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The Best Cut Mullet Bait: How to Rig Cut Mullet

Florida Keys guide offers hints on how to rig a cut mullet bait perfectly for more hookups with minimal effort.

The Best Cut Mullet Bait: How to Rig Cut Mullet

Surprising number of tarpon, snook and redfish are caught on a simple rig just like this.

Some folks leave dinner early to check on their kids, let the dog out for a doodle break, or make sure their brisket’s smoking nicely. Brian “Bean” Storin’s fiancee Astrid DeGruchy said her man has been known to head home just to babysit his mullet.

Storin admits: “I’m obsessed with my mullet.”

Working out of Bud ’N Mary’s Marina in Islamorada, Storin knows that netting fresh mullet around the piers, or on the nearby flats is the ticket to tarpon success. Of course, gathering bait before every trip becomes laborious, so Storin’s big on brining his baits.

two mullet laid out on a fillet table
Bigger isn't always better. A slim 8- to 9-inch mullet is perfect for a cut bait rig. Mullet that are too thick may limit the number of clean hook sets. Hint for best quality: Storin nets his baits and brines them—but does not freeze them.

“I add a couple inches of ice to the bottom of my YETI cooler, place a single layer of mullet on the ice, sprinkle salt on top of the mullet and add another layer of ice,” he said. “I can keep mullet for a week that way. Never freeze mullet because when you thaw them out, they turn to mush."

When it’s fishing time, all of Storin’s mullet should be in fighting form, but not every one will make the starting lineup. Basically, he wants the slim 8- to 9-inchers for silver king duty. These, he said, are generally a good size for a tarpon to easily scoop off the bottom—at least, the ones he’s interested in catching.

hand holds sharp knife to scrape scales off of a fish
Scaling your mullet rewards you twofold. Use the scales as chum and eliminate the potential of hook point fouling

The ones that don’t make the cut are generally longer and thicker mullet; something that a grown-up poon could eventually eat, but less efficient for clean hook sets. These, Storin shoves to one side of his cooler and holds them for chunk bait duty.

First, he cuts off the head right at the gills, chops the tail and then streamlines the bait. The idea is to create a smooth-surface bait chunk that casts well and facilitates an easy gobble. Storin accomplishes this by trimming off the pectoral, dorsal and ventral fins. Shears work, but Storin likes the utilitarian versatility of the 9-inch Bubba Blade fillet knife for this and the following steps.

Before cutting his mullet into 1 1⁄2-inch wide chunks, Storin uses his knife to scale each mullet. This step yields direct and indirect benefits. We’ll start with the latter.




scaled and finned mullet ready for bait
Scaling and finning your mullet helps streamline your baits. The idea is to create a smooth-surface bait chunk that casts well and facilitates an easy gobble.

“I scale the mullet on top of the box my chum block came in and after I’ve cut the mullet into chunks, I scrape the scales into the water,” Storin said. “All those scales carry scent into the water; plus, it looks like a fish (recently fed) and that attracts other fish.”

Of the primary scaling reason, Storin wants to make sure he can easily hook any predators his chum attracts. Removing scales makes it easier to position the 2/0 circle hook where he wants it—in the bait chunk’s upper corner—and eliminates potential hook point fouling. One thing to consider here is that scales add a certain element of stability to a chunk of bait, so measured casts help prevent throwing off your scaled bait on the delivery.

mullet cut bait chunks on a fillet table
A 9-inch silver mullet is scaled, finned and rendered into versatile chunk baits by Islamorada guide Brandon Storin.

One of Storin’s favorite ways to use those oversized mullet is tempting juvenile Goliath grouper under mangrove overhangs. He also finds mangrove snapper and big seatrout amenable to chunk baits; but come the fall, he’ll fish those mullet chunks on the oceanside patch reefs for grouper, snapper (mangrove and mutton), and yellow jack.

Recommended


bubba blade knife next to cut mullet chunks and bloody fish scales
Don't let all that fishy goodness go to waste. Toss the bloody scales directly into the water to draw in potential targets.

Whatever his target, Storin knows well the mullet’s widespread appeal. He also knows that consistency requires effort and, for him, that starts with bait prep.FS

Published Florida Sportsman Magazine August/September 2022

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