Best Catfish Bait and Techniques for Every Situation

Many men believe that the best bait to catch catfish is a box of chicken livers. Years of experience have shown that this is true.

Chicken liver is not the best choice for catfish bait if you want to increase your chances of landing a catch or improve your odds.

Are you chasing flatheads under rocks ledges? Do you know what bait to throw and how to rig it? What about when you are chasing blues in a stream’s mouth? You might also want to catch more channel cats for your next fish fry.

We are here to help. Below, we will discuss which baits work well and why. Keep reading!

Here’s a quick look at the best catfish bait:

  • Chicken Livers – Ideal for Flatheads and Blue Catfish with Heavy Cover
  • Crawfish – Great for Large Catfish
  • Live Shad – Great for Large Catfish
  • Nightcrawlers: Best for Eating-Size Channel Catfish
  • For Channel Catfish in Moving Water, Punch and Dip Baits are the best.

Review and explanation of the Best Catfish Bait:

Chicken Livers –Channel Cats in Still Water are the best

I don’t know how many times I’ve seen a man sat on the water’s edge with a small bag of chicken livers. They are a great option for catching fish, but they can also be finicky.

Even if the chicken liver is a little too ripe, it can attract large numbers of channel cats. However, livers can be difficult to hook properly and are very soft. This is something that every catfish angler knows.

Even if you only have one hook, the liver will be set up in the water after a few minutes. However, every minute reduces its flavor and aroma. Livers are most effective during a Goldilocks period, where they can stay on the hook for a while carrying some stink.

Jeff Samsel says that livers work best when they have a hook for at least 15 to 20 minutes. Over time, they lose a lot more of their natural juices and much of their appeal. Anglers should re-bait their rigs regularly and always start with a fresh piece after moving to a new area.

They’re great for still water, but they don’t hold up well if there is too much current.

The water is not going to move the liver very much, and it’s best for channel cats who are looking for an easy and quick meal.

Recommendation

Channel cats can hunt the muck at the bottom. However, burying your liver won’t increase the spread of the scent. You want to lift your bait a little bit off the bottom.

Under a large slip float such as the Billy Boy 040 Oval, I use a #5- or #6 Mustad 4x triple.

Wrapping about one ounce of the liver in a wrap and then tying it into the hooks helps to keep it attached to the treble. Slip float casts well and will suspend 2 ounces or less without sinking.

Adjusting the float allows me to adjust the depth of my hook so it hangs a few inches above the bottom. It will disperse smell effectively and make it easy for channel cats to locate the hook when they are in the mud.

Crawfish –For Flathead and Blue Catfish, Heavy Cover is the best choice

Crawfish is always available on a cat’s plate!

Catfish love crawfish and will eat them whenever they can. Crawfish can be eaten by all three species, but it’s best for flatheads that are under heavy covers or overhangs.

Large crawfish can move quickly on a hook, raising and waving their claws. Flatheads love the sound of their vibration and natural scent.

Recommendation

You can rig a live crawfish using a Gamakatsu’s 6/0 or8/0 Gamakatsu 4X Strong Octopus hook up through the tail. I prefer to keep the claws intact. I want the crawfish to do its job to attract a flathead. I also know that the fish won’t care about the little bit of it as it devours the little guy.

I will place my bait near an overhang, rock ledge, or other impassable cover and wait for the flatheads to come out to grab it.

These tiny devils are easy to hook.

This man is a great example of a gentleman who does a wonderful job.

Live ShadIdeal for large catfish

The vibrating excitement of a live fish on your hook can send vibrations through the water. This, along with the strong scent of its blood and slime, can draw blues and flatheads into the area to have a look.

Channel cats are mostly scavengers but their larger relatives love live bait and any cat that is over 10 pounds will want to eat a live bait.

Shad is my favorite. They shed their scales just like teenagers spend money. And they are strong enough to take a hook and keep going. Cats love small fish and they are natural prey for them.

Take a look at our recommendations for live bait buckets

Shading: Recommended Technique

For big cats, shade from about 2 inches to palm size is a good choice.

Large cats love small shad and will take any opportunity to catch them. I prefer shad between 2 and 3 inches in size and have caught large cats on both.

I prefer to use a Gamakatsu’s 6/0 or 8/0 Gamakatsu 4X Strong Octopus hook. The shad should be alive and well to create the excitement that drives cats wild. The hook must be run through the shad in such a way as to secure the live bait and keep it alive as long as possible.

Lip hooking and tail hooking are my preferred methods. They create intense action from the bait while keeping it swimming for longer periods of time than other methods.

A Three-Way Rig is my favorite way to run my shad.

The Three-Way Rig is a familiar concept for most men. It consists of the mainline that runs to a three-way swivel, which holds both a sinker and dropper line.

A simple three-way swivel can be a great tool for catfish.

This rig is heavy enough to keep your shad close to the bottom. It will also swim crazily around the mainline to attract big cats. I give my shad a foot of dropper and sinker line to keep them off the mud so they can hear the dinner bell.

You can also opt for the modified dropper loop, which skips the three-way pivot.

