Many anglers are taught to believe that catfish feed mainly on dead and stinking food, but that is a myth. It’s true that these types of baits do work in certain regions of the U.S. but that’s just because, all catfish are opportunist and won’t pass up a free meal. But actually, catfish consume much of their daily diet from live baitfish and invertebrates that are natural to their environment.
To be a successful catfish angler, you must first determine the species you will be targeting in the region in which you’re fishing and then select a bait that will be desired by the targeted species.
On this page, we will concentrate on the catfish baits commonly used for the following three species of catfish, the channel catfish, the blue catfish, and the flathead catfish but first we want to give you a brief background of each type.

Channel catfish are one of the most well know to the masses and is the most common sought after catfish by catfish anglers. The channel catfish in habitats a large portion of the U.S. They live from the northern states all the way into the southern states, And from the East coast to the West Coast with the exception of only a few areas. The channel catfish color can vary in color, depending on the water conditions it in habits, but most will start out with bluish gray with almost silver sides with small black dots. The color will change as it matures. Some larger channel catfish will be mistaken for a blue catfish however the anal fin on the channel catfish is much shorter than the blue catfish, and the tail has a deep fork in it.

Channel catfish are the know scavengers of the three species and is continuously being caught by anglers on a large array of offerings. From hotdogs to soap. But here are the top bait choices that will help to increase your chances for a more successful trip.   
Night crawlers and worms, cut/live bait (minnows, suckers, chubs, shiners, goldfish, shad, skipjack herring, bluegills) catalpa worms, grasshoppers, frogs, crayfish, raw shrimp, and blood/stink baits.

Size of the bait will depend on the size of channel catfish you are targeting.
1 to 4 lbers.  Use the smaller baits, 2-3 inch Minnows, worms and night crawlers, quarter size cut bait, raw shrimp, chicken livers and blood/stink baits.

5 lbs. and larger.  Use the larger bait choices, live whole or cut shad, bluegills/heads, chubs/cut, suckers/cut, pretty much all of the above. The larger mature channel catfish will take a larger bait, the more natural baits listed, will increase your chances of landing a bigger channel catfish.

The blue catfish looks allot like the channel catfish except they have a long anal fin and do not have any spots. They get their name because of their bluish gray color. The blue catfish will get much larger than the channel catfish and it is very common to see fish larger then 25lbs, and can grow to over 100 lbs. Blue catfish will feed differently than the other species, although they will lurk in some of the same spots as other catfish, they are generally an open water fish, roaming the entire water column feeding on schools of shad. However there not real picky, a piece of cut bait that is presented to them is just as good.  They will not pass up a free snack given the opportunity

Large pieces of cut Skip jack herring, live or cut shad usually are the  top choices by far. But other choices include bluegill heads, sunfish, suckers, and carp. The blue catfish is one of the top predators and will consume most anything that swims. The blue catfish is predominately a river fish but the can also be found in some large lakes and reservoirs where they have been stocked
The flathead can be caught from the Carolinas to the  r basins of the Mississippi, Missouri, and Ohio rivers. Their range goes as far north as North Dakota, and as far west as California, and south to the Gulf of Mexico including northeastern Mexico. Flathead catfish also go by other names such as the yellow cat, Opelousas, and shovelhead cat. Yellow cat will eat mainly live bait fish and grow incredibly large. Flatheads seek out structure in the deeper pools, in lakes, and rivers large and small. The flathead catfish has a wide flat looking head very small eyes and are very brownish color. They have more of a square tail and their jaw protrudes beyond the upper jaw.

Top bait choices are live shad, bluegill/sunfish, perch, bull head catfish. but again the flathead catfish species is the other top predator, so pretty much if it’s legal to use as bait and it swims, it will work. It just depends on the type of baitfish you can easily cat for bait.
Flatheads like the other species are again opportunist and will take cut bait also but fresh cut seems to be preferred.


  1. bluegill says:

    I have been using live Bluegill in same spot I have seen a guy catch a blue. I have tried it several times, with no bites. He ntold me he often caught them there. He even told me where to cast my bait. Then did it and acualy caught one bite and missed one when I was with him.

    He caught an 8 pounder, when I was with hin. He told me he caught a 20 pounder two weeks before. I have no reason not to believe him. Since I saw him catch mone there.

  2. admin says:

    try cutting that bluegill up in smaller peices! sometimes they want a little blood. ive caught bluecats up to 70lbs. on a quarter size peice of cut bait.

