Catfish are diverse and thrive in waters from North Carolina to the Gulf of Mexico to California. These big freshwater fish eat almost anything they find, from plant life to smaller catfish.
However, as a catfishs entire body is covered in olfactory sensors, highly pungent artificial baits are extremely successful. Despite being affordable and highly successful at reeling in small to mid-sized catfish, livers are notoriously challenging to bait up.
Carp is naturally oily, giving off plenty of scent and attracting big blue and channel cats. Crawfish are better to catch on your own than buying them in-store, and most anglers can easily find live crawdads under rocks close to streams or by setting a simple trap baited with chicken parts. This wriggly bait is favored by a slew of scaled species like bass, crappie, breem, perch, carp and, especially, catfish.
As the scent disperses into the current, catfish downstream will chase down the source like sharks when they smell blood, giving you an opportunity to bag them. Using cheese and dough as a base, punch bait includes lots of fibers like cotton, fur or cattail fluff to make it solid enough to hold onto your hook. Along with blood, which you can buy at many tackle shops, you may want to mix in a coagulant like brown sugar and let it sit under the sun to harden so you can easily put it on a hook.
Catfish love to eat smaller fish, even some that are part of the same family, and they find white suckers especially delectable. Those raised with no predatory threats arent as skittish when theyre used as bait, and its usually the reflexive thrust away from the predator that gets the catfish snapping.
What is best bait for catfish?
Chicken Livers. Chicken livers are traditionally the best way to catch catfish if you’re fishing in deeper waters. ….Asian Carp. ….Crawfish. ….Nightcrawlers. ….Stink Bait. ….Punch Bait. ….Blood Bait. ….Shrimp.
What bait is irresistible to catfish?
For catfish scents, the smellier the better. Ingredients like chicken liver, gutted fish, Limburger cheese and rotting shrimp are examples of things that can be combined together. The best stink bait is left to marinade for a few days and “ripen” so that the blend of scents is irresistible to the catfish.
What are catfish attracted to?
Catfish are bottom feeders and are attracted to food by both sight and smell. They like bright colors such as orange or red. One of the best lures are Cheetos puffs. The bright orange color attracts their attention and the cheesy corn smell encourages them to bite.
What is the best way to catch catfish?
During the day, look for catfish in muddy water areas, such as a tributary and its outflow. Also good are deep structures, like river bends, the base of drop-offs, deep holes, and humps. Catfish will also hold around cover, like standing timber and deep weed edges. Night brings excellent fishing.
The approach to fishing for blue cats is very different than that of fishing for channels and flatheads and that means the best catfish bait for species is very different.
Its not uncommon to find blue cats with their bellies engorged with shad or skipjack and absolutely stuffed. Most experienced blue cat anglers refer to them as opportunistic predators which is a fancy term that means they will eat dead or live bait.
The bait of choice is almost always going to be their primary food source, which in most lakes is going to be shad or skipjack herring. Fresh caught shad or skipjack is the best catfish bait choice for blues in most cases. Threadin and gizzard shad can be fished whole wormed onto a hook, or cut into chunks.
In the event that shad (or skipjack) are not present in a lake or river (which would be highly unlikely in a water body with a thriving population) then the best choice for catfish bait is going to be their primary food source in that body of water. The process (and equipment) of keeping shad and other baitfish alive is in my opinion an unnecessary task for this species. If you are dead set on buying or building a bait tank, going through the trials and hassles of keeping shad alive go right ahead but I can honestly say that it will have little to no impact on your success a majority of the time.
I constantly hear debates from anglers trying to cut corners because they dont want to invest the time to learn how to throw a cast net, pattern shad, and catch their own fresh bait. This will contribute 2000% percent more to your success catching blues than the time you are investing looking for the next best thing. Theyll feed on live (or fresh dead) bait they like easy meals that they dont have to work for, and theyre driven by their strong sense of smell and taste.
