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Catfish are some of the most beloved fish to pursue. Not only do they grow to an impressive size, but they are also tasty and versatile and can put up quite a fight when caught on your hook, making cat fishing an exciting event.
In the U.S. there are three main species of cafish: blue catfish, channel catfish, and flatheads. Whichever of them you are going for will have, of course, an influence on the bait you are using. Flatheads, the biggest of the three, are predators that will mostly go for live bait, blue catfish also like dead or cut bait, and channel cats are mostly scavengers that will go for almost anything you dangle in front of them, even pieces of hot dog or fries, in case you feel like sharing your lunch.
These distinctions aside, the ten suggestions on this list are among the best catfish bait you can go for if you want to have a successful day on the water.
Chicken liver is often considered to be the classic catfish bait for channel catfish and small blue cats. This extremely smelly bait will spread its bloody odor far and wide and can thus lure fish in from a broad area.
You might find it difficult to keep chicken liver on the hook at first. It toughens up once they have been in the cool water for a few minutes, but if you are not careful you might lose it when casting too energetically. A good method is to use treble hooks and wrap the liver around them tightly. Nevertheless, it is not recommended to use chicken liver in areas where there is a strong current since this can take the liver off the hook.
Liver loses its natural juices after 15-20 minutes, so you will have to "recharge" your setup regularly.
Keep in mind that using chicken liver is a messy and sticky business. It is recommended that you bring some old hand towels to help keep your boat, equipment, and hands as clean as possible.
Crawfish work best for fishing in creeks and small rivers. They can be used alive or dead, but dead ones work best on channel catfish. While you can buy crayfish, they are usually also very easy to catch - turning over a rock often is enough to find a bunch.
If you really only want catfish to bite, crawfish might not be the right solution, though, since a lot of other fish also like crawfish.
These are especially good as baitfish when you want to catch bigger catfish like flatheads. Use them in reservoirs and rivers, because that's where they naturally live, and the catfish at these locations are used to having them among their prey.
In general, you can use cut up shads or live ones, but for flatheads, it is necessary that you use a live shad that is at least the size of your palm. Flatheads are keen predators and are not interested in going for cut bait or any bait fish that are too small.
Bigger, in this case, is always better. If you cannot find big juicy worms, you should stick at least two or three on your hook, but you can always go with twice as much. Since catfish are attracted to their food via its smell and taste, you do not need to worry about hooking the worms in a way that leaves them with wiggle room.
Worms like nightcrawlers smell as delicious to catfish as liver or dip bait but are less messy. You can find them in basically any patch of earth. Since a worm on a hook is, in a way, the quintessential fishing experience, this is also a great way to introduce your children to fishing.
When to use frogs for bait is dependent on season and location. In spring, frogs will congregate in the water to breed, and in the colder season, they spend more time in the water again. Where you hear frogs croaking, channel catfish usually are not far. Using frogs as bait works best in shallow waters and close to the shore.
A favorite species to use as bait are leopard frogs, also known as grass frogs, but you can use any aquatic species. If you want to attract big cats, use large frogs that are 4 to 6 inches long. Species that get this big are for example the leopard frogs mentioned before, but also bullfrogs, pickerel frogs, or green frogs.
You can use frogs alive, dead, or cut up to release a stronger smell. You can hook them through either lip or through thigh, but in the case you are using them as live bait, hooking them through a foreleg makes the most sense. In this way, they can move around best, which makes them all the more enticing to catfish.
Leeches are a good choice if you want a type of bait that almost exclusively only attracts catfish. While UK anglers are fortunate enough to get their supply from Biopharm Leeches, a company for medical leeches, they are a bit more difficult to come by in the States, but possibly you will get lucky in your local bait shop - if not, eBay usually got your back. While it thus might seem a bit too difficult and pricey to even acquire leeches in the first place, they are more than worth the effort. They can be quite a long-lasting investment, since a leech often will get you several fish in a session and can then be taken back home and kept alive in your fridge - as long as the other users of the said fridge are not too squeamish about this - until you are going on your next catfishing trip.
This is a gooey, smelly substance, usually with a cheese base or some other kind of protein content. Dip bait will not stay on the hook alone, so you can buy some catfish worms that are specially designed to hold dip bait and release it gradually. Another method is to put a piece of sponge soaked in dip bait on your hook. Other than that, you can also use it to add a little extra flavor to live bait.
It is always a good idea to use dip bait in locations with a current. Since it will break up gradually, it is going to leave a trail of smelly particles flowing along with the current and leading catfish straight to your hook.
You will find dip bait in various flavors like blood, cheese, or chad, in any bait shop, but some anglers prefer cooking up an irresistible concoction themselves. While this more of an effort than simply shopping for bait, you can then be more creative and experiment with different flavors and tailor them to the season and location.
When you use dip bait in the summer you will need to keep it in a shady place so that it does not become too fluid, but there are also brands specializing in making dip bait that works regardless of the season. Doc's Catfish Getter Dip Bait is available in three different consistencies for fishing at different temperatures and prevents the bait from either melting down or getting too hard.
A bit more stable than dip bait, dough bait has a texture like silly putty or play-doh. As with dip bait, some people make it themselves, out of cornmeal, flour, oil, and something that has a smell that is attractive to catfish. It sounds counterintuitive, since those are smells that even humans like, but some anglers swear on vanilla and anise.
There are several methods to hook dough bait. There are, for example, really small mesh nets you can buy to enclose a lump of dough bait inside - a piece of pantyhose will do the trick, too. You can also attach the bait directly to a spring-loaded treble hook and cast softly. If you dip it in water for a few seconds before casting, the dough will harden.
Like dip bait, dough bait dissolves over time and leaves a scent trail to your hook.
Boilies and pellets are practical and convenient when others like stinky baits, dip bait, and dough bait are too messy and smelly for you.
These little balls are essentially dough bait that has been cooked and are made mostly with fish meal and seafood-based flavoring. Since they are non-perishable you can always keep some in your tackle box.
To use boilies you will need special equipment: a baiting needle and a bait stop. These are usually not very expensive, though, and all the catfish you will attract are definitely worth it! You will also need to learn how to tie a hair rig.
A good idea is also to simply throw handfuls of boilies into the water every once in a while to re-awaken the cats' interest in the area around your rig. Since only catfish and carps are able to take them in their mouth, you will not be troubled by small fish you are not interested in.
This cylindrical bait is available in a lot of different sizes, from the size of a grain of rice to more than an inch in diameter. Often you will get a really big wholesale package for a good price. When buying pellets, look for ones that have a large oil content and are not dried out - dust in the package is a bad sign.
Now that you have an overview of the best catfish bait, you can make an informed decision about what you need, depending on the species of catfish you target, the season, and the area you are fishing in. Do not be hesitant to experiment and try something unexpected every once in a while, you never know, if maybe you will be the one to discover the next insider's tip for the best catfish bait! If you fancy making your own homemade catfish bait, check out article "10 Secret Homemade Catfish Bait Recipes To Help Up Your Game!"
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