How to Use a Bluegill as Live Bait

Probably considered to be one of the best live bait options for both Catfish and Bass, Bluegill has been the secret to success for many fishermen over the years. However, producing quality results with using Bluegill as live bait isn’t as simple as just hooking the fish and casting it out. There are some small key elements to consider in order to maximize your live bluegill bait and produce a worthy catch. The main idea is that the Bluegill stays alive while on a hook. You will want to hook the Bluegill in a way that keeps the fish swimming for a longer period of time. Let’s have a look at some of the key tips for learning how to use a Bluegill as live bait.

How to Hook a Bluegill as Live Bait

The two most important elements when fishing with live Bluegill as bait is that the fish is able to remain alive for a long period of time and that it closely resembles the natural swimming motion of a Bluegill. For the best results, try to use bluegill that are small enough in order to appeal to most fish. The recommended length for using Bluegill as bait is anything smaller than 6 inches (preferably 3-4 inches long).

The best option for keeping your bluegill bait alive for a long period of time is to hook the fish through the lips. We recommend hooking through the bottom lip first and come out through the top lip. The hook will seal the lips of the bluegill shut. The downside to this method is that the bluegill tends to fish towards the surface of the water. However this can be acceptable if you are fishing for Catfish or Bass near the top of the water.

The best option for having your bluegill bait resemble its natural swimming motion is to hook the fish through the body directly in front of the tail. We recommended hooking the bluegill in the back side of its body as it allows for the fish to swim downwards which makes it look more appealing to a predatory fish. The live Bluegill tends to cover more area within the water when they are hooked this way.

How to Use Live Bluegill as Bait for Big Bass

When fishing for Bass, It is recommended to hook the Bluegill right behind the dorsal fin. As effective method for luring Bass to your bait is to pull the line when the Bluegill is hooked. This pulling motion forces the Bluegill to swim sideways, which makes the fish appear injured to a hungry bass in the area. We have seen live Bluegill work extremely well for big Bass. It almost always seems to work out that if the Bass are biting, you could receive a bit in just under 10 minutes with a live Bluegill fish as your bait. Do not worry if you think that your 3-5 inch Bluegill may be too big as you would honestly be shocked at the size of Bass that would still take the bait. Some say that this method works better in ponds compared to lakes. However, we have seen live Bluegills work well as bait for catching large Bass in both locations.

How to Use Bluegill Cut Bait for Catfish

If you do not have the luxury of having live Bluegill as bait – the other recommended alternative is cut bait. As simple as it sounds, this bait is just a piece of the whole fish cut up. Cut bait works extremely well for Catfish. Some of the biggest Blue Catfish and large Channel Catfish are usually caught with cut bait. Bluegill works well for Catfish because of the distinct smell of the fish. As you cut the fish, the gills and head of the Bluegill are some of the most attractive pieces because Catfish focus in on the blood of the Bluegill. Catfish can easily smell the scent of blood. Using cut bait as a method for bait is great because it can be easily purchased in a typical tackle & bait shop, or can even be caught on your own. If you happen to catch live Bluegill and know that you won’t be fishing anytime soon to utilize them as live bait, freeze the fish to use later for cut bait. When you are ready to go fishing, simply defrost the frozen Bluegill and cut the fish into strip-like pieces. You can also prepare the fish for cut bait pieces prior to fishing, so it is all ready to go for your next fishing excursion.

Do Artificial Bluegill Lures work?

Artificial Bluegill Lures have been quite successful from our different fishing experiences. Any lure that resembles the look of either a Bluegill or Crappie will work. Also, you will also want the lure to closely resemble the typical swimming motion of a Bluegill. It always helps to have a lure that features the realistic patterns of the fish. You can find a link below which we feel is the best artificial bluegill lure, available on Amazon.

Is it illegal to use Bluegill as bait?

Many states outlaw the use of sport fish as a method for bait. Unfortunately, Bluegill falls into this category for several states. Please check the local fishing regulations in your area to confirm if this bait is allowed. The reason that using live Bluegill as bait can be illegal if because of the risk of bringing an unwanted species into a new environment. Invasive species can have a negative impact of the long-term health of the environment as they initially join the ecosystem without any true predators. Without any true predators, the fish can live freely utilizing the resources needed for other species, which can cause great economic harm. Understand the laws in your area to avoid having any conflict with the authorities.


According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, a Bluegill is one of the most popular sport fish in the United States. Using Bluegill as your bait can be an extremely effective method for catching large Bass and Catfish. As long as it is allowed by the laws in your state, it is a great way to improve your fishing experience. Using artificial Bluegill lures or fake Bluegills can be an ideal way to counter strict state laws. Bluegill bait really works!

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