What is the Best Bait for Catfish?

What is the Best Bait for Catfish?

What is it? Why should you use it? Types of tshirt

Key takeaways

  •  Different catfish like different baits. Channel cats like prepared dips and hotdogs, blues go for cut bait, and flatheads prefer live fish.
  •  Bait size matters. Use small bait for 1-2 lb catfish, but big chunks for trophy fish.
  •  Late afternoon, evening, and early morning are the best times to catfish. Avoid the midday heat.

Heading out to catch catfish? Choosing the appropriate bait is important for your fishing mission. Catfish rely on their keen sense of smell and taste to locate food. Selecting the right bait can effectively attract catfish and increase your chances of landing a catch.

Different catfish species have varying preferences when it comes to bait, so understanding these differences is necessary to optimize your fishing strategy. There are several catfish species with unique traits and bait preferences. The three biggest in the US are channel, blue, and flathead catfish.

Table of Contents

Channel Catfish

By Duane Raver - U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service ( https://digitalmedia.fws.gov/digital/collection/natdiglib/id/25296
By Duane Raver - U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service ( https://digitalmedia.fws.gov/digital/collection/natdiglib/id/25296

Channel catfish are widespread opportunistic feeders that take various baits like prepared dips and hotdogs. They reach 40 pounds, with the record at 58 pounds. Smaller 1-4 pounders are prized eating fish.

Blue Catfish

Blue catfish are North America's largest, exceeding 100 pounds and historically reaching 350 pounds. Found in major rivers, they're targeted with cut bait like shad.

By Duane Raver - U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service ( https://digitalmedia.fws.gov/digital/collection/natdiglib/id/25296
By Duane Raver - U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service ( https://digitalmedia.fws.gov/digital/collection/natdiglib/id/25296

Flathead Catfish

Flatheads also top 100 pounds and prefer live bait in deep, slow pools. They're among the best-tasting catfish species.

Engbretson, Eric / U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Engbretson, Eric / U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Choosing the Right Bait Size for Different Catfish Species

Channel Catfish

Prepared Baits

When targeting channel catfish, you'll find that prepared baits such as dip and punch baits are highly effective, especially for catching large numbers of fish. Dip baits have a thin consistency that you can use in conjunction with small tubes, worms, or sponges to hold the bait on your hook. Punch baits, with their thicker texture, are also a popular choice among anglers when targeting channel catfish.

Using Tubes, Worms or Sponges

To use dip and punch baits well for channel catfish, you often need small tubes, worms, or sponges to keep the bait stuck on the hook. These things help stop the bait from washing off easily in the water, so it stays looking tasty to the catfish for longer.

Blue Catfish and Cut Bait

Adjusting Bait Size

When using cut bait for blue catfish, think about the bait size compared to the fish you're using and the catfish you want to catch. The cut bait size should match the situation.

Smaller Bait for Smaller Catfish

For little blue catfish around 1-2 pounds, or even channel catfish, use smaller pieces of cut bait. Small chunks are easier for the fish to eat and they won't be scared to bite. Matching the bait size to the catfish size helps you catch more. Bigger baits might get wasted on smaller fish.

Larger Bait for Trophy Catfish

If you want to catch really big trophy blue catfish, use bigger pieces of cut bait. These big fish need more food to fill up and will go for larger bait chunks. When using bigger fish like carp for bait, you'll need to fillet them and cut the fillets into strips or chunks that are still big enough to tempt trophy catfish.

Other Popular and Effective Catfish Baits

Live Bait for Bigger Catfish

You'll want live bait like minnows and small fish when going for bigger catfish species like flatheads. These big predator catfish love to hunt live prey, so live baitfish are hard for them to resist. Just be sure to use appropriately sized live bait for the catfish to easily eat.

Special Prepared Baits

Besides dip and punch baits, you can get lots of other special prepared catfish baits with ingredients like chicken liver, blood, cheese, and garlic. The mix of strong smells creates a potent scent trail that attracts catfish.

Simple Baits Like Hotdogs

While some anglers use specialty baits, simple everyday items like hotdogs can work really well too, especially for channel catfish. The salty, meaty smell and firm texture really appeals to channels.

Worms for Smaller Catfish

Live worms and nightcrawlers are a classic go-to when targeting smaller catfish species. These natural baits give off subtle but enticing scents and movements that attract catfish. They're especially good for smaller channels and bullheads.

Best Times to Go Catfishing with Bait

Evening and Late Afternoon

Many catfish anglers have the most success fishing in the late afternoon and evening hours as catfish tend to get more active and ready to eat when the day cools down. The lower light and temperatures seem to trigger a feeding response.

Early Morning

Early mornings around sunrise are also an excellent time for catfishing on bait. Catfish are often actively feeding after being less active overnight, taking advantage of the cooler water and low light.

Avoid the Midday Heat

There tends to be a noticeable lull in the hottest midday hours when catfish become less active and interested in feeding. Focus your fishing efforts during the cooler times for best results.


Picking the right bait is key to catching catfish. Different kinds of catfish like different baits, so it's important to match your bait to the type of catfish you want to catch. This will help you catch more fish.

You have lots of good bait options, like prepared baits, cut bait, live bait, and even everyday things like hotdogs and worms. Try out different baits and methods to see what works best for you and the specific catfish you're after.

Keep in mind things like bait size, the best times to go fishing, and mistakes to watch out for. If you know what you're doing and come prepared, you'll be catching plenty of catfish in no time. Enjoy your catfishing trip!

Stay up to date with the latest fishing techniques, news, and insider tips by visiting the Baitium blog.



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