Hi, Luke Here with CatsandCarp.com and I am
going to show my top 8 favorite catfish baits and walk you through their pro’s and con’s.
Over the years I have been very fortunate to catch a lot of great catfish from bank
and from boat, from lake and from rivers. And I have learned a few things about bait.
First off, there is no bait that works good in every single situation. Different types
of catfish and different types of water require different types of bait. And while shad may
catch much bigger blue catfish than chicken livers, there is a time when you want to use
chicken livers and not shad. And there is a time when hotdogs works better. And there
is a time when worms work betters and there are times when they don’t
Now obviously there are many catfish baits out there, but to make my top 8 this must
be a bait that consistently catches catfish in many different places and many different
times of year. I also wanted baits that work well for the different types of catfish: channel
catfish, blue catfish, white catfish, flathead catfish and bullheads.
To make the list, a bait must also be easy to find. For instance, cicadas are an awesome
channel catfish bait, but I didn’t put cicadas on the list because they are not available
most of the time. Live eels are another great catfish bait that didn’t make the lists,
because they are only found in certain bodies of water and only a few states allow you to
fish with eels. Number 1:
Number one on the list is schooling bait fish. When I say schooling bait fish I am talking
about. Gizzard shad, threadfin shad, American shad, hickory shad, skipjack, herring, mooneye
and golden eye. Large schools of bait fish are a key ingredient
in growing large catfish. Almost every body of water that contains trophy sized catfish
also contains large schools of bait fish. And the size and population of the bait are
linked to the size of the catfish. The James River in Virginia produces insane
numbers of trophy catfish. 60-80 lb catfish are regularly caught and many catfish guides
on the James will give you half your money back if you don’t catch a 30lber or bigger.
The James River produces huge numbers of trophy blue catfish because the river contains huge
schools of massive gizzard shad as well as hickory shad, American shad and herring. The
gizzard shad on the James River are also much larger than the average gizzard shad, normally
1-3 lbs each. Big shad make big catfish. In places where there are lots of schooling
bait fish, the catfish start their lives eating anything they can fit in their mouths. But
as the catfish grow, more and more of their diet becomes these schooling baitfish. In
many rivers school baitfish make up 90% of the trophy catfish’s diet.
Large catfish, choose locations based on their access to these bait fish, and that is what
they are looking for and that is what they are feeding on. Fresh caught baitfish produces
more trophy catfish than any other catfish bait.
Schooling bait fish are also easy to catch in large numbers. Throwing a cast net is the
most common way to catch these fish. In some places gill nets are allowed. Snagging, Dip
nets and an umbrella nets can also be used effectively where it is legal. Usually, I
can catch all the shad I need for the day in 30 minutes of less. For more information
about catching and freezing shad for catfishing check out this video.
Mooneye, Golden eye, herring, American shad and Hickory shad will actually bite a hook.
Sabiki rigs, small twisty tailed grubs and shad darts are popular lures. Small chunks
of worms or crickets under a bobbers can work good for mooneye and golden eye. Steve Douglas
has a great video demonstrating how to catch mooneye with bait and a bobber.
The biggest down side to these bait fish is that many of them are particularly fragile
and are hard to keep alive if you want to use them for live bait. For instance, usually
about half your gizzard shad will die in the live well within an hour or two of catching
them unless you are extremely careful and have a large well oxygenated live well. There
are some commercially available additives that you can place in your live well to keep
these fish alive longer. Number 2: Spinney bait fish.
Spinney bait fish are fish that have spinney dorsal fins, like blue gill, sunfish, pumpkin
seed, white bass and bullheads. These bait fish are easy to catch. They work
as bait in almost any place that has big catfish and they are all very tough so they make excellent
live bait. These types of live bait fish will catch all four species of catfish, the only
difference is the preferred sizes. Because live bait is so popular with flathead fisherman,
many flathead guides prefer spinney bait fish over more fragile bait fish, like shad.
The best ways to catch spinney bait fish is with a rod and a reel. A little bait under
a bobber can get you a ton of bream. Check out this other video for information about
catching bluegill on slim jims and how to keep them alive for catfishing.
Fish traps, like this four leaf clover trap can also catch a load of blue gill. We also
have a great instructional video about how to make your own four leaf clover trap.
The biggest downside to live bait is that prep time in catching it and keeping it alive.
And when using live bait make sure you obey local laws and catch your bait from the same
body of water where you will be fishing so as to avoid spreading diseases, parasites
of introducing non native fish. Number 3: Rough fish.
Rough fish are non-sports fish that aren’t commonly fished for. Carp, goldfish, suckers,
quillbacks, carp suckers, fall fish, chubs and buffalo. These fish make fabulous live
bait and they tend to draw in really big flatheads. On average, most of these fish can get pretty
big, so you have a range of sizes to choose from. You can use a baby carp that is only
4 inches long or you can fish for trophy flatheads with a 4 lb live carp.