Theyll feed based on sight and sound also and have keen senses that are above and beyond many other species of fish. If you cant catch channel catfish with a good punch or dip bait then youre fishing in the wrong place or theyre just not biting. Baits For Big Channel Cats Channel cats will also bite fresh dead shad, perch, bluegill used whole or in chunks as well as minnows and a variety of other dead and live baits.
Natural baits are going to be a better option if your goal is to catch larger channel catfish. Grocery Store Baits Many anglers that target channel catfish use what I call grocery store baits, things like chicken livers , turkey livers, hot dogs, shrimp, and a variety of other items. The simple reason for this is if youre after numbers if they wont hit a well-prepared concoction youre in the wrong area.
The numbers of people that are carrying along with a half dozen different channel catfish baits always amaze me. These manufactured baits stink to the person using them but to a channel cat, theyre a strong trail of sensory overload. Ive used just about everything on the market over the years and found that the following baits work best and consistently produce catfish for me.
Im saying that when rod and reel fishing if I cant catch channel cats with one of these products theyre not biting. You have to have good hearty and lively bait and learn to keep it alive and healthy. Flathead catfishing is not a fast and furious sport for most anglers where you can expect to go out and catch 5, 10, 20 or 30 in a given trip.
Most anglers that are really hardcore about catching flatheads consider one to two fish in a day or night to be a good trip. To save money and get the best baits, build or buy a good perch trap or catch them on rod and reel. If youre fishing rivers or lakes with moving current that movement alone will often encourage them to bite.
Theres Always Exceptions To the Best Catfish Bait Typically when I write something like this I get bombarded with questions and comments from the what abouts who has a buddy that wore them out one day on a piece of bubble gum or some other off-the-wall concoction. If you put something in front of a hungry fish, even a bare hook, chances are youll get bit. Youre much better off spending your time fishing and learning, studying maps, or countless other activities that are going to be much more productive.
I realized it was catfish feeding on the muscadine grapes that would occasionally fall off the vines. I got curious, went across the creek and picked some grapes off a vine, and rigged them up weightless on some light line. There were people sitting on the dock eating and they were throwing french fries to the ducks.
My clients showed up and I went and bought four orders of french fries inside the marina. and then rigged french fries weightless on a lightweight line and flipped them out around the docks. We proceeded to sit there and catch fifteen or twenty channel catfish in short order.
Try to match the hatch in addition to recreating the action and youll catch more fish. Stop focusing your energy on finding that next magic bullet and stick with one of the simple and effective proven baits Ive outlined for your target species.
That simple fact acknowledged, an angler’s offerings also must appeal to the fish. For many species of game fish, lure sizes, shapes, movements and colors, and types of presentations all figure prominently into the equation of making an offering appealing.
With that in mind, you are wise to set the table with at least a couple of different kinds of baits and allow the cats to dictate their preferences. Anglers are wise, therefore, to re-bait rigs periodically and to always begin with a fresh piece of liver after moving to a new spot.
Chicken livers work well any where channel cats or smaller blues are the main attraction and where currents are not too overpowering. Extra strong current such as in tailraces of dams, for example, often tear livers off hooks before the cats get the opportunity to find the bait and eat it.
Using what we know as artificial baits, like crankbaits and plastics, is seldom the best bet for consistently catching catfish. All three main species of catfish channel cats, flatheads, and blue catfish favor natural baits and fish attractants like Team Catfish Dead Red Blood Spray. This doesnt necessarily mean live bait, but frequently some form of a natural food source.
Source: DiscoverCatfishing.com CatMaxx Circle Hooks As youll see, the most important thing about many of these baits is the ability to broadcast scent into the water and be carried in the current. A single bait that gives off appealing (to catfish) scent can pull fish from an amazingly large area downstream.
To enhance the odor of natural baits, many anglers recommend allowing them to cure in the sun, but use this approach cautiously if you have a weak stomach! In a zipper top bag, mix lots of crushed garlic, some vegetable oil or bacon grease, strawberry gelatin, and salt. Cutting bait allows you to create a portion size and presentation that makes an alluring mouthful for any kind of catfish.
