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The Only Definitive Catfish Bait Guide You'll Need

If you want to put more catfish in the grease, you need a catfish bait guide to put the right bait in front of the right type of catfish.

Not all catfish baits work for all types of catfish. Many think a catfish is just a catfish; the thought is they all look the same, smell the same, and live in the same water, so they must all eat the same things. The fact is that blue catfish, channel catfish, and flathead catfish may have their similarities, but each have a different preference for lunch. A catfish bait guide can put you on more fish.


I will not debate that at any given time you are likely to catch catfish on the strangest of things. I have caught them on everything from a Mepps lure to a hot dog. If you're looking to consistently catch catfish though, you have to use what they eat day in and day out for bait.

Blue catfish are always looking to eat. They prefer fresh caught threadfin shad, gizzard shad, and skipjack herring. I know some will argue, but I prefer to use fresh caught bait rather than frozen bait. In my opinion, there is no need to go the extra mile to keep the bait alive, blue cat will hit a freshly caught whole shad or herring all day. Many prefer and I have had good luck with freshly caught cut shad as well. Whether you prefer to fish with the shad whole or cut into chunks, either will catch blue catfish.

If shad or herring are not available, any of the following are a good second choice:

  1. Carp
  2. Drum
  3. Buffalo
  4. Brim
  5. Perch

I have had better luck with blue cat when this bait is caught and cut. The rule of thumb is the more oily a bait fish is, the better catfish bait it will make.

If your target is channel catfish, its best not to use the same strategy you did for blue cat. Channel cat want an easy meal, they are scavengers and will eat live or dead bait. Many take advantage of the its scavenger senses and use stink baits and prepared baits to catch them. I have had luck with frozen shrimp, but have caught much more with stink baits.

I understand stink baits are messy and your hands smell for a couple days, but I prefer stink baits or shad guts. My uncle Harold had a secret stink bait recipe, but man it was ripe. As bad as it smelled, it never failed to catch channel cat. I have caught a lot channel cat off the rocks of the Winganon bridge just west of Winganon Oklahoma on shad guts and a slip bobber.


Flathead catfish are different than channel cat that they prefer active bait. The more the bait moves the better. I prefer small brim or perch, but have had luck with gold fish as well. If I am using a trot line, I prefer to use crawfish. Don't expect a trip to catch flathead catfish to be full of fast paced action, because that is certainly not the norm. That's why I typically catch my flatheads with a trot line.

I know there are those who do well with cut bait for flathead's, but the cut bait needs to be fished in a current. The bait needs to move some to really attract flatheads. They don't normally scavenge the bottom eating any dead thing they can find.

My uncle Tyke and aunt Joyce caught an 88-pound flathead on a surf rod, from a small 12-foot boat. My aunt Joyce actually thought she was snagged. The brim they were using would wrap themselves around a submerged log from time to time. You normally had to break your line off and re-tie to keep fishing.

Aunt Joyce handed Tyke her pole to free her line, he soon realized she was not snagged. She had a monster on the line. He felt the line pull and set the hook. The big fish finally began to move. The fish actually pulled the boat around and they were glad to let him tire himself out. Finally he pulled the boat into shallow water.

Tyke reeled the line up so he could see the fish beside the boat. He pulled the big fish up and grabbed it through the gills. There was no way to get the fish in the boat, so Tyke bailed out and pulled the fish to the bank.  They then drove around and pulled him into the truck.

Tyke's big catfish was a product of using the right bait on the right fish. He understood what flathead catfish preferred to eat and used that knowledge to catch a giant fish. Use this guide to help you plan your next fishing trip. With any luck, this catfish bait guide will help you put more fish in the grease!


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The Only Definitive Catfish Bait Guide You'll Need