Posts belonging to Category Catfish bait

Where to find and catch Shad for catfish bait

Shad is one of the most abundant forage fish in the south so it only makes sense to think the catfish feed heavily on the shad too. Well you would be right in thinking that as shad is on top of the list for most consistent for catching catfish of all sizes and species.  Whether you use it live, or cut it up shad will attract the more mature cats available in the waters you fish.

What do shad look like?

Shad come in different species and sizes but most are appear silverfish but are generally dark colored on the back and top of the head, with bits of bluish green silvery tints and white sides, sporting a black dot on their sides just behind their gills.

live shad for bait

Shad is a good catfish bait

Shad is good catfish bait

These thin bodied forage fish are very distinctive, having small mouths with big eyes and a forked shape tail.  Both the gizzard shad and threadfin shad are abundant in lakes, reservoirs and rivers throughout the country and both species are great for catching catfish.

The Gizzard Shad is the bigger of the two and can grow in lengths of over 12 inches, which makes them great as cut bait and are generally referred to by catfish anglers as, cutters. The Threadfin Shad are much smaller and will normally only grow to around 6 inches.

How do you catch Shad?

 A cast net is the best way to catch shad for catfishing.  My favorite size cast net is 5-6 footer, but sometimes it don’t matter what your favorite size cast net is, as in reality the size of your cast net will ultimately  be  determined according to each states netting  and fishing regulations. Some allow 10 footers while other states only allow 3- 4 footers. Be sure to check your states regulations before you cast your nets.

How to find shad?

Look in these types of places for shad.

Bay’s…. Look in the back of the shallow bays, large cuts, coves or feeder creeks on lakes.

Marinas…  Shad can be attracted to the Marinas because of their food source, algae and other microscopic creatures that grow on the docks and boats and other marina related structures.

Creek mouths…  Check in the mouths of feeder creeks shad will often gather around fresh water and also to find refuge from heavy current.

Bridges pilings……. will often attract the shad because of algae growth again and or a current break.

Water discharges……….. You can find these types of areas along the  many of the rivers in our country.   Factory’s  will pull river water within their facility to cool equipment and will discharge a continuous flow of water back to the river and these discharges are an excellent place to look for shad. Some of the factory discharges often produce hot water which will attract many shad and other bait fish to these even in the winter months.

Pockets and Eddy’s … Eddy’s are good place to search when current is present. The Eddy is a result of a current break of some kind like a point or a cut in the river bank creating some slack, still water next to the main current which makes a good place to look for shad at times.

Now these are some of the top spots or habitats to start looking for shad but I would like to just add that catching shad is just like fishing, in the since that weather can affect the outcome to some extent.

Most days you can cast your net  a few times and have all you need  but other days you will have to throw the net a hundred times only to catch a few. Sometimes we have to work for the best baits but shad can literally be anywhere but these top hot spots mentioned in this article have a higher percentage of producing shad on a regular basis.

When fishing new water and don’t know where the bait hot spots will be, Ive always turned to google earth for the answers. You can locate these types of areas just by zooming in on the area you will be fishing and seeing where the potential places are located even before you touch the water. This will save a lot of time and also somewhat familiarize you with this new area.


How to use shad as catfish bait?

The smaller shad can be use whole or cut them into sections as illustrated or just simply cut the shad in half.

How to cut shad

How to cut shad for cut bait

Cutting Shad for catfish bait

The size of your cut bait you use will really depend on what size catfish you are targeting but generally as a rule the bigger pieces of cut bait catches bigger catfish and smaller pieces for the small and medium catfish. But I will add this, I have also seen that general rule turn completely the opposite of said rule and have caught huge catfish on small pieces of cut shad and small cats on large pieces, Its fishing and anything can happen.

Another popular piece of cut shad is the fillets. The fillets can be attached to the hook in the same way you would a night crawler be sure to leave the skin on it for a tougher cut. The last cut I will mention on the shad is the guts.  And the best guts come from the large gizzard shad. They are used mainly for catching channel catfish.

Using Live Shad

Using shad live is a little more challenging as the shad can be difficult to keep alive in bulk without the help from  a good bait tank.

You can use shad live to catch all species of catfish but predominantly it is used for catching big Flathead or blue catfish. The Flatheads diet consist primarily of other fish like shad, carp, pan fish and even other catfish  so your chances of landing a large Flathead catfish goes up when you use live shad as catfish bait.

I would recommend the larger shad 6 to 8 inches because they just seem to stay alive on the hook longer than the smaller shad do. The more lively and active your bait is the better chance you have of success.

How to hook a live bait.

How to hook live shad

Hooking live bait for different methods of catfishing

Hooking Live Shad for catfish bait

When fishing in current I prefer to hook the shad through its nostrils and through the dorsal area when I’m in no current such as low flowing rivers or lakes. These are the two most popular places to place your hook for the best results. Hooking it in other places sometimes can cause the bait to hook back into its self which will cause a lost fish when that phenomenon happens so be sure to pay attention when your experimenting with hook placement.

The same goes with hooking cut bait pieces, be sure to hook it in a way that it will not hook back into itself. Here is how I like to hook my cut bait.

hooking cut bait

How to hook cut shad

Rigs used for catfishing with shad.

The two rigs I would suggest using with shad is the 3-Way or the Carolina rigs.

