Let’s say that you have learned enough about catfish, and you want to specifically target the channel catfish. What kind of channel catfish bait should you use to catch more fish? Channel catfish have a few traits that make them easier to target with certain baits.
You want to switch up the strategy used to catch catfish based on the species because this will increase the number of catfish that you catch.
Bait #1: Dead Baits
Understanding a little about the behavior of channel catfish, they love an easy meal. While all catfish act as scavengers, this type prefers an easy meal. You can use that to your advantage when it comes to using dead baits on channel catfish. You might call this species the lazy catfish.
When it comes to channel catfish, you can potentially catch a lot of them. This catfish comes in strong numbers in comparison to the blue or the flathead. Nevertheless, you have to keep in mind that this fish won’t work as hard for its meal either.
The strong smell of a dead bait has also proven to bring in the catfish. Scent carries throughout the water, and it will drive more fish to your hook. Some of the dead baits that you might use include:
- Dead shad
Like with the blue catfish, if you want to target a larger-sized fish, then you should use a larger bait. However, keep in mind that the larger-sized catfish will also have a stronger fishy flavor.
Bait #2: Punch Baits
I have seen some success with the punch baits, and I like them because of how it has a much quicker effect on the fish I target. Punch baits tend to be thicker than what you might get with a dip bait. The punch bait got its name because of the process involved with baiting the hook.
Keep in mind, punch baits will often smell treacherous, but they have a strong effect with bringing in the channel catfish.
You shouldn’t confuse punch bait with dip, stink bait or dough because you prepare the punch bait. You aim to produce a poignant punch bait that will be much thicker and have a different texture to some of the other prepared baits. Remember: Not all punch baits were created equal, and you have some that work better than others.
One of the big problems that comes from punch bait comes from how many of these baits will have problems in extreme heat because of how they don’t load onto the hook correctly when it gets hot. In the heat, many of the punch baits will become a soupy mess. Having spent a lot of time with prepared punch baits, my favorite recommendation is the Uncle Josh Little Stinker Punch Bait.
You can get this punch bait in three different scents: minnow, crawfish and rotten shad. If it happens to be hot outside, you should keep your bait covered in a cool place to eliminate the issue with your punch bait not fitting on the hook correctly.
This punch bait will stay on the hook much longer than some of the other prepared baits, and the catfish go wild for them.
You want to approach channel catfish in the same way that you might with bass and keep your bait moving. In general, you want to cover as much water as possible because this will bring more of them into the boat.
Primarily, I have found it useful to use this kind of bait to catch channel catfish in the late spring and through the summer.
Most of the punch baits get founded on the use of a cheese base, which is why they don’t do as good in the heat. The underlying thread with punch baits is that they all tend to stink, but it brings in the channels, and they seem to love it.
When it comes to choosing the right punch bait, I look for consistency, texture and the ability to withstand heat. You have to stay aware of how many of the punch baits will often have problems with this.
A lot of catfish anglers will tell you that you don’t have a better way to catch channel catfish than through punch baits. I find that it works best from the middle part of May up until the end of September.
Bait #3: Dip Baits
You have a lot of channel catfish dip baits that range anywhere from chicken liver to cut shad to small bullheads to clams. Shrimp have also proven a good option when it comes to fishing like this.
One golden rule of thumb: In general, the smellier the dip bait that you have, the higher your chances of having success with it.
Ironically enough, of the smelly baits that you can cast out for channel catfish, the dip bait probably causes the least mess. If you pull it off correctly, you never have to get your fingers dirty with the dip bait. That matters because a lot of fisherman complain about how the smell of certain catfish baits will stay on their hand for a couple of days after.
Here’s an interesting fact about channel catfish. They have olfactory senses that will rival that of the bloodhound and the bear in combination. That should give you a sense of the power of the catfish.
You might also use dip bait as a good backup. If you happen to run out of chubs or shad for cut bait, you might employ the dip bait. When I look at what appeals the most as a bait to channel catfish, I’d have to say that dip baits have the greatest, but this also includes the category of punch baits. In general, you might begin your hunt using punch baits.
