Some of the best catfish bait you can buy is fresh carp, mackerel, shad, or even chicken breast, chicken liver and worms.
Fresh fish is probably the best type of bait you can buy for catfish. Anything from mackerel, shad, mullet, carp, and really any kind of smelly fish is great bait.
I also shoot for the more tough skinned fish like carp and shad, but the other choices will do fine. If you can match the hatch, than do it. If you have a ton of carp swimming in your river system, then it is best to use carp.
Just get as close to the natural baitfish as you can, if possible. Mullet and mackerel are saltwater fish, so you will probably not find them in your river. These fish have a great scent, and are very oily.
They make for a great catfish bait when you are unable to find your local baitfish at the store. You just need to be careful about putting mullet and mackerel on the hook, because it falls off easily.
You can find fresh fish at any international market, and the choices are usually pretty good. Also keep in mind that the fish you want will not always be in stock, so you may need to improvise.
I always like trying new species of fish; you never know what is going to work. I usually call around to all of my local international markets to see what is available.
Chicken breast is a very cheap and versatile bait in the catfish world. You can chop this up into cubes and use plain chicken.
You can also marinate this bait in Jell-o and garlic. People will swear that plain chicken works as well, or better than Jell-o chicken.
Chicken is so cheap, and is very under rated as bait. You can add just about any flavor you want to chicken. You can marinate it in blood, garlic, Jell-o, vanilla, really whatever you like to use. Definitely try out the Jell-o chicken, as you may be surprised by the potential.
A very easy recipe, cut your chicken into bait size pieces, pour in some strawberry jello, and add some garlic powder. Let this mixture sit overnight, and enjoy your bait!
The Jell-o helps to toughen up the chicken so it stays on better. The garlic is to add a bit of flavor in addition with the Jell-o.
I was not a believer in this bait until I tried it myself.
This is my favorite bait for fishing new locations. You can find it at any supermarket, and it is very cheap. Add some garlic powder to the mix and you have yourself awesome bait.
I have caught channel, blue, white, and bullhead catfish on this bait. It is always a safe bet when you’re just looking for a bite, or to catch a fish.
The scent trail left by garlic liver is extremely strong. I can usually attract a bite pretty fast when I am using this bait. Another added bonus is, instead of smelling like stinky baitfish when you come home, you smell like Olive Garden!
Shrimp is bait that is overlooked quite often. It is available at just about every supermarket, and can be great bait for catfish.
The way shrimp smells, and even the texture of it makes it great bait. It has a fresh scent, and also stay on the hook relatively well.
This is a bit like chicken, as you can add your own flavor to your bait. You can put garlic, anise, blood, etc… Shrimp does a good job at getting bites when the fishing is tough.
It is just a different type of bait that can get the bites.
Nightcrawlers are classic bait for a multitude of species. They work very well for catfish. I like using the larger ones, for some reason they seem to do better.
You can find worms at just about every Wal-Mart, or Bait Shop. They are pretty cheap, maybe 3-4$. The only problem with using worms is A LOT of fish species bite them.
If you are fishing in a area with a bunch of different species, it may not be a good move to use worms. Small bluegill, bass, and pretty much every other fish species will chew on a worm.
So pick a spot that has limited or no by species. To do this you can try targeting muddy water, as this will limit other species from feeding in the area.
Catch your bait if you can. Worms are plentiful all over the ground, soil, and even in the mud. This is so much better and cheaper than buying bait from the store. Here is a good read on catching your own catfish bait.
Artificial Baits (Dough baits/Punch baits)
Oh artificial baits, I really want to love them! I do. The concept is great, you can take your bait anywhere, any time, it does not need to be refrigerated, what is not to love?
Well, when they are up against almost every other bait, they lose. 99% of the time, any kind of fresh fish, or meat bait will out fish artificial baits.
When it comes down to it, catfish want something that smells natural, feels natural, and to achieve this you gotta use fresh bait.
If it is in between artificial bait or even hotdogs, I’ll go with the hotdogs. I don’t mean any disrespect to any punch bait, or dough bait companies, but personally, and you can search the results for yourself, it gets out fished by everything.
I can see them working maybe if this is all you have, and you have no other bait in the water. However, you could be getting many more bites and hookups from fresh bait.
I know I know, but just here me out. Hotdogs are actually very good bait! The amount of fat, and the scent trail that they leave is amazing for catfish.
I have caught a good amount of channel catfish using hotdogs! The only problem I have with them is that they do not stay on the hook very well.
They often fly off on the cast, or fall off on the reel in. People do like to marinate them in Jell-o to help toughen them up. I have never tried this myself, but I can see it working well.
This is great bait to use if you can’t seem to find any fresh fish, or you simply want to switch it up. I always say don’t knock it until you try it, so never be afraid to try out new baits.
You are probably thinking the same thing as me, but don’t judge a book by its cover! Spam has a great scent trail, much like hotdogs. It can be a great bait for catfish, especially when fishing on a budget.
It is thick, it cuts easily, and it stays on the hook very well. Channel catfish love smelly bait, so spam would be an awesome choice for them.
It is easy to carry with you, and you can reuse it if needed. Spam is widely used in the UK for the Wels catfish, and other species such as carp and perch.
It is not used too much over here in the states, but can still be a deadly weapon to have in your catfish gear.
You do not have limit yourself to these baits. Get creative, and see what works for you, in your body of water.
People will swear up and down on a bait, but it doesn’t perform the same in every location. I have gotten crafty a few times, and have mixed baits.
Sometimes I put a nightcrawler will a piece of cut fish, sometimes chicken liver with a piece of bluegill, you just never know until you try.
Do the tedious process of trial and error on your river system to see what works and what doesn’t.
Many people just think you can pull up to any spot and figure it out first day. This is the case sometimes, but for the most part it is going to take a while to figure out what the catfish are biting during certain time frames.
Catfish baits are filled with endless possibilities that can lead to to failure or success. You really have to experiment with baits to see what is working. One technique you can never go wrong with is matching the hatch.
Good luck to you all, now go catch some fish!
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