This rig is very popular for surfing fishing but works great for catfish!

It’s very popular in salt and is at home in your local reservoir or river.

Andy from CoastfishTV is the best way I have seen.

Nightcrawlers –The Best Channel Catfish for Eating-Size

Nightcrawlers are another popular choice for men. They work well.

A mass of fast worms attached to a treble hook can be too much for cats to resist. They combine potent smell and vibration.

Recommendation

Another instance where I reach for a #5/#6 Mustad’s 4-x triple and a big slip flot like the Billy Boy 040 oval.

Nightcrawlers that are ideal for catfish are large–as big and as big as they can be found. My slip float and triple will be rigged so that the hook hangs above the bottom. This can range from 12 inches up to 4 to 5.

Then I wrap, pierce and hook a few worms. I try to keep them attached. I don’t care about how they look, as I’m not fishing to catch bass. I want to see a sufficient number of nightcrawlers to produce some motion and scent.

Punch and Dip BaitsBest for Channel Catfish in Moving Water

Punch and dip baits are the best way to get rid of the bad breath.

Punch and dip baits have the consistency you need to stick to your hook and disperse in slow-moving water. Every serious cat angler has their own secret recipe. Many of them involve fresh blood and as many other unpleasant odors as possible.

You don’t have to make them yourself, as there are many commercial options. These are generally used to dip worms such as Catfish Charlie’s and sponge-enhanced Hooks. However, high temperatures can cause these concoctions to liquefy, which can lead to poor performance.

Special tackle is required for a dip and punches baits.

To ensure that they remain thick and useful, I keep them in the sun or a large cooler with some ice. Some manufacturers even make special baits for the summer heat.

Catfish Charlie’s Blood Dip Bait is well-respected. I don’t know of any other. This thick bait is horrible to smell and summons cats up to hundreds of feet. It spreads easily in small currents and it works.

Secret-7 is another popular bait. This stuff is legitimate, there is no doubt about that!

Recommendation

I use thick rubber gloves to protect my hands and stir my bait using a stick.

I push my sponge hook into my bait using my stick. It is now covered in muck.

I love to make my own sponge hooks using #5 or #6 Mustad’s 4x triple.

This horrible bait is what I will use if I am fishing for cats in thick covers, such as stumps, blowdowns,, or other thick covers. A slip float makes it easy to suspend my hooks over mud, even on slick bottoms.

Bait 101: How to Choose the Right Bait for You Catfish!

You will be better able to choose the right bait for your situation and catfish if you have a better understanding of their behavior.

There are some common characteristics among all catfish. They have a smaller swim bladder than most other species which makes them neutrally buoyant. They hunt by smell, vibration,, and sight more than sight. But be aware of the “more” part.

Let’s take a closer look at each one to understand why they are important.

Neutral buoyancy –The swim bladders of all three catfish species–channel, flathead,, and blue–are small relative to their sizes. Because they don’t have to fight the natural tendency to rise, it makes it easier to hug the bottom to find food.

Cats will most likely be found near the bottom. However, that doesn’t mean they should be buried in the mud.

Olfactory dominant catfish have “taste buds” that allow them to taste and smell the water around them. This makes them excellent hunters in low light conditions, regardless of whether it’s due to turbidity and reduced sunlight.

This generally means that cats are more active in the dark and at dusk. This also means that strong scents are important, whether it’s the natural smell from a struggling minnow or the overwhelming stench of a punch bait.

However, there are important differences among the species. This will help you choose better baits.

Blue catfish These monsters are the largest of all three species and require a lot of food to sustain their weight. They are aggressive predators and will hunt down any food they find, but prefer live bait.

Blues are the most affected of the three species. They can be attracted to struggling live bait by the vibration. This makes sense considering their usual prey items, which include crawfish and frogs as well as minnows and snakes.

Channel catfish –Channel cats are the smallest of all three species. They can’t be picky. They are dominated by their senses of smell and taste. They will travel a great distance to find a tasty meal.

Channel cats love to smell, and they will eat anything that smells like chicken liver or punch baits.

Flathead catfish –Flatheads are nearly as large as blues and have feeding habits similar to their larger relatives, the channel cats. Flatheads are attracted to vibrations as well as smell so live bait is more effective than stink baits.

Homemade Catfish Bait

You might be interested in making your own bait at home. We are here to help! We have done all the research on homemade catfish baits, so you don’t have to!

As you will see, we have compiled the best catfish bait recipes and will share their secrets with you so you can make your own. It’s here:

Homemade Catfish Baits

Last Thoughts

There are no one-size-fits-all bait or technique that will work for every species. You need to be aware of the species you are angling for, and where you intend to fish.

With this information, you can make educated decisions about the bait that you should use and which technique to use to tilt the odds in your favor.

We’d love to hear if this article helped you catch more fish.

Leave a comment below

Lewis
Lewis Mark is a vastly experienced fly fisher. His encyclopedic knowledge of fly tying has led to start blog on fishing. He also review Fishing equipment based on his knowledge and experience.