Some of the dip baits available include:
- Secret 7 (my personal favorite)
- Sudden Impact
- Catfish Charles
One of the things that you should remember with any channel catfish bait that you might choose is not to overthink it. Channel catfish will go after a variety of baits, and many times when you aren’t getting the bites, it comes from the fact that you’re using the wrong technique, or you’re fishing the wrong place to catch the channels, rather than a problem with the baits.
As far as dip baits go, the most consistent that I have found comes from Sonny’s Blood. A lot of people who fish for catfish also like the Sonny’s brand for catching channels.
Why do these baits work on channel catfish? As stated before, channel catfish have a strong sense of smell, and when they smell these baits, they will often come running. If you want the numbers when it comes to channel catfish, you either want to use smelly punch baits or dip baits to bring them in.
Bait #4: Natural Baits
Let’s say that you want to target some of the bigger channel catfish. In those cases, you will want a natural bait to lure them in. Using the right bait for your bigger channel catfish will usually be like what you might use to catch blue catfish. The big difference comes from the size of the bait that you will use. For channels, you will typically want to use a smaller bait to bring in the catfish.
When you go to choose a natural bait, you want to consider what the catfish will primarily be eating. That will increase your chances. Nevertheless, no bait will work 100 percent of the time. Sometimes you get lucky and sometimes you don’t. With each differing body of water, you may want to bring along a couple of different baits to see what they feed on.
Referring to natural baits, I mean anything that you could already find in the water naturally. This has the advantage of blending in with the environment. Some of the baits that fall under this category include shad and bluegill. You can use either of these to catch channel catfish.
Most likely, you will have to catch shad on your own because you’ll rarely find these in the bait shops. That’s because shad have a high mortality rate, and they die within 24 hours in many cases. They’re notoriously hard to keep.
With natural baits, you want to use what the channels already feed on. In this way, you increase your chances of success. Always remember, the bait that works best for numbers won’t always work best for size. More often than not, shad will be the primary source of food that they will feed off of.
Many channels will also go after crayfish because of how this mimics one of their natural baits. Younger channel catfish will target small crayfish because they can catch them easily. As the catfish gets older, it will begin to target some of the larger crayfish.
The advantage of buying crayfish as a natural bait comes from the fact that it doesn’t cost much. You can buy this bait on the cheap whether you buy it dead or alive. Also, whether you buy it dead or alive, it will be equally as effective because catfish are often scavengers and eat whatever they can find. In particular, channels love an easy meal, and they will often go after dead fish because of it.
Bait #5: Grocery Store Baits
Channel catfish aren’t terribly finicky eaters. The awesome thing about this target species of catfish comes from the relative ease that you will have when fishing for them. You don’t even have to have a bait shop on hand. Instead, you can simply head to the grocery store and pick out some different foods to lure them in.
Some of the grocery store foods that you might use to catch channel catfish includes:
- Fried chicken
- Chicken livers
- Hot dogs
While I’d prefer to eat fried chicken for myself, there’s no denying how this can also be used as a bait for catfish. Fat and greasy chicken is considered a feast to channel catfish, and they will go wild for it. This bait usually works best for the smaller channel catfish because of how it doesn’t have enough blood for the larger ones.
Turkey is one of the lesser-known baits that you might use, especially if the channel catfish already seem to be biting. You want a piece that will have a strong scent, and it will leave a scent trail in the water to draw in the fish.
You could also hook up some chicken liver and cast out. In my opinion, this bait tends to be overrated by catfish anglers, but you do have some people who have had a lot of luck with it. Chicken liver can be messy, and it can also be difficult to keep on the hook, but it doesn’t cost much because a lot of people don’t necessarily like to eat liver. You might choose this if you don’t have another bait choice available.
To keep the chicken liver on the hook, you usually want to find chicken liver that hasn’t been frozen before. The process of freezing them will often make them mushy and less likely to remain on the hook. You do have times where this can be a good bait, but in general, it doesn’t work as well as some of the other choices.
Next, you have hot dogs, and I’ve had a lot of luck over the years catching channel catfish on hot dogs. You don’t need anything expensive, and in fact, you may want to go with the cheapest that you can find.
