Choosing the Best Baits for Catching Catfish

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Choosing the Best Baits for Catching Catfish


A common misconception is that catfish will eat anything, from stinky cheese to bits of hot dogs.  While it is true that catfish are not the most discriminating connoisseurs out there, there are some baits that they will more-likely seek out than others.  Knowing how to optimize your catfish baiting options can lead to more frequent catches, and with any luck, you can also catch bigger fish at the same time.



Did you know that most adult catfish prefer to feed off of live fish?  Some species feed exclusively on small fish as opposed to the dozens of other popular catfish baits out there.  This is one of the reasons that so many people end up catching smaller fish, and smaller fish translate into more time and effort being spent catching, preparing and cooking them.  So, the next time you’re out catfishing, consider using shad, and try to find live fish whenever possible.  As grizzly as it sounds, cutting the fish and letting it thrash and bleed in the water can be an irresistible temptation for a big, hungry catfish. 

However, many anglers swear have great success when cutting off the head and tail of the shad before cutting the body into chunks or strips of meat.  Remember to cut the pieces into sizes appropriate for the fish that you’re trying to catch, as well as those that are nibbling on your line.  Chunks that are too small may not attract big fish, but baits that are too big may not fit into the mouths of smaller fish.  Be prepared to improvise on the fly in order to have the most success.

Chicken Livers


Chicken livers are probably the most popular and universal baits used to catch big and meaty catfish.  The livers are stinky, oily and release their pungent aroma as they are hanging on the end of your line.  Chicken livers are also cheap, and you can easily find them at many bait shops along with local butchers or grocery stores.  However, try to get the freshest and moist livers possible in order to attract as many fish as possible.  Chances are that fish around 10lbs or less will be more than happy to swallow the liver if it comes their way.



This is probably the most under-used baits for catfish out there, yet they are also very effective.  This is especially true in areas where catfish normally feed off of these little bottom-dwellers.  There are differing opinions as to how to hook the crawfish.  Some have more success when placing the hook through the tail so the bait will squirm around.  This will indicate to the catfish that it’s injured and makes for an easy meal. 

Others suggest removing the head and pincers before placing the hook through the front instead.  Try both methods and see which one works best for you.  You can also use dead crawfish as long as they’re fresh, but try to give your line a jiggle here and there in order to give the appearance that the bait is moving along the bottom.

Night Crawlers


This popular standard bait is also a delectable treat for a hungry catfish, and they won’t think twice about feeding off a good-sized worm.  However, the trick is is to figure out how much to use given the conditions that you’re fishing under.  For smaller fish, a small wad of worm on a hook will be just fine.  However, if you’re after big catfish, you may need to hook up two or three worms in order to make the bait as appealing as possible.

The aim here is to think of these and other baits that may help to target your efforts more efficiently.  Hopefully, they can help you to catch bigger fish in a shorter amount of time.  However, catfish are scavengers by nature, so you don’t have to give up on the hot dogs and cheese either.  Learn more about the eating habits of catfish in your area or favorite fishing spot, adapt as necessary, and chances are that you will start seeing an improvement in the quantity and quality of the fish that you can catch.