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Best Bluefish Baits to Catch Them Every Time

Bluefish are among the most prolific game fish globally, and they can be found practically everywhere in the world.

bluefish laying next to fishing rod and reel

Not only are bluefish abundant, but they’re also among the strongest fighters in the ocean. Few fish in the world put up more of a fight pound-for-pound than bluefish do. 

These predators are far from picky, and you’ll have a hard time selecting a bait that a bluefish won’t eat.

Even though bluefish are happy to eat virtually any bait, they have some favorites. If you’re looking to catch some monster bluefish the next time you hit the water, stick with the seven baits we’re going to cover in detail below. 

Bunker / Menhaden

Bunker, also known as menhaden or pogy, is the perfect bait for bluefish. Bunker make up a large portion of the bluefish diet, they can be purchased live or dead from most tackle shops, and you can also catch your own if you prefer. 

live menhaden

For a live bunker, we recommend an octopus circle hook. Simply hook the fish through the head above the nose or snag them with a weighted treble hook and drop them to the bottom. You can’t go wrong when fishing bunker. 

Mullet

Mullet is a baitfish similar to a bunker, and they also make up a large portion of the bluefish diet.

a single mullet for bait

Mullet can be especially effective along the southeast coast of the U.S., where an epic mullet run is something that anglers and bluefish alike count on each year.

Most tackle shops sell mullets, and they’re among the easiest baitfish to harvest yourself. They can even be pretty tasty, too.

Like bunker, these fish can be fished live and rigged through the top of the head. Many anglers will cut them into chunks and fish them on a float or two-hook rig to target bluefish. 

Mackerel

Mackerel is another pelagic fish that is a bit more stout than bunker or mullet. Beyond serving as bait, these fish are predatory in their own right, and they’re typically larger than bunker or mullet. 

3 mackerel for bait

Smaller mackerel can be rigged through the head and fished live or dead. For large mackerel, your best bet will be to cut the bait into chunks and fish it on a float or high-low rig. 

Silversides

Silversides are one of the most prevalent baitfish in America, and predatory fish from flounder to bluefish make them part of their diet.

school of silversides fish

These tiny baitfish can be found frozen in most tackle shops or harvested in huge numbers with a simple cast net thrown along the shoreline. 

It’s best to rig silversides whole and hook them through the eyes or through one eye and out the mouth. Since silversides are so small, it’s helpful to fish them two or three to a hook to give a bluefish something worth biting at. 

Squid

Squid is another can’t-miss option when targeting bluefish. You’ll find squid in virtually every tackle shop in the world, and they can be fished whole or cut into strips.

squid for fishing bait

If you’re hoping to land a large bluefish, fishing an entire squid is your best bet. 

Cut squid into ½” wide strips about 2” in length and rig them on a single hook. For the whole squid, you’ll want to fish them on a snood rig. 

Pilchards

Pilchards are another small baitfish that belong to the herring family. These fish are somewhere between silversides and mullet in terms of size, and they’re common in the Northeast Atlantic, making them an excellent choice for anglers in this area. 

Pilchard

Pilchards can be found in many bait shops in the northeast, but you won’t find them as you head further south or to the Pacific coast.

Anglers will want to rig these fish up similarly to silversides by hooking them through the eyes or through one eye and out the mouth. 

Cut Baits

Cut baits refer to any larger fish cut down to use as bait. Virtually any fish can be used as cut bait, including bluefish, but our favorite is, by far, saltwater catfish. Just get yourself a sharp knife and cut it into good-sized chunks.

saltwater catfish on a fishing line

If you’re fishing with the tail or a piece of the body, you’ll want to rig the bait by hooking from one side through to the other.

If you’re fishing with a head, rig it through the top of the head like you would a bunker or mackerel. 

Final Thoughts

Whether you opt for bunker, mackerel, cut baits, or any of the other options on our list, you should be in the perfect position to land some monster bluefish on your next trip.

When you hit the water, make sure you have plenty of fresh bait and take time to rig it up properly. If you have these two pieces to the puzzle in order, you’ll have no trouble loading the cooler with monster blues.

Rocco Smith

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