Best Baits


Catfish will eat a variety of dead, live and other types of baits such as cheese, chicken liver and other smelly options.  The bigger flathead catfish and blue catfish prefer live baits, while you will usually have better success with dead baits or natural baits for the other types of catfish.  However, everything you see on this list can catch any type of catfish listed.  You just may need to use a bait as a cut bait with a tiny piece for a smaller catfish and a bigger live bait for the bigger catfish.


Bluegill are an awesome bait for catching catfish.  Channel catfish, flathead catfish and blue catfish will all eat a lively bluegill.  For channel catfish, using bluegill as cut bait is one of the best ways to catch them.


Minnows work great.  You have a lot of choices.  We’re showing a creek chub here, but you can also use suckers, shiners and just about any other minnow you can get your hands on.


Shad are one of the best baits to use for catching catfish.  Whether you choose to use live shad or cut bait, you can catch every type of catfish with shad.  Slow drifting with shad and still-fishing on the bottom are popular methods for catching catfish with shad.


Herring works great for catfish.  Most anglers can’t get their hands on live herring, so dead herring is usually what is used for catfish.  You can fish the entire bait on the bottom, but most anglers will cut the herring into smaller pieces.


Shrimp is a good bait for a variety of catfish.  Fresh shrimp is always best, but it’s hard to find fresh shrimp since you won’t find too much saltwater near the best catfish destinations, however, in some areas, getting fresh shrimp is easy.  For example, the Santee Cooper Lakes are near Charleston, so getting fresh shrimp to fish there wouldn’t be as difficult as if you were fishing in the midwest.  If you can’t get the fresh stuff, that is ok, plenty of catfish can be caught on the frozen shrimp too.


Boilies are known as great baits for catching carp, but they also work well for catfish.  There are plenty of products on the market that are made for catfish and many anglers swear by them.  Boilies can be fished on the bottom or beneath a float.


Bread is used more for chumming for catfish, but some anglers do use bread as bait.  If you can get it to stay on the hook, bread can be used to catch catfish.  Most anglers will chum with bread, then fish with bread on the surface.  This can be exciting because you can actually see the catfish come up to the surface to take the bait.  It is extremely hard to keep bread on the hook though.


Cheese Baits

Catfish will eat just about anything and cheese definitely will work too.  Some anglers will just use a piece of cheese on a hook, however, most anglers will put together their favorite cheese recipe and make a dip bait out of it.  There are a variety of dip baits on the market that feature cheese in them and they work great for a variety of catfish.


Chicken liver is one of the best baits to use for catfish.  With chicken liver, most anglers