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The best catfish bait to catch monster catfish

Updated on June 28, 2013

What can you use as catfish bait and what is the best catfish bait? These are the two most popular questions asked by all anglers that want to catch large catfish, which is not really surprising. If you want to bag yourself a large catfish and want to know what catfish bait to use then please do check out the rest of this page.

First off, catfish are scavengers, a bit like underwater vultures, and will scour the bottom of the river bed or lake bed looking for food morsels. The easiest way to catch large catfish is to wait for the catfish to come and find you, and this involves using the smelliest and most pungent catfish bait you can find. In fact, the smellier the catfish bait the better.

Catfish are omnivorous and will eat anything therefore catfish bait can consist of anything you like. Worms, maggots, shrimp, fish and even other catfish can all be used as catfish bait. However, it is worth remembering that these baits attract other species of fish and you will have to "fish through these" to get to the catfish. When choosing the best catfish bait you need to keep in mind the other species of fish you are likely to encounter in the river or lake you are fishing and adapt your methods accordingly.

Best catfish bait - Halibut pellets

When I go fishing for catfish my catfish bait of choice is the halibut pellet which is effectively a very large trout pellets. Halibut pellets are typically 35mm - 40mm which means they too big for smaller species of fish although large carp will also take a halibut pellet. Catching other species of fish when you are targeting a specific fish can be annoying but I don't find this too much f a problem because large carp put up a great scrap when hooked and they are also fun to catch.

When I want to stop large carp taking the halibut pellet before the catfish have a chance to find it I will use two halibut pellets on the fish hook. Tow halibut pellets look huge but the catfish has a massive mouth and can easily devour two halibut pellets in one go.

Halibut pellets have high oil content and smell very strong. Many people think it is the high oil content that makes halibut pellets such good catfish bait, and I have to say I agree with this. As the halibut pellet breaks down it leaves a thick, oily trail in the water that is strong smelling and will attract any catfish that is scavenging for food.

You need warm water for halibut pellet to be effective catfish bait. A halibut pellet dissolves and breaks down in warm water, hence releasing the natural oils. The warmer the water the quicker a halibut pellet dissolves and the longer and more pungent the trail.

It is not possible to put halibut pellets no a fish hook in the same way you would a worm, for example. Halibut pellets are hard and the hook will not go through them, however there are a few ways to hook a halibut pellet such as using glue or bait bands. In my experience the best way of getting a halibut pellet (or two) on a fish hook is to use a hair rig. Many people think the hair rig is a carp fishing rig only, however it is a rig that I frequently use to catch large catfish.

In my opinion, halibut pellets are by far the best catfish bait in the summer months, and the best thing is they are cheap and readily available.

Best catfish bait - Dead fish

Halibut pellets are only effective catfish bait when used in warm water in the summer months. It is the warm water that makes the pellet breakdown and release all its high attractant oils to pull in the catfish. The colder the water temperature the longer it takes a halibut pellet to breakdown, and there are times when the water is so cold the halibut pellet simply will not breakdown and release its natural oil.

We have already discovered catfish are omnivorous and will eat anything therefore the only catfish bait I use in the winter months is other fish. In my part of the world there are a lot of Northern pike, a predatory fish that survives eating other fish. Unlike catfish northern pike have razor sharp teeth that can easily cut through monofilament line therefore I always use a wire trace when using dead fish for catfish bait, just in case I hook in to a stray northern pike.

In order to make dead fish more smelly and pungent, i.e. to attract the catfish, I gently crush the fish and break the skin to release some natural oils and fish "guts" in to the water, both of which attract the catfish. There are times when I inject the dead fish catfish bait with a liquid fish oil additive to add even more attractant.

There are many ways you can fish dead bait, however I have had the most success using a large sinker and pinning the dead fish catfish bait to the bottom of the water. Catfish are bottom feeders therefore this method makes more sense than suspending a dead fish catfish bait beneath a bobber.

During the winter months you can't beat using dead fish as catfish bait, and it is a catfish bait that has accounted for the capture of many large catfish.

Using live fish as catfish bait

Some anglers use live fish for catfish bait, however I have to admit that I am not one of them. The thought of impaling a live creature on a hook and using it as catfish bait turns my stomach bit and I simply can’t do it. Besides, catfish will eat anything that it comes across so I often think what is the point of using live fish as catfish bait when a dead fish will do?

If you have any comments, suggestions, rants or raves please feel free to note them in my guestbook. Similarly, if you know of any other top catfish fishing bait please do share.

I welcome your comments - Any raves or rants?

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      Gary 32 hours ago

      I have always used live bait for flathead in Oklahoma that what they want to eat here they like to crush the fish and then eat it

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      Daniel 20 months ago

      Another great warm weather catfish bait is chicken entrails. The intestines are rather nasty to handle and hook up, so I suggest washing your hands in the stream which will add to the "slick". Chicken livers and gizzards are also excellent baits, with gizzards being the more durable of the two. If using livers and gizzards I would recommend a triple hook, as livers have difficulty staying on a single hook.

      My experience using these baits is that the catfish does not "nibble at the bait". They smash it like a starving man hitting a buffet, so don't be messing about or preparing a smoke or you might lose your fishing rod.

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      MT 20 months ago

      Live bait is almost the only way to effectively target Falthead. Occasionally you can get them to strike on the abovee mentioned but they prefer live bluegill, bullhead, creek chub etc..