However, this variation in size can also be a problem. Not only do you have to catch your
bait, but you have to catch them in the correct size. If you are fishing for 4 to 5 lb channel
catfish, you don’t want a 10” fish. You want something a few inches long.
Additionally, these fish tend not to be schooled up or thickly concentrated so it can take
a long time to catch enough bait. I usually need about 12 fish to go night fishing with
live bait. It takes me less than 30 minutes to catch 12 shad, but it can take me an entire
day to find that many fall fish or baby carp. Rough fish can be caught using rod and reel,
cast nets, seines, and fish traps. In rivers where there are lots of fall fish, I like
to use a small white soft plastic minnow on an ultra light rod. I find that worms or a
seine net work best for suckers. Buffalo and carp can be caught on sweet corn or cast nets.
Because these most rough fish don’t have spines and they are bigger than most bait
fish, I think catfish prefer these fish over blue gills or white bass, but because these
fish are harder to consistently catch and keep alive, they are not a bait source that
most of us can rely on. Number 4 Boilies
Boilies are small boilied balls of bait that are used by carp fisherman and European catfisherman.
Unlike a lot of American catfish baits, boilies are not messy and generally non-perishable.
Boilies come in all flavors and a variety of sizes.
Boilies are so effective, that most US carp fisherman have trouble keeping catfish off
their hooks long enough to catch a carp. My favorite boilie flavors are Crab & Crayfish,
Halibut and plum. The biggest down side to boilies is their
cost (About $5-$10 for a 2 Kg bag). You can make your own boilies or buy them online and
I will include links in this video’s description. Generally boilies are attached to your hook
with a hair rig, a baiting needle and a bait stop. I have several videos showing how to
tie a hair rig and how to attach a boilie. Boilie work incredibly well for channel catfish
and small blue catfish, but occasionally they will work for flatheads too. I caught this
53 lb flathead on a single boilie. Number 5: Boilied feed corn.
Boilied feed corn is great for nice channel cats and small blue catfish. Boilied feed
corn is super cheap. I can buy a 50 lb bag of dried feed corn for $12. That 50 lb bag
will make about 200 lbs of wet bait. That is a lot of catfish bait.
To prepare feed corn, simply soak it for 12 hours and then boil it until it squishes between
your fingers. I then chum piles of feed corn and cast a small #1 to #4 hook with two kernels
of corn on it. A hair rig also work really well when fishing with feed corn.
I catch a lot of carp and catfish with this technique.
Some people like to ferment their corn first, but I prefer it fresh.
Sour wheat, is a very similar chum. Its soaked and fermented wheat or barely grain that is
used a catfish chum. I prefer corn because it’s cheaper and you can use it as a hook
bait as well as a chum but wheat does work really well also.
The biggest downside to this bait is the preparation to make it and the fact that it tends to not
work well for bullheads or flatheads or large blue catfish.
Number 6: Chicken Liver Chicken livers are a classic bait for channel
catfish and small to medium sized blue catfish. Chicken liver really puts out a strong scent
trail and it catches a lot of fish. The biggest problems with liver are that they come off
the hook so easily. Some people prefer rooster liver or beef liver because it’s a little
bit tougher though harder to find. You can prevent chicken liver from coming off the
hook by using bait bags, surgical gauze, panty hose, curing the liver, bait thread or even
a the egg loop knot. For more information watch our video on the 6 best ways to keep
liver on the hook. Chicken livers are also extremely perishable,
they go rancid quite quickly so if I don’t end up using the liver pretty quickly I end
up throwing it out. Some people like to ferment their livers but my experience is that it
is just a great way to make a huge mess without making your bait any better.
Number 7: is Hot dogs. Hot dogs are a really nice channel catfish
bait without the mess or perishability of chicken liver. They also stay on the hook
better. However, I don’t think hotdogs are as consistently good as chicken liver or these
other bait and they tend to catch smaller catfish.
I like to cut up my hot dogs into sections and marinate them in jello mix and garlic
powder. This toughens, preserves and flavors the hot dogs a little bit better.
Number 8: Earthworms Earthworms are fabulous for bullheads and
small channel catfish but their biggest problem is that all fish love earthworms. You end
up losing a lot of bait to bluegill, trout, bass, perch and really tiny catfish. Paying
for your earthworms can also be a big downer, but if you want to learn how to catch your
own earthworms check out some of our videos about catching earthworms with dish soap,
walnuts, electricity or grunting. Well any rate, I hope this list of my top
8 catfish baits gives you some ideas but I also hope it gets you thinking about mixing
up your baiting routine. There is a time and a place for almost every catfish bait, and
the trick it not to only use one bait, but to learn when and where to use each of the
different baits. Thanks for watching and if you want to see
more videos from the Catfish and Carp YouTube channel check out How to catch catfish with
boilies and How to catch tons of blue gill with slim jims. Thanks for watching and don’t
forget to click “Subscribe”.