CatMaxx Tube Dip Bait Worm These are thick, secret concoctions that are extremely gooey, sticky, and smell to high heaven!
1. Chicken Livers
Chicken livers are traditionally the best way to catch catfish if you’re fishing in deeper waters. Livers remain fresh for 15 to 20 minutes before losing some of their appealing scent, so rebait your rigs frequently.Despite being affordable and highly successful at reeling in small to mid-sized catfish, livers are notoriously challenging to bait up. The texture of the liver makes it slip off the hook, so most veteran catfishermen recommend using a treble hook and avoiding fast-action snap casts in favor of a gentle lob.
2. Asian Carp
You may have heard of Asian carp being an invasive species in U.S. waterways, but you can use them as carp bait for catfish. They were first introduced in aquaculture ponds and have multiplied at an alarming pace. Many states have banned their use and collection due to their widespread proliferation.While Asian carp may be bad news for your local river, they are good news for catties who have started gorging themselves and developed a taste for this pernicious pest. If using Asian carp for bait is legal in your area, you can cut them into filets as cut bait for catfish. Carp is naturally oily, giving off plenty of scent and attracting big blue and channel cats.
When fishing for catties, crawfish are an overlooked live bait that are delicacies for various catfish species. You can rig crawfish either live or dead. Hook a live crawdad through the base of its tail or remove the head and string the entire crawfish body on the hook. If using dead crawfish, add a weight or a swivel to give your rig some spin.Crawfish are better to catch on your own than buying them in-store, and most anglers can easily find live crawdads under rocks close to streams or by setting a simple trap baited with chicken parts. No matter the type of catfish, they are all drawn to live crawfish; however, crawfish are also enjoyed by other fish species, so be cautious when you feel a bite.
Otherwise known as earthworms, nightcrawlers are popular bait across the fishing world. It’s not just because of their convenience (you can find them right outside in your garden), it’s also because many species, including catfish, love nightcrawlers.This wriggly bait is favored by a slew of scaled species like bass, crappie, breem, perch, carp and, especially, catfish. For bigger fish, you have to use long worms, but their flexibility makes it simple to loop them over a circle hook securely to make an enticing bait for a catfish.
5. Stink Bait
Although catfish love this type of bait, you have to handle it carefully. Catfish have an extraordinarily keen sense of smell, and those fish that live deep in channels have even more evolved olfactory senses.A variety of stink baits are available commercially, while many anglers make their own special stink bait. It’s a conglomeration of stinky materials (ones that smell like the catfish’s regular prey) that are soured and fermented until they’re especially pungent.Dip a sponge bait into this vile concoction and quickly toss it to a waiting catfish. As the scent disperses into the current, catfish downstream will chase down the source like sharks when they smell blood, giving you an opportunity to bag them.
6. Punch Bait
This type of bait is similar to stink bait but not quite so aromatic. Dip baits are another addition to this unique class of catfish bait, but those in which you dip a hook are liquid, whereas punch bait is solid.Using cheese and dough as a base, punch bait includes lots of fibers like cotton, fur or cattail fluff to make it solid enough to hold onto your hook. You can also add fish or attractants to up the smell factor.When your punch bait is ready, simply punch a treble hook (#8 works best) through the crust and into the mixture. Work it deep into the sticky goo and then pull it out at an angle. The barbs should be chock full of the messy, stinky punch bait and ready for casting.
7. Blood Bait
If you like going deep to get at the monster cats, you may want to switch to a blood bait. Catfish track their prey by scent, and nothing stirs them up like the possibility of a wounded meal up ahead.Along with blood, which you can buy at many tackle shops, you may want to mix in a coagulant like brown sugar and let it sit under the sun to harden so you can easily put it on a hook. It takes a lot of effort, but the fish will bite hard if it smells blood in the current.The combination of blood with skipjack herrings, for instance, can attract larger cats. Blood baits also perform well in shallow waters with low current.
