The 6 BEST Baits for Summer Catfishing

The 6 BEST Baits for Summer Catfishing

The best baits for summer catfshing include live panfish, live perch, crayfish, and also Jell-O chicken. The summer time can be a great time to capitalize on the live bait bite.

The spawn has ended, it is about the end of June timeframe, and the fish are MAD! This time of year is the best time to get on a hot live bait bite.

Catfish love all kinds of live bait, but my personal favorite is bluegill. Bluegill can catch blues, channels, and flatheads.

Live bait is probably the most exciting way to catch catfish, and I will stand by that. So capitalize on the bite while it is here! Cut baits and other smelly baits also tend to be most effective in the warmer months, so there are alternatives if the fish aren’t biting live bait.


Panfish have been widely used as catfish bait for many years. Here in 2021, it is no different. Panfish are naturally preyed on by catfish so using them as bait only makes sense.

The size is perfect for catfish to fit their mouth and a catfish can easily run down a panfish. Anything from bluegill, green sunfish, redear sunfish, rockbass, etc…

My personal favorites are redear and bluegill. They just seem to get a bit more action, and you can catch a wide variety of sizes to experiment with.

The best way to use panfish is live in my opinion, but on days where the live bait bite is slow, they work as cut bait. It is best to keep one live and one cut bait out in the water to see what the fish craving that day.

For smaller panfish, I just cut them in half, and use a head piece and the body piece. This bait can catch channel, blue, and flathead catfish.


Perch are a very common baitfish to use for a multitude of species. Perch also very in species across North America, so use what is in your area.

The most common species are Yellow perch, white perch, and Sacramento perch. These fish are relatively easy to catch, and they are great live bait.

They seem to stay on the hook better than panfish, and also tend to live a bit longer. Catfish love perch, as they are a natural food source in the river to them.

The summer time is when perch are plentiful, so this is when catfish tend to feed on them the most. Be sure to always check your local regulations to see if you are allowed to use these fish for bait.

Live perch is best for blue, channel, and flathead catfish.

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Crayfish can be a very deadly catfish bait. They are plentiful across North America, and are fairly easy to catch. Now it is very possible to catch different species on crayfish, such as bass, panfish, and even turtles!

So if you are fishing an area with a lot of by catch, crayfish may not be the bait for you. You can use them alive and dead, but for the big catfish it is best to use them live.

In the summer there are tons of crayfish here in my local river, so I just know that the fish are gorging on them. They are an easy meal for most fish, as they can’t get away that fast.

Whether you just use the tail meat, or use them live you will be surprised by the results.


Shad is obviously a big staple of the catfishing community. This is the main go to bait for most catfisherman.

It works great all year, and is a great natural baitfish for catfish. You can use them alive or dead, and finds some amazing results.

The only issue with shad is that they are not always accessible by everyone. You might get lucky and find some at your local bait shop, or maybe you have a boat to go out and use a throw net.

During the shad run in the late march to late may timeframe, this is a chance to stock up with shad for the rest of the season.

Be sure and check your local regulations to see if it is okay to possess shad in your local waters.

Jell-O Garlic Chicken

Okay, now we are getting into the baits that just seem to work better in the warmer months. No better way than to start it off with Jell-O chicken!

I had major doubts about this bait until I tried it myself. It really does work! It is very easy to make and extremely effective. All you need is chicken breast cut up, a jell-o packet, and some garlic powder.

The scent trail left by this bait does a great job at attracting catfish. The jell-o is in the mix to help toughen up the chicken so it stays on the hook better.

You really don’t need too big of a piece, so you can use it sparingly. This bait is best for channel catfish, but you can also get some nice blues using jell-o chicken.

Garlic Chicken Liver

Garlic liver is a bait I really haven’t seen many people using. I have always had success with it, even in locations I was new to fishing. This is really just the jack of all trades bait that can always get me a bite, no matter what the location.

All you have to do is pour some garlic powder in a tub of chicken liver, and you’re good to go. Chicken liver is somewhat tricky to keep on the hook, so you can use roe sacks or magic thread to help with this issue.

The summer time is the best time to use this bait, although it will produce year-round. The scent slick is unbelievable, and you go home smelling like olive garden instead of stinky fish.

This bait is best used for channel catfish, but I have caught blues on it as well. This bait is worth a try, especially because it is so accessible and cheap.

Match the Hatch

The best bait is always going to be what the fish are naturally feeding on in the river. Keep this in mind when fishing, and keep an eye out for any baitfish nearby.

When I see bluegill lined across the shore, I use bluegill. When I see carp busting all over the water, I use carp.

Get as close as you can to what baitfish is in the area, because this is what the fish are already feeding on.

How to Rig Live Bait for Catfishing

There are a few different ways to hook live bait. The most common are nose hooked, tail hooked, and stinger rig.

If you want a full in depth look at catching live bait for catfish, check this out.

Nose hooked is the best way in my opinion, the fish seems to stay on better on the cast, and I have had no issues with hook up ratio. This also allows the fish to swim freely, as most fish love a natural presentation.

Drive the hook through the fish’s mouth up through the nose. Be sure not to go too far, or you’ll penetrate the fish’s brain.

Tail hooking your bait is another effective way of hooking live bait. This method however, can result in a lot of lost fish from casting off your bait.

You simply hook the fish above the lateral line, toward the meaty part of the tail. Be sure your hook is in solid, as it can easily pull through the fish.

It is a bit more challenging to cast your baitfish. Some people prefer this way as opposed to the lip hook, but I have seen no difference in hook up ratio.

The stinger rig is a mix of the nose hook and the tail hook. You basically combine the 2 to make a double hook rig. Your circle hook is in the nose, and you have a treble hook in the tail.

This will ensure the fish will get hooked even if it bites short. This rig is extremely effective for flathead catfish, as they can be very finicky biters.

This rig is also good for casting bigger baits, as it is best to have 2 points of contact when casting big baits.  


The summer time is one of the best times to get out and find a good bite. Use these baits to your advantage to find some fish!

Be sure and stay tuned into my Youtube Channel to stay up to date on all my adventures!

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