Catfish are fun and aggressive fish to target. Nothing quite beats reeling in one of these monsters of the deep.
But, before you head out looking for cats, you have to be prepared. Not only will you need the best catfish reels and rods, but you’ll also need to understand what is the best catfish bait to maximize your chances of success.
Catfish baits don’t need to be over complicated. It’s easy to see lot’s of store bought bait, pre-prepared and manufactured to be the ‘best catfish bait’. When in reality, if you stick to what they are most likely to east in their habitat, you’ll land more fish.
A Guide To The Best Catfish Baits
Not all catfish are created equal, and neither are the methods for hunting them down. Below we are going to cover catfish baits for the most popular caught catfish species; Blue catfish, Channel catfish & Flathead catfish.
All are very different species, with different bait preferences, fishing methods and plan of attacks.
Below isn’t a complete guide to what i’ve had the most success with, what works on one day, might not work on another.
But it is instead a guide to the best catfish baits that land fish for most anglers. So you can spend less time at home scrolling the web, and more time outdoors trying to land giant cats.
Once we have covered the best catfish baits for each species, we will discuss more generic baits such as worms, and grocery store food, that works pretty well across all catfish species.
Best Bait For Blue Catfish
Blue catfish eat a lot. It’s that simple. They spend most of their time foraging and preying on fish that lurk in the deep. In most cases, their local choice of prey fish will be shad, gizzard shad, or skipjack herring.
Freshly caught fish is going to be the best choice of bait, however, catfish aren’t the fussiest eaters in the world, and even if you chop your baitfish into chunks, chances are that you’ll still get a bite.
You can fish with your baitfish live on the hook, especially when going after larger trophy catfish. If you are only targeting smaller blues, then chop up your bait into smaller chunks.
Shads and skipjacks work so well because they are very oily fish with a strong scent which helps to attract catfish.
If you can’t get your hands on any shad, or skipjack’s then the next available baitfish that you are allowed to catch in your particular fishing area will be the next best choice.
It is possible to land some big cats using store-bought prepared baits or manufactured fishing baits like punch baits. They are usually produced to have a very strong fish-like smell to attract predatory fish.
Although, you’ll still get some bites and land a few fish, it’s the opinion of most anglers that live and dead bait will always outperform manufactured bait.
Best Channel Catfish Bait
Channel catfish are scavengers. They are probably the least fussy of all catfish and are strongly attracted to anything with a strong scent.
Many anglers report that chicken livers, which are an inexpensive bait bought from most grocery stores work well for channel catfish.
As well as manufactured punch and stink baits which have a strong pungent smell. Not only does the strong scent attract a bite, but punch baits also disintegrate into the water, which only attracts more cats!
Of course, if you are having no luck with manufactured or store-bought baits, you could switch back to using live or dead baitfish which are commonly caught in that area.
For larger channel cats, you definitely want to be opting for live or dead bait options. If you are going after a record-breaker, the punch baits and store-bought liver probably won’t cut it.
Best Flathead Catfish Bait
Flatheads are arguably one of the harder catfish species to catch. Unlike channel cats, where you can throw in some trebles covered in punch bait and pull up small catfish, again and again, flatheads require a different approach.
Flatheads aren’t a ‘shy’ fish by any means, but they do tend to be more selective about what they eat.
If you are serious about going after these cats, then the best flathead catfish bait is going to be a combination of live and dead baitfish (preferably live).
I’ve seen cut dead bait work well for flatheads, but most anglers will argue that to make your flathead trip worthwhile, you want to start with live bait from the get-go as they imitate actual pre-fish much better, even on a hook.
Lively live baits like bluegill, perch, sunfish and mudcats are a good choice for flatheads, and most can be picked up from fishing shops that stock live bait. Or you can catch them on the day.
Fishing With Worms For Catfish
Worms are probably what most of us started out fishing with. They are a class bait for pretty much everything that swims… They work well as a catfish bait under floats and bobbers or resting on the bottom with a sinker.
I’ve seen larger worms like nightcrawlers work well in rivers, creeks, lakes, and reservoirs.
It’s best to fish worms using J fishing hooks that have small barbs to help keep your work on the hook.
It’s worth mentioning that when you are fishing with worms you have a chance of catching anything that eats worms… which is pretty much everything.
This can become a problem if you are fishing areas that are also stocked highly with bass, carp, bullhead etc. If you are just trying to catch anything, it’s a good problem to have.
But, if you just want cats e.g you’re in a competition scenario, then live, stink and punch bait will work much better.
Grocery Store Bait For Catfish
Perhaps you have some meat in your fridge that is unlikely to get eaten? Or you are browsing your local grocery store for some cheap bait alternatives.
Many catfish anglers have success fishing with alternative baits you wouldn’t initially consider.
Remember catfish aren’t that picky, and they are attracted to strong scented food.
Steak, chicken breast, chicken liver, pork chops and hot dogs are all reported to work well. Especially if they are starting to rot, whilst we would never touch it and think it smells awful.
That strong smell will only attract more catfish, and more cats, means more potential bites.
Fishing for catfish might seem like a daunting task initially, but as soon as you are well acquainted with the species you are targetting, what they like to eat and how best to present the catfish bait, you’ll be reeling in catch after catch.
We’ve already mentioned that catfish are predatory fish that like to strike live bait, but they are also foragers and bottom feeders that will hunt down anything that has a strong scent.
If you aren’t bothered about catching the biggest catfish, then pretty much any strong-smelling bait, whether it’s from the grocery store, or whether it’s live, dead, or manufactured will work.
For more serious anglers, especially those in a competitive match, who only want to catch big cats, should use only live or cut dead bait.