To get started with this bait, you will cut up the hot dogs and place them into a Ziploc bag with garlic. Let it soak for about a day to get the aroma on it, and then go catch some channels. Usually, any kind of strong scent will bring the channel catfish running to your boat.
The best part about this is if you do it right to where the catfish aren’t hitting on your baits, you can eat them as well. You cut them up into 1-inch pieces and get started fishing. It’s a cheap bait too, and it won’t cost you a lot of money. Some people also dip the hot dog in strawberry-flavored gelatin as a way of adding more scent to it.
To begin, you will want to let the shrimp sit in the sun for between 12 to 24 hours as a way of letting them add stronger scent. After you have done this, You simply put the shrimp on the hook, and you don’t have to do anything fancy. For channel catfish, you might want to use white or pink shrimp to catch them. In addition, you may want to use a wide gap hook because it gives it a more natural appearance.
In a lot of cases, catfish anglers prefer to use crayfish and eat the shrimp for themselves. I don’t blame them.
Probably not the best bait from the grocery store, but if the channel catfish are biting, they will hit most anything. That includes spam. One thing to beware of with spam is that carp also go wild for spam, and you should be aware of this fact before you cast your line in. A lot of catfish anglers cast out a line with spam on it only to bring in a carp.
You also shouldn’t underestimate spam. In fact, in Arkansas, they caught the state record of a 116-pound blue catfish on spam. You might keep this on hand for after you have run out of the other types of bait like shrimp, cut bait and so on.
Some people dislike spam because it doesn’t stay on the hook as well as some of the other baits. Another advantage is that even if you can’t catch any channel catfish that day, you can eat it for lunch.
While this works for catching channel catfish, you have to understand how it will only work for the channel catfish of the smaller kind because of how corn is usually smaller. You can use a variety of different types of corn to catch channel catfish like sweet corn and feed corn.
This bait specifically targets channel catfish because flathead won’t touch it, and blues aren’t interested in it. It targets your fish well because outside channel catfish, only carp and sunfish will bite on it.
Before you choose to use this bait, please check your local and state laws because in some parts of the United States, fishing with corn is illegal. In Oregon, for example, you can’t use canned corn for either baiting or for fishing.
Want a bait that will float on the surface of the water? If so, you may find that you have some luck with marshmallows. This slightly elastic and sweet treat has proven an especially effective dip bait.
To make the marshmallow extra appealing, you might dip it in:
- Fish oil
- Dip bait
Marshmallows work well as a dip bait because of how they soak up anything like a sponge. In addition, you can buy them for cheap. Normally, it won’t cost you more than $3 for a bag, and you will get up to 40 marshmallows per bag.
All you have to do is dip this in your favorite scent and let the channels come running in.
Choose Your Bait Carefully
When you go to choose your channel catfish bait, you should understand how the bait you choose will make a huge difference. As I said before, however, you also shouldn’t overthink it either because of how channel catfish will go after nearly anything when the mood suits them.
You should, however, understand some of the baits that channel catfish anglers use and what they do to reel them into the boat. This can help you to have more success with it.
With each body of water, it is recommended that you experiment with the different baits to discover what works best. Some catfish anglers, however, will find one bait that they like the most, and they will keep using it because they have had a lot of success.
Why Stink Baits Work So Well with Channel Catfish?
Stink bait refers to the baits that smell terrible to us as humans, but they drive in the channel catfish like mad. These baits will give the catfish a huge level of sensory overload, and if you have any channel catfish in the area, they will most likely come running to the boat.
Important to note with all these baits, you have some great quality ones, and you have some poor ones, also. You have some on the mass market that aren’t what they claim to be, and they give a lot of catfish anglers the impression that none of them work.
How to Choose a Quality Bait
The bait that you choose to use does matter. First, you have to consider what channel catfish eat and match it as closely as possible because this will help you to catch more of them. Luckily, channel catfish eat a lot of different foods.
Usually, you will look for livelier bait because while channel catfish are scavengers and they will eat dead bait as well, this will help you bait to last longer. The smell of the bait can be used as a huge catching point for channels.
These are some of the top baits that you will use when it comes to catching channel catfish. With channel catfish, I’d have to say that I have had the most luck using punch baits and dip baits over the years, but I have made use out of a variety of different baits to see what works the best.