the most part.

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I've always caught them on nightcrawlers - I've never tried anything else. I got three nice 15" to 16" suckers yesterday when we were fishing for bait and they all came on crawlers.

I'm catching them off the bottom and I never see them. Are you seeing them moving along the surface of the water? The ones I catch are always off the bottom in about 10' to 12' of water. The spot I fish has a gentle current flow. If you are seeing them moving along the surface then they must be feeding on bugs or something floating just below the surface. Not sure what you would use to entice them to bite in that situation.

I use a simple approach to catching them. A 1/0 circle hook with a piece of nightcrawler. There is not a lot of current and I use a large split shot to get the bait down. Throw it out, put the rod in a rod holder and wait for a bite. The spot we fish we catch sheepshead, rock bass, smallmouth, and suckers. It is a good spot to take the grandkids - lots of fish and lots of action.

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In an old In-Fisherman there is a picture of Otis "the Toad" Smith making cut bait at night. He stuck a flashlight in his mouth, that was covered with previous guts, blood and slime of fish - then proceeded to cut them up in the dark.

Now THAT'S the epitome of Cat fishing....

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I caught a nice 28.5” channel last night on cut sheephead.

Never used it before but we didn’t have any cutbait with so we improvised.

Mongo, that story reminds me of the Cool Cats event this winter. We cleaned up some cats and my hands were a bloody gutty mess. I guess I didn’t even think about it, but I went right to the eating part after cleaning. I got a few raised eyebrows and comments about “being a cat guy” or something like that.

There's another story about Toad that tops them all, but I won't hijack this thread any more.

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Nice tutorial Steve. I was cutting up a sucker in that style last night....it gave my buddy a good fish run but he couldn't get a hook set.

Keep up juicy and keep it out of swirling mud is about all I can say about cut bait.

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No flats last night Scott? We will have to make up for that.

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Steve, the suckers I saw were on the bottom, right out in front of my dock. It was about 4 feet deep last summer, and when the morning sun was just right and the wind low, I could see bottom quite well. They just must not have been in a feeding mode on that particular day. This year the water is a little higher and I don't see bottom now.

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I caught a nice 28.5” channel last night on cut sheephead.

Never used it before but we didn’t have any cutbait with so we improvised.

Mongo, that story reminds me of the Cool Cats event this winter. We cleaned up some cats and my hands were a bloody gutty mess. I guess I didn’t even think about it, but I went right to the eating part after cleaning. I got a few raised eyebrows and comments about “being a cat guy” or something like that.

There's another story about Toad that tops them all, but I won't hijack this thread any more.

think like a fish , act like a fish , move like the fish , become the fish , and then you will catch the fish. lol!

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One of the best reports I have ever seen. Were is a good spot to catch these there giant suckers.

Thanks so much Shamu

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Where is a good spot to catch these there giant suckers.

Thanks so much Shamu

I can't give away my spot but I can tell you what to look for.

I look for a gentle current along a rock or gravel bottom. Look for shoreline washout spots along the shore - these spots usually create a small gravel / rock point into the river creating kind of a natural wingdam. Go along the shoreline and watch your electronics for kind of a hump or point. I have several spots and they are in about 10' to 12' of water along the shore and the humps come up about 4 or 5 feet. The bait fish (sheepies, suckers, etc) seem to relate to these spots.

Here is a community hole which works pretty regular. You can expect company as it gets fished a lot. Right in downtown Stillwater in Lowell Park - just upstream from the Gazebo - the riverwalk has a hump on it. There are a couple of culverts that run into the river at that spot. Those culverts have created a gravel / rock washout into the St Croix. Use a hunk of nightcrawler on a plain hook and you will be on fish in no time.

There is another similar spot on the south end of the Riverwalk near the Dock Cafe. Both of these spots will produce rough fish that can be used for cut bait.

One other tip - I fish a simple rig - a plain hook baited with about 1/2 a nightcrawler with a split shot to get it down. These spots with the rocks and gravel create a lot of snags. If you get hung up a lot - switch to a small weedless hook. I pre-tie a bunch of short 18" leaders with weedless hooks and store them on a leader holder. The weedless hook will save you a lot of frustration if there are a lot of snags. I don't seem to have any trouble catching fish with the weedless hooks.

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Well done, great info for new cat'rs skill building.

A Backwater Eddy tip of the day on Goldeye cuts.

Goldeye are an oil rich fish. And as such they exude oils when encouraged to do so. What do I mean by that?

Well borrowing from a old chefs trick is scaling fish as fresh as possible draws fish oils to the skins surface. For cooking purposes that is why you get that golden finish to a pan fried panfish for instance. But for kitty feeding purposes, it GREATLY enhances scent dispersal and appeal.

In short, scaling Goldeye fresh and than pre-cutting cuts adds to the Kitty appeal. Fresh freezing these pre-cuts in there own oily juices locks in the scent and insures top performance when amerced in warmer waters.

The dull back side of a fillet knife is all you need to smear off scales on a fresh Goldeye, they come off like butter when fresh and leave less mess.

Hope this helps, and adds to your baitfish prep skills.

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Thanks for the scaling tip, Ed. I haven't scaled my suckers because it creates a bit of a mess but if scaling helps with the scent dispursal I am all for that. Like you said, the scales seem to come off pretty easy - they seem to fly all over. I'm going to leave some old newspapers in the boat - I'll scale them on the newspaper, that should aid in containing the mess.

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Shamu, I used to catch them like that around watergate marina good area for em and use the same technique as Steve. grin

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You've got to love getting great bait practically for free or totally free if you dig your own worms. Makes cat'n look smart when rapalas are selling for $7 each.

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Thanks Steve for the great tutorial. I'm printing this off and bringing it with me on my next fishing trip.

Rookie question: I just read on another site where they say cut bait is generally better when the water is cooler (below 60 degrees) and should not be used as much in the summer when the water is warmer. It looks like it works fine for you guys when the water temp is above that. Is this something to think about and if so is there a time to shy away from cut bait in the summer.

Also if I'm thinking about heading out for a fishing trip next weekend and wanted to use this weekend to catch fish (for cut bait)... what would be the best way to keep it until next weekend?

Thanks!!

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Slabs, cut bait works great all year round and is generally the best option for larger channels. Some times stink bait, or packaged morsels will outfish cutbait, but the fish will usually be smaller.

As far as keeping it, you can cut it up and then freeze, or just freeze whole and then cut up later. I've found that freezing doesn't affect the performance a whole lot, just don't keep it in the freezer forever. Heck if it's just a week and nobody else (wife) minds, just toss it in the fridge.

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Gett'in ready to move over to cut bait grin

PVanRn1-o25V7EDQ8yae+NExA9O+Nvus0300.jpg

Just put this in my boat tonight!

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