These compact, convenient shellfish are some of the catfish’s favorite meals and are easy to get on your hook. Leave the hook tip exposed when pushing the shrimp through, starting at the head.If catfish like the scent of shrimp in the water, they will love the smell of spoiled shrimp. Allowing the fish to go bad adds a distinctive aroma that drives cats wild. After letting the shrimp spoil, freeze them for later use.
9. Skipjack Herring
Slightly bigger than shad, skipjack herring is a great bait when you’re going after the big cats. They’re not commonly found as bait as they used to be found in coastal waters, but now they are cultivated in reservoirs and used in catfish tournaments. For smaller catfish, they can be chopped up into smaller, bite-sized chunks, while for bigger ones, you can use whole skips on large hooks.Younger catfish are scrappy and eat just about anything. However, the older a cat gets, the more refined its taste becomes, which often means that the bigger, older cats prefer fresh bait like shad or skipjack herring.
Best Catfish Bait For Blue Catfish
Blue catfish are eating machines. They spend much if not all of their day chasing and eating fish and it’s usually the primary forage fish in the body of water they live in.In most cases, this will be threadfin shad, gizzard shad, or skipjack herring.It’s not uncommon to find blue cats with their bellies engorged with shad or skipjack and absolutely stuffed. It’s common to find them so full of baitfish they regurgitate them or even have them hanging out of their mouths.Most experienced blue cat anglers refer to them as “opportunistic predators” which is a fancy term that means they will eat dead or live bait. The bait of choice is almost always going to be their primary food source, which in most lakes is going to be shad or skipjack herring.Fresh caught shad or skipjack is the best catfish bait choice for blues in most cases.Fresh baits will outfish frozen baits almost every day of the week and twice on Sunday in most instances.Threadin and gizzard shad can be fished whole wormed onto a hook, or cut into chunks. Skipjack is typically larger than shad and can be used whole for targeting large trophy-class fish, For smaller blues skipjack is cut into strips or chunks tailored to the size of catfish you’re targeting.In the event that shad (or skipjack) are not present in a lake or river (which would be highly unlikely in a water body with a thriving population) then the best choice for catfish bait is going to be their primary food source in that body of water.The second choice to the fresh-caught whole or cut shad is any other sort ofFish that are commonly used for cut bait for catfish include:These baits can often work as well as shad or skipjack but my experience has always beenA good rule to follow when choosing a fish to use for cut bait isPrepared catfish baits like dip and punch baits can be used for blues. Whether this is a good choice is highly dependent on the catfishing techniques you’re using. It’s possible to catch blue catfish with prepared “stink” baits but most serious anglers won’t use them as cut baits will outperform these manufactured baits for catching blues but
I’ve targeted blues with live shad, perch, and bluegill and know others that do as well. It’s not something I practice, at least as a “preferred technique”.Over the years I have used live and dead bait side by side and in almost every instance have found that blues will hit fresh dead bait (whole or cut) just as well as they will live.The process (and equipment) of keeping shad and other baitfish alive is in my opinion an unnecessary task for this species.If you are dead set on buying or building a bait tank, going through the trials and hassles of keeping shad alive go right ahead but I can honestly say that it will have little to no impact on your success a majority of the time.There is no magic bullet bait that you can buy.I constantly hear debates from anglers trying to cut corners because they don’t want to invest the time to learn how to throw a cast net, pattern shad, and catch their own fresh bait.There are no workarounds to success when catching bait for blue cats. Don’t overanalyze it, it’s really not that difficult, and learning how to locate and catch shad will help you catch fish also.Get a cast net (and make sure you choose the right one), learn to throw it, invest in a fish finder (if fishing from a boat), and learn to catch your own bait. With a little time on the water, you’ll learn the essentials and some tips and tricks to help you catch more shad.If you’re fishing in waters that have skipjack populations then get some lightweight rods and reels, stock up on Sabiki Rigs, and get out there and start catching skipjack.This will contribute 2000% percent more to your success catching blues than the time you are investing looking for the “next best thing”. Put your energy into learning to do it the right wayBottom line, if you want to fish for blue catfish finding and catching fresh bait is part of the deal. If you learn how to pattern baitfish all year long, and how to catch them the rest just falls into place.This process alone teaches you a LOT about learning to pattern fish.