  3. bengals97 says:

    This is great information and explains a lot why I did not have the success on my lat fishing trip at the lake. I was in all the right places to catch them but I had the wrong bait. I was in an area with high blue catfish but was fishing with livers and night crawlers mostly. I was also fishing to close to the bottom around 80 feet. I am going back to the lake and will focus more around the 30-40 foot range with cut bait and see how it does. Thanks!!!

  4. gregorio says:

    I went out last night and used 4″ goldfish for the first time and caught several good flatheads, I started catching them early and around 8pm and was consistant for about 4 hours.

  5. admin says:


  6. mitch says:

    I have the best luck with skip jack. belive it or not one night I was fishing with worms and kept catching Drum. i decided to cut up one to see how it would work for catfish. It sat in the water for about 15 mins and caught a 10lb blue cat. I dont know if it works all the time. I never used it again.

  7. admin says:

    those drum are bleeders, always good bait when you dont have jacks or shad!

  8. afewcats says:

    I will present at least 4 bait options here in the carolinas. Bream heads, fileted bream or white perch(scaled also of course) cut gizzard shad, and threadfin shad.

    The blues like one thing one day and something else another. mostly though the cut bait and bream heads work good. When they are feeding on clams in the shallows, anchoring up with stink bait is good.

  9. twillis5 says:

    Ok so im new on here and I cant’t get the cats to bite. The only baits I have available are chicken livers and worms. I fish at the closes dam to where I live, the Bellvelle dam. I fish along the wall of the dam where I usually have alot of success but they are small, but right now im not even gitting a bite. I am fishing for flatheads. What am I doing wrong and what should I do for the bigger specimens? Thank you in advance! 🙂

  10. paparock916 says:

    will chicken gizzards work for channel and flathead. i live in northern California in Sacramento.

  11. Steve Douglas says:

    the giszzards will work for the channel cats but the flatheads preferr live or freshly cut bait fish. would lean towards another species of fish such as bream, suckers or other types of legal to use in your are fish. if you dont have that available , my second choice would be shrimp. good luck

  12. madshovelhead says:

    love those big cats i like big creek chubs and a leach they work best for me flatheads blue cats i use nightcrawlers and cut bait

  13. madshovelhead says:

    haveing trouble geting skipjack my frig is dry have any sources that would help thank you for your time

  14. madshovelhead says:

    im in northing ky i fished today seen alot small bait fish on top water mudy no luck river high ohio

  15. Steve Douglas says:

    i know its a little trip but the only place to find them now is at aKY Lake dam, other wise you will have to wait til April when they make their run up the Ohio river

  16. madshovelhead says:

    thank you steve for the info im just ready to go fishing just need some bait

  17. madshovelhead says:

    i hope good luck to all the catfisherman out ther

  18. MarkandJustin says:

    We live in Pennsylvania and fish the Susquehanna River which is an excellent Flathead and Channel Catfish river. Recently the water has dropped from the mid 80’s to around 71. All of a sudden I can’t find a bite. We have been using night crawlers and shrimp with good luck and now zip. We are fishing in anywhere from 12 feet of water down to 4 ft as it gets later. Any Ideas you could share with us? Thanks much!

  19. corey says:

    Hey Steve, I’ve been trying to find a good spot to hit some 20+LB flatheads for almost the entire summer now with no luck. I live in the Huntington area and I’m bank bound. I fished the Harrison River Front and caught 4 flatties from about a pound to 10 in one night but every time I’ve went back the gar are going in strong and I get run after run without hooking up with ANYTHING! I can’t really get shad because I don’t have a cast net, so I usually stick to some chubs, any advice???

  20. corey says:

    And I hate to sound stupid but how will I know when you reply to this without just checking it every day? Like do I get a notification or anything?

  21. Steve Douglas says:

    chubs are good choice for flatheads,try to find some structure that you can reach from the bank, barges, barge tie ups, creek mouths, concrete structures, etc.also the flatheads go deeper in the summer an will inhabit places in deeper water.

  22. adamhanna says:

    I live in Nebraska and I like to fish the Elkhorn River, looking to try for some flatheads in the spring, any recommendations on bait? The species in the river are flatheads, channels, golden eye, carp, drum, and gar if that helps.

  23. Steve Douglas says:

    in my experience fresh cut bait in the spring will catch flatheads but live bait such as your golden eye and carp will work better in the summer months.

    here is a video i did last spring on the ohio river catching flatheads on fresh cut bait.

  24. Tsen77 says:


    Is there a specific time of year that is better than others for fishing for skipjack at or near dams? What about mooneye in the “foamie” water as current passes barges?

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