Channel catfish are the most abundant catfish in the U.S. They indeed are the most sought after catfish that angler’s fish for, simply because they will thrive in waters from big rivers to the local city pond and everything in between, they are very opportunistic and accessible to anyone.
Channel cats will eat just about anything you put in front of them and for this reason you have many choices. The best channel catfish baits are going to be the natural baits but they have been known to bite on everything from ivory soap to slim Jims.
However your choice of bait will depend on some factors: your time factor ( how much time do you have to find bait) Water temperature, time of day, and weather conditions are just some of the variables when choosing the best bait for catching channel catfish.
Below is a guideline for the best catfish baits that have been time tested and proven to catch catfish now!
Cut bait is the perfect bait to channel catfish, especially if you’re after the big ones. But don’t let that statement keep you from trying other baits as I said above that channel catfish are opportunistic feeders and bait selection will come down to how much time do you have to chase bait.
Cut baits cover a wide variety of fish baits it will really depend on the region you are fishing in and what is available to you. The most common ones are: shad, bluegill, sun fish, herring, perch, shiners, suckers and minnows. Some of these baits can be obtained at your local bait shop and others you will have to catch from the wild with a pan fish rod and reel combo. Make sure it is legal to use them in your area. I know that crappie is not legal in some states but is ok in others.
I cut them into 1in.X 1in.chunks depending on the size of the fish I’m targeting but the 1 inch chunks will be perfect for channel catfish in the 2-6 lb range which is a good national average for recreational anglers.
Night crawlers, garden worms and Catawba worms are all included here. These natural baits have been used I suppose since man invented fishing, and will defiantly catch catfish but are best used in the spring. Fish them around run offs, drainage ditches and creek mouths. The downside to worms is that all fish eat worms and you will find you are losing a lot of bait to the bait stealer’s such as sun fish and suckers or most any pan fish.
Prepared baits can be purchased at any tackle shop or your local Wal-mart. These manufactured baits can be very effective. They come in a variety of different choices from dough balls, dip bait, dehydrated and preserved. The dip bait seems to be the most popular among catfish anglers and works best in the warmer months. The prepared bait would be a good choice for anglers that don’t have a lot of time to actually fish; maybe they have a couple hours after work and just want to get away. Manufactured baits are easily obtained and have a pretty good shelf life.
Another great bait for those folks that don’t have a lot of time to catch wild bait; is fresh or frozen shrimp. You can easily purchase shrimp at your local grocery either with or without shell.. Depending on the size of the shrimp and the size of the bait you want you can use them whole or cut them in half. Again I personally would choose a more natural bait such as the shrimp and cut baits because of the scent and they stay on your hook and can be fished in fast currents when necessary and the pan fish will not bother them.
Still on the go and don’t have a lot of time?
Chicken liver can also be purchased at your local grocery store and are very good bait however they are tough to fish with because they do not stay on the hook well, most anglers will end up slinging the livers off on the initial cast and get frustrated. Anglers who do have good success with chicken livers will wrap them in pieces of old nylon stockings making it near impossible to sling off. Cut stockings into 2 in X 2in. squares and add a chunk of liver and wrap it and tie together using a small bread tie. Now take the chicken liver and attach it to the hook though the stocking. They will stay on the hook much better while the scent is still able to attract the catfish. Fish on the bottom and check your bait every 20-30 minutes. If all the blood is gone replace the bait.