Baits For Big Channel Cats
When I’m fishing for channel catfish I’m after numbers. I catch some bigger channels using these techniques but my goal is sheer numbers of keeper-sized catfish because we simply don’t have good populations of large channel catfish in Texas.Channel catfish are scavengers. They’ll feed on live (or fresh dead) bait they like easy meals that they don’t have to work for, and they’re driven by their strong sense of smell and “taste”. They’ll feed based on sight and sound also and have keen senses that are above and beyond many other species of fish.For catchingDip baits are thin consistency and you’ll use a small tube, worm, or sponge to hold the bait on the hook.Punch baits are much thicker andBoth will work for catching numbers of channel catfish but I’ve always preferred punch baits as their much cleaner to fish with and eliminate the need for using the tubes, sponges, and worms to hold bait.There’s a number of good brands available including:If you can’t catch channel catfish with a good punch or dip bait then you’re fishing in the wrong place or they’re just not biting. Most often rigging with a slip bobber or the Secret Catfish Rig and fishing with some lightweight gear and finesse techniques you’ll have no problem catching some big numbers of channel cats.These stinky concoctions accomplish two things.First, they have a powerful smell that attracts catfish almost immediately, but they also break down in the water, and that scent carries throughout the water andThey’re absolutely deadly for producing numbers of channel cats and are hands down the best catfish baits for catching numbers of channel catfish.
Grocery Store Baits
Many anglers that target channel catfish use what I call “grocery store baits”, things like chicken livers, turkey livers, hot dogs, shrimp, and a variety of other items.While there are times these
Buffet Of Channel Cat Baits
You don’t have to carry a buffet with you, don’t overthink it. The numbers of people that are carrying along with a half dozen different channel catfish baits always amaze me.If you’re investing that much time and energy into trying all of these different baits and you’re not catching fish, you’re wasting a lot of energy, time, and money.Invest your energy in locating the catfish and learning how to pattern them. In the end, you’ll catch far more fish putting one bait in the right area than you will be putting a half dozen baits in the wrong area.
Best Catfish Bait For Flathead Catfish
I hate the term “stink bait”. These manufactured baits stink to the person using them but to a channel cat, they’re a strong trail of sensory overload.There’s a lot of really great prepared baits in stores and some really bad ones also. The mass-marketed baits that aren’t so good give people the impression that none of these types of baits work.I’ve used just about everything on the market over the years and found that the following baits work best and consistently produce catfish for me.I’m not saying that others don’t work.I’m not saying that there are not other good products out there.I’m saying that when rod and reel fishing if I can’t catch channel cats with one of these products they’re not biting. Just pick one, learn to use it, and when the confidence develops the rest will fall into place.You can always make your own catfish bait also but I’ve always preferred to just buy something that I know works.
Cut Bait For Flathead Catfish
I get called out by “textbook” anglers all the time when I talk about cut bait for flathead catfish. These are the people who’ve ready time and time again that to catch flathead catfish you must use live baits and they won’t eat anything else.Experience says otherwise. Not only my experience but the experience of a growing number of anglers across the country.I’ve seen cut bait perform well for flathead catfish many times and the biggest flatheads I catch traditionally come from them.There’s a direct correlation between moving water and or moving baits and the flathead bite.If you’re fishing rivers or lakes with moving current that movement alone will often encourage them to bite. Using techniques with some movement to the bait like drift fishing, trolling, controlled drifting or even anchoring using a “drop and drop” technique will often produce flathead catfish bites also.I’m not discounting the need for live bait and if fishing on anchor in still water. I won’t debate that live bait is typically the best choice either but If you’re fishing current or using techniques that create a movement of the baitsYou might be surprised at what happens when you add cut bait to your presentation for flatheads in the right environment.