Both of these rigs are effective at present the bait in many different situations but I prefer the Carolina rig for my cut bait presentation and the 3Way rig for my live presentations when I’m anchoring  but when I’m drifting with live shad I prefer the Carolina rig..

Sometimes bait catching can be as challenging as the catfishing itself but when you get the right bait, it’s all worth the time and trouble spent by experiencing success but these are some of the most likely places to find your catfish bait. Good luck and be safe on the water.

The best way to use chicken livers for catfish bait

catfishing bait
Folks have been catching Catfish on many different concoctions and un natural offerings throughout time, un natural meaning the offering is not normally found in the catfish’s environment such as deer hearts, ivory soap, kool aid soaked chicken breast to name a few,but I guess, of all the un natural baits that have been thrown at the catfish over the years, the chicken liver is going to be hard to beat as far as attract ability goes.

Chicken liver will flat out catch catfish but it will mainly attract the channel cats but the one drawback to using chicken livers for bait is, it’s not angler friendly.

Although chicken livers make a great bait for channel cats and is very easy to obtain at most grocery stores.

It has still always been sort of a challenge to fish with chicken liver as they are hard to keep on the hook as they are being casted to the cats.

“Lobbing it” as I call it was my best attempt to get the liver where I wanted it be and still sometimes I couldn’t get it where I wanted it to land for fear of throwing it off my hook; lobbing it is a gentle side hand cast will generally get it out there close to my target without slinging the chicken livers off.

Don’t get discouraged though, I have a solution for this annoying issue of keeping them on the hook long enough to catch a catfish.

Thanks to our modern medicine field, you can now fish with chicken livers at your favorite fishin hole and sling them pesky livers anywhere you want without worrying about slinging them off of your hook.
It’s called tubular elastic; it’s designed in the medical world for keeping gauze in place on different body parts such as legs, arms and fingers and it comes in many sizes for each need but catfish anglers have repurposed the 1 inch tubular material for a new way to keep chicken livers on your hook and help your catch ratio improve.tubular elastic for chicken liver bait

Here’s how it works

1. Using some thread or light lb. fishing line tie off a two inch section of tubular elastic with a simple over hand knot and cut it behind the knot leaving one end closed and one end open, creating a bag to load the livers in.
2. Now turn the tube inside out and give it a good stretch to tighten to insure the splice will not come loose as it now creates a bag.
3. Now you begin to load the livers in the bag putting in enough in each bag to expand the elastic so it will keep the liver in a compact ball.
4. This step will close the tubular bag up, securing the liver in the bag. Simple run the hook through the top of the tubular elastic bag and give it a twist, it doesn’t matter if the hook makes it through any of the liver at this point, we just want to secure the top so the liver cant fall out or be slung off.
5. Give the bait a twist and run the hook back through the top of the bag a couple of times to help stretch the elastic even more to expose the livers as it starts to bleed and soak through the bag.
6. On the last step, stab the point of the hook through the meat or bulkiest part of the liver leaving the hook exposed for the final assault.

With this method you are now able to fish with chicken livers like never before without worrying about slinging your bait off your hook or even having the small fish steal your bait. Of course the small ones can still aggravate us with pecks rolls but it is extremely hard for a small fish to completely rob us of our chicken liver bait now giving us a better chance of a good fish hook up.
This is ideal for most all presentations used in catfishing, I’ve used it and it works well when still fishing from the bank or anchored boat and I’ve also used it for float fishing around cover.
A once delicate and hard to fish but popular catfish bait has become very reliable and durable bait for catching channel catfish in rivers, streams and lakes when loaded into the tubular elastic bags.

Tips on using chicken livers
Fresh not frozen

Chicken livers are awesome bait for catfish I think because of the blood content within the liver itself and I believe it is what does a lot of the attracting plus it’s an awesome bait because it is so easy to obtain by everyday anglers, but remember all chicken livers is not the same and the liver that you want to avoid is chicken livers that have been frozen.

Some grocery stores handle fresh livers and these are the ones you want and others handle frozen livers and the fresh livers will always be better as they haven’t been broken down from the freezing process.

When you are choosing the livers for bait always look at the freshness of the livers by looking at the reddish tint of the contents, fresh livers have a stronger more durable texture for using for catfish and will not be mushy as the frozen ones will get, which will allow the liver to escape from the tubular bag much too quickly so fresh is always the better option.

Keep em cool

For chicken livers to remain firm and suitable for catfish bait it is always better to keep them cool, it seems the warmer they get the more delicate and mushy they become.

I keep mine in a small cooler until I’m ready to load a sack for bait but sometimes I will pre-load 20 or so bags before I get to my fishing destination, but I will keep them in zip loc bags and away from direct contact with any ice until I’m ready to use I want all the blood juices to not be diluted with melted ice water.

Now is the perfect time to use this method bait preparation for channel catfish as they have recently quit spawning and now are feeding heavily to regain their strength for the remaining summer.
catfish caught on chicken livers

If you would like to try this method of fishing with chicken livers and land more catfish, you can buy this 1 inch tubular elastic online, it’s not expensive at all and it comes in a 25 ft roll which will last for quite some time when cutting it at 1½ inches at a time.

Here is the link to where you can buy a box  of “1 inch tubular elastic”  be sure to grab a box for your next trip and enjoy catching some nice catfish instead of wasting fishing time and always re-baiting a hook.

If you would like more information on catfishing you can visit my You Tube channel and see many of my catfishing How-to videos on my You Tube page at