How to Rig a Sunfish Bluegill As Bait for a Flathead Catfish


Flathead catfish will attack a sunfish bluegill that appears injured or is moving erratically, which is often the same thing. Unlike channel catfish and other cousins that prefer foul-smelling dead bait, the flathead cat is a more aggressive and territorial fish that will move on smaller baitfish either for food or to defend territory. Rig live sunfish bluegills to haul big flatheads from the lake.

Things You'll Need

  • Medium-duty rod and reel spooled with 20- to 30-pound line
  • Tackle and baitholder hooks
  • Scissor or pocketknife
  • Sunfish bluegill
  • Bait tank
  • Tie a three-way swivel to the main line using a clinch knot (see Resources for clinch knot instructions).

  • Tie a 1 oz. egg sinker to one of the two remaining swivel loops using a short piece of fishing line as a leader. The leader should be no more than 12 inches.

  • Tie a baitholder hook, size 1 or 2, to a second leader about 18 inches long using a clinch knot and tie the other end of the leader to the remaining swivel loop. Baitholder hooks have two sharp nibs along the shank to help hold live bait.

  • Prepare a small sunfish bluegill about 3 to 4 inches long for bait by clipping one of its pectoral (side) fins with a scissor or cutting an incision in the fin with a pocketknife. This will make the fish swim erratically.

  • Hook the sunfish through the lower lip and out the top lip so the hook is pointing back toward the main line.

  • Cast the rig gently toward the mouth of a river or stream where it feeds into or flows out of a lake. The rigging will pull the live bait toward the bottom and anchor the sunfish bluegill in the desired position, but the bait can still swim freely to attract flathead catfish.

Tips & Warnings

  • A gentle cast is essential to preventing the hook from tearing out of the bluegill's mouth and sending the baitfish cartwheeling into space.

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