In the end, regardless of what you choose to put on your hooks, there’s a golden rule to follow, “match the hatch”.You may have heard this before from bass anglers or fly fishermen and it’s true for catfishing also.What’s it mean to “match the hatch”?
Here are some examples:
Cats On The Fries
There’s s a marina at one of my local lakes where I was waiting on clients. There were people sitting on the dock eating and they were throwing french fries to the ducks.Every once in a while I’d see a big swirl under the water and could see the channel cats moving around. My clients showed up and I went and bought four orders of french fries inside the marina.I took some fries and got the duck’s attention. and then rigged french fries weightless on a lightweight line and flipped them out around the docks. We proceeded to sit there and catch fifteen or twenty channel catfish in short order.Would french fries work for catching fish at any location? Probably not but when there’s fish in the area and that’s what they’re feeding on you match the hatch.
Read The Water, Catch More Catfish
You need to constantly read the water around you. Pay attention to how, when, and where the fish are feeding when you start having activity. Try to match the hatch in addition to recreating the action and you’ll catch more fish.
Natural Catfish Baits
One of the most commonly used catfish baits is chicken livers. What varies is whether and how anglers go about preparing them. Chicken livers that you buy at the grocery store work very well straight out of the container. However, once they get warm, they become hard to keep on the hook, especially when you need to cast them some distance. To overcome this, place a bunch of chicken livers in a zip top bag and cover them with salt.Allow the salt to pull the moisture out of the livers until they are about the consistency of leather. You can then put them on the hook and cast them out. Soaking in the water will bring them back to their natural consistency while they emit scent to lure in the catfish. To enhance the odor of natural baits, many anglers recommend allowing them to “cure” in the sun, but use this approach cautiously if you have a weak stomach!
DIY Catfish Baits the Homemade Concoctions
Any catfish angler who has been at the game for a while has his or her own “sure-fire” catfish bait recipe. The list of ingredients can range from home kitchen staples to the truly exotic. The main goals are to create bait with an attractive (to catfish) pungent scent that lasts, and to make the bait tough enough to stay on the hook when cast or after soaking.One common catfish recipe is to buy the cheapest hotdogs you can find. Cut them into ¾-inch to 1-inch lengths. In a zipper top bag, mix lots of crushed garlic, some vegetable oil or bacon grease, strawberry gelatin, and salt. Add the cut up hot dogs, close the bag and mush the whole thing around to cover the hotdogs in the mixture. Let it marinate in the fridge until you’re ready to go fishing – longer is better. The garlic, grease, and red gelatin “universal” ingredients in many catfishing marinades used to flavor everything from hotdogs, to freezer burned pork chops, to chicken liver, and chicken breasts, etc.
Catfish Live Baits
For the most part, catfish are not picky eaters. Many – especially eating size cats – are caught on live bait. A big ball of juicy nightcrawlers, for example, is one great choice. They can be made even more attractive by dipping them in a thinned blood bait or other clinging catfish-attracting scent.Shiner minnows also work well, and they don’t even have to be alive. In fact, dead minnows often work better than live ones.Go to the bait store and ask for large dead minnows, and you’ll probably get them for free! Another source of live bait is catching it yourself. Small bluegills, perch, sunfish, etc. should be hooked to stay lively and with enough weight to keep them near the bottom. Just be sure to check the regulations in your state on using these species for bait.
Using Cut Bait to Catch Catfish
Cut baits are a fillet or strip of meat and leaving the skin and scales in place allows the bait to release more scent into the water. Cutting bait allows you to create a portion size and presentation that makes an alluring mouthful for any kind of catfish. Any kind of rough fish or baitfish can be cut to create an attractive catfish cut bait, but the best are oily fish like shad or mullet. You can even try strips of saltwater fish like mackerel.