However, none is perfect for all conditions. If you are fishing for 30 minutes with no bites, it is time to try a different bait in your arsenal.
Water temperature, time of day, water current, water depth, water clarity, cover, overcast sky, and season all play a big part in what catfish bait works the best.
- Cut-Bait (chunks of nongame fish)
For catfish, cut-bait is king.
Chunks of nongame fish such as shad, suckers, bullheads, chub, eels, skipjack, bluegill, and minnows work with all species of Catfish, from small channel cats to the big blues. If you don’t have easy access to nongame fish, make a trip to your local grocery store. Buy a pound of raw perch, tilapia, tuna, or pollock fillets, as they work just as good. Add a drop of baking anise oil to your bait for an extra flavor boost. If you can find them, raw anchovies, sardines, and mackerel really stink and work the best. Large goldfish cut in half works great too. Live minnows work great, but you will catch all types of fish.
- Crawfish or Shrimp
I put crawfish and shrimp in the same category, as they work the same for all species of Catfish.
Almost every fish that swims will eat crawdads. I give the edge to shrimp. Using shrimp, I only catch Catfish, and most are big cats. You can buy shrimp at your grocery store raw or frozen. An extra boost is to cover the shrimp in cod liver oil or cover them with Kick’N Bass fish oil. Yummy.
The regular flavor Norwegian Cod Liver Oil works good and is what I use. The shrimp with the extra flavor boost many times works better than cut-bait!
The cheap imitation crab meat dipped in cod liver oil works good too.
- Chicken Liver
Chicken liver is one of the top baits to use for Channel Catfish.
If you also want to catch the big blue cats and flatheads, add two tablespoons of garlic powder and four tablespoons of salt to your container of chicken liver.
Stir it up well and let it sit overnight.
Use scissors to separate the liver halves before you go fishing. To keep the livers on your hook, roll them up in a piece of pantyhose just like a stogie.
Make your stogies before you go fishing. Some fishermen will add Louisiana Hot Sauce or Frank’s Hot Sauce to the chicken livers for an added kick.
Turkey livers work even better if you can find them.
- Sausage and Punch DogsSausage works great in currant such as river or drift fishing.
The oils in sausage can carry the stink for hundreds of yards. The smoked cheddar sausage and cheesy bratwurst are awesome Catfish bait.
Cut them up into one inch pieces and put them on your hook. Small cocktail weenies and Big Red Smokies work good too. Hotdogs are also popular bait.
Buy the cheapest pork/chicken hotdogs in the store. Cut in one-inch pieces and put in a bowl. Add just enough boiling hot water to cover them.
Stir in a package of cherry or strawberry unsweetened Kool-Aid, then let sit overnight. The tart Kool-Aid smells like blood to catfish.
Punch dogs are awesome for jug fishing.
- Canned Cat Food
Choose the fish or chicken-flavored canned cat food.
I would give the edge to the fish and seafood flavors.
Put a spoon full on a 4-inch piece of pantyhose and roll it up like a stogie.
Make at least a dozen stogies before you go fishing. My experience is that this will catch channel, blue, and flatheads.
The fish will hit it pretty fast. Take a bag of dry cat food with you to use for chum where legal. I hear canned dog food works good too, but I have never tried it.
It would be easy for a company to take canned cat food and rebrand it “Catfish Food”. It works that good!
Canned cat food works great as a chum weight on a floyd rig.
Nightcrawlers (lumbricus terrestris or freaking big worms) are natural Catfish food.
It is best to use nightcrawlers for Catfish bait after a rain storm, or where the creeks and rivers dump into the body of water you are fishing.
When Catfish are looking for worms, fish with worms! Don’t put the nightcrawler on the hook like you are fishing for bass.
Bunch the worm on the hook like a slinky so the whole nightcrawler is on the hook.
You want the hook to punch as many holes in the worm as possible to let out the stink.
Sometimes it takes two nightcrawlers on a hook to give a good presentation to the catfish.
- Manufactured Catfish Bait
Manufactured Catfish Bait has reached the performance level of cut-baits. At every tournament, I see more pro fishermen using manufactured baits. Those that say you can’t catch big fish with commercial baits should see the monsters pros catch in Tournaments.The easy baits to use are the blood dough baits, punch dough, soaps, and the paste with fiber. There are special hooks with hollow plastic tubes to hold the paste.
I always roll the paste in a piece of red cotton T-shirt material to keep it on the hook. (prep the night before and wear rubber gloves!) I have also cut up pieces of sponge to hold the paste. Top brands are Secret 7, Magic, Berkley Gulp, Rubys, Danny King, Alans, Strike King, Rippin Lips, Bowkers, Rednecks, and Uncle Johns’s. Secret 7 and Danny King are hot on tour right now.
The below baits work well for channel cats and the smaller Blues and Flatheads. For the baits that are difficult to keep on the hook, use the chicken liver trick and wrap in pantyhose.
Cut pieces of cheese. Extra sharp cheddar cheese is the best. Channel cats and shovelhead catfish just love cheese.
Fresh corn. Use cream corn for chum, then fish the same area with fresh corn.
Marshmallows. Use the small colored marshmallows and squeeze 4 or 5 on your hook. Pop a few in your mouth for good luck.
Canned Biscuits. Add a package of unsweetened strawberry Kool-Aid powder. Squeeze the powder and dough with your hands over and over until all the dough is red. Make into one-inch balls. This is do-it-quick dough bait for under $2.
Bacon. Bacon works good in rivers with a strong currant. Warning….turtles like bacon too.
Dry cat food. Funny…cat food catching catfish. Buy the donut-shaped dry cat food in fish or chicken flavor. String them on your hook and use a marshmallow or bubblegum to keep them from falling off. Cat food is the best chum! Toss a few handfuls in the area you will be fishing, then wait for the feeding frenzy! See This Clip
Spam. Roll the spam in pantyhose to keep it on the hook.
Chunky peanut butter with garlic salt rolled in T-shirt cotton material. The hook will stick to the roof of the mouth.
Smoked sardines in oil, wrapped in pantyhose. Also good for a chum weight.
Salmon eggs for trout fishing. They work great for catfishing too! Put as many on your hook as you can.
Hot pickled sausage snacks. Cut in 1″ chunks. Yum good!
Fried chicken skin. Save the skin next time you order a bucket of KFC.
Bar of Motel-6 soap. Cut in 3/4 inch chunks. Zote soap from Mexico is legendary in Texas. Zote soap is great for trotlines.
Slim Jim beef stick. Buy the hot ones. Cut in 2-inch chunks.
Chicken Nuggets from any fast food restaurant.
French fries. The Arby`s curly fries, Burger King fries, and KFC potato wedges work the best.
Raw strips of pork chops. Cover with a heavy dose of garlic salt. Let the pork strips sit out for a few days until they spoil. This is the ultimate stink bait. If you can’t catch channel cats with this, there is no fish in the hole you are at. Wash your hands well after handling.
Chunks of raw chicken meat sprayed with WD-40. Will this stop the squeaking sounds they make?
Pepperoni Slices. Good for river fishing. Put 3 or 4 slices on your hook.
Non-Offensive Dough Balls. Women love the lovely smell. Use flour, corn meal, salt, parmesan cheese, and vanilla extract. Mix in warm water and handle until firm. This is only one of the hundreds of dough ball recipes. Caution: You may catch carp and suckers too.