Using Bluegill For Catfish Bait – A Step by Step Guide

Using bluegill for catfish bait can certainly increase the odds of catching the bigger catfishing strolling beneath the water surface.

Is it worth using? Absolutely. It’s one of the best catfish baits you can use.

This holds especially true when targeting large blue catfish and flathead catfish. It does require a bit of extra legwork to be ready for action when using the bluegill for catfish bait but nothing that can’t be explained and accomplished.

Please be sure to always check regulations for using live bait before proceeding. We will dive into this later in the post, but it’s important to understand the laws and regulations to avoid issues with DNR.

We will cover the ins and outs and pros and cons of using bluegill for catfish bait in this post and provide you with some of my top tips and recommendations for using the bluegill effectively and efficiently.

If you haven’t done so already and are just beginning your catfishing journey, feel free to check out my full guide to catfish fishing before diving into all the specifics.

It may be a good starting point for beginners, but if you are ready to learn how to use the bluegill and feel you have a strong foundation in place, then this is the place for you.

Let’s start diving into the specifics.

Do Catfish Eat Bluegill?

Catfish love eating bluegill. Especially when they reach larger sizes.

catfish just caught on a hook

Really any flathead, channel or blue catfish over 10-15lb, you can see success with live bait. It is, however, more common to use live bait and bluegill for large blue catfish and large flathead catfish.

Why do Catfish Like Bluegill?

Catfish, especially when they reach a larger size, are natural predators of the water.

That’s why they are commonly used in farmed ponds. They help control the habitat and overall fish population.

Yes, they may eat some of your favorite bass and other smaller fish, but it’s well worth it for the avid catfish anglers.

Bluegill and other small fish are what catfish naturally gobble up beneath the water surface.

It doesn’t matter if other food sources are available, bluegill and smaller fish have a natural appeal to catfish, and they have that natural attack mode in them. Even if you decide not to fish with bluegill, I assure you, they are eating plenty of bluegills anyways.

Should You Use Live or Dead Bluegill?

Either will work just fine. Your plan is based on your overall goals and expectations for the day.

Live bluegill is going to be much more appealing to the monsters of the water and your gigantic blue catfish and monster flathead catfish. This doesn’t mean dead bluegill or cut bait won’t get the job done. It will.

Flatheads tend to opt for the live bait only, but cut bait is also a viable option to catch a flathead. You just won’t see the same success for flathead catfish with cut bait as you will live bait.

Cut bait is nothing more than a dead fish cut into pieces, filets or chunks and used as fishing bait. There is nothing super flashy or fancy about the process or terminology involved.

Where to Get Bluegill For Catfishing?

You have a few options on where you get the live or cut bait for catfishing. First, you can just purchase cut bait at many bait shops.

Options two requires a little more work but typically works out to be a tad more fun.

You can catch it yourself. This is a great method as well for having excellent active live bait ready to go for those monster catfish you targeting.

That leads us straight into the next question.

fisherman caught large catfish

How do we catch cut bait or live bluegill for catfishing?

This will depend a little bit on the kind of fish you plan on using for your live bait. You have several options, but these are the most common you will frequently see.

  • Carp
  • Gizzard
  • Drum
  • Perch
  • Sunfish
  • Bluegill

Using a net is one standard method people will use to catch the live bait after locating an excellent spot to do so.

You can also just merely fish for bluegill with a simple rod and reel, small hook and nightcrawlers. Either way shouldn’t take you long to get results.

Once you have the live bait ready to rock and roll, it’s time to prepare to use it.

How to Hook a Bluegill for Catfishing

Placing the hook just below the upper fin helps keep a large catfish from ripping the bluegill off the hook. If you using chunks, your goal is just hooking the live bait in a fashion that allows it to remain on the hook.

This can also vary based on what fish you are targeting and your own personal preference.

If you’re using a small enough live bait and not cutting it into chunks, some prefer to hook straight through the head just above the mouth and some prefer to hook on near the back-tail fin right along the back.

How to Rig Bluegill For Catfish Bait

The first step in getting your live bait ready to go is determining which size and kind of catfish you are targeting. This is going to work just like any other bait methods you have used in the past.

The larger the fish you want to reel in, the larger the cut bait or chunk of fish you want to place on your hook.

If you’re just looking for the babies, a small piece will do just fine. You should, however, remember that a small portion of live cut bait still stands a strong chance at getting picked up by trophy size catfish.

amateur angler holds the catfish

Preparing the Bait, You Still Need to De-Scale and Prepare Your Live Bait

De-Scaling is going to be step number 1 with most live bait before it’s ready for use. It’s easy to do.

A filet knife and your fingers are all you’re going to need in most circumstances. Merely take the filet knife and begin knocking off the scale on the fish. If necessary, you can use your thumbs to help get them to fall off.

Once this is complete, you can remove the fins of the fish and move onto slicing up the meat into your desired chunk sizes.

Chunks will always work better than using large filets for catching catfish. The filets typically won’t stay on the hook very well and don’t have any real added value to the bait.

To keep things simple and easy, it’s recommended to just always chunk the meat once you have it prepared properly.

Don’t ignore the Head and Beady Eye Balls

The head is one of the most desired pieces of the live bait you can cast out.

Yes, it can be a bit creepy to hook the head and cast it out but the catfish love it, and it’s known to grab the attention of some of the trophy size catfish.

What Size Bluegill is Best?

This also depends on your goal. If you planning on using the full live bait, smaller bluegill will be preferable. You don’t need anything too large to attract the trophy-size blue catfish or even flatheads and channels.

If you planning on cutting the bluegill into chunks, it really doesn’t matter what size bluegill you are using because ultimately you will cut the bluegill in chunks that meet your desired expectations.

Trial and error is a great method. Test different sizes and techniques when using bluegill for catfish bait.

Once you find a method that works, don’t try and re-invent the wheel. Don’t fix what’s not broken is a good old-fashioned motto to go by when using bluegill for catfish bait.

Pay attention to DNR Laws Before Using Live Bait

Depending on where you’re located, some state DNR’s won’t allow for live bait use.

Make sure to check all the rules and regulations before using live bait to avoid any penalties and added frustration.

What’s The Best Time to Fish For Flathead Catfish?

Wrapping Things Up – Do You Feel Prepared To Use Bluegill for Catfish Bait?

Using bluegill for catfish bait is simple and effective. If you planning on catching your own live bait, just be prepared for the process to take a bit longer and remember to plan your live bait size accordingly with what your goal/target size catfish lines up with.

Follow the steps if you plan on cutting and chunking your live bait for increased success.

Always remember to use the proper fishing rod when using bluegill for catfish bait.

It’s going to be a pretty decent size catfish you have the potential of hooking into and now isn’t the time to skimp on your rod/reel and other fishing gear.

As always, thanks for stopping by.

Be sure to leave a comment below. We love to hear from you. If you haven’t done so already, be sure to subscribe to my email newsletter for the latest how-to guides and recommended gear for successful catfishing.

Thanks again. I appreciate you. See you next time.

Bob Hoffmann

The author of this post is Bob Hoffmann. Bob has spend most of his childhood fishing with his father and now share all his knowledge with other anglers. Feel free to leave a comment below.

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