Catfish are one of the most popular fish species in the US and can be found in many rivers, lakes, and reservoirs across the country. They fight hard, grow to large sizes, and are a great table fair. Channel cats, flatheads, and blue cats can be caught using a variety of different baits, however, the following is a list of the ten best catfish baits that have proven to be top cat-producing options throughout the season.
Table of Content:
1 – 5: Live Bait Options
6 – 7: Premade Baits/ Canned Baits
8 – 10: Grocery Store Options
Top 10 Best Catfish Baits
Nightcrawlers might be the most widely available catfish bait. They can be found all across the country in just about every bait or tackle store. Whether you buy them or go dig them up yourself, nightcrawlers are a staple in the catfishing world and catch catfish of all different sizes. One benefit of using nightcrawlers is that they tend to work day in and day out in all different types of catfishing scenarios.
Gizzard shads are oily baitfish that you can find in prepackaged bags or fresh at lots of bait shops around the country. These fish give off a ton of scent in the water and can pull fish from heavy cover. They can be fish as cut bait, or whole if you are targeting larger cats. If you are looking for another oily fish and unable to find shad, skip jack herring is a great substitute and works just as well.
Fresh Cut Sucker
A freshly cut sucker might be the most commonly used cut bait in the catfish world. White suckers are found in just about every body of water catfish swim in and are a common food source for blues, channels, and flatheads. The scent is key when it comes to catfish and cut suckers give off a ton of scent in the water. They can be found at most bait stops. When it comes to using suckers I lean towards “the fresher the better” so I prefer to chunk them up as I need them, while keeping the others stored and alive in an aerated bait cooler. It just seems that the bigger fish in the system tends to favor the freshly cut pieces.
One of the best catfish baits for big fish is bluegills. Similar to the white sucker, they are found in just about every body of water catfish are in and are a common food source. They can be used whole or as cut bait. Most anglers tend to catch their own because they are so common in so many places. Do check your state’s regulations, because bluegills are not legal to use as bait everywhere.
In states where it isn’t legal to use bluegills as bait, bullheads are another great option. They are a tough, hardy fish and are one of the best catfish baits, particularly for big flatheads. When hooked they rarely stop swimming, so they are always giving off a lot of vibrations in the water. They can be found in a good number of bait shops, however, most anglers tend to catch them on their own. One huge benefit to using bullheads is that they can live for weeks or longer in storage if cared for properly. Bullheads are a must if you plan on targeting big flathead catfish.
Stink bait comes in a variety of different forms from dough balls made with chicken blood, to cheese-scented chunks. No matter what kind of stink bait you buy the common denominator between them all is that they give off a strong odor and work great to attract hungry catfish. One nice benefit of using stink bait is that you can store it for an extended period of time without the worry of it going bad. It doesn’t require the maintenance live bait does. It can be found at most tackle or bait shop
Punch bait is another form of stink bait, but the method of baiting it to the hook is different. Instead of coming in a ball or perform cube, punch bait comes in a large mass. You bait it by sticking your hook into the container and then pulling it out at an angle with the punch bait in tow. Most anglers use treble hooks when using punch bait because it keeps the bait on better. You can buy punch bait in a large quantity and it’s one of the best catfish baits for smaller to mid-size catfish.
Shrimp is a very productive grocery store catfish bait option. It stays on the hook well and catfish love it. It can cost a little more than some of the other options, but it’s hard to argue with the results it produces. Its fishy smell is great for attracting numbers 0f hungry catfish.
Chicken livers are a great option for those looking to catch numbers of small to mid-sized catfish. They are affordable and can be found at many local grocery stores. They have a very strong scent in the water but tend to lose that scent after about an hour, so you’ll want to change baits fairly often. The one downside to chicken livers is that they can be difficult to bait up. They have a tendency to fall off the hook so try to be gentle when casting it out.
It wouldn’t be my first grocery store choice, but if you’re in a pinch and looking for some catfish bait, plain hotdogs actually work really well. They give off a good scent in the water, stay on the hook well and work great for those “eater-sized” catfish. They can be found at just about any gas station or grocery store and are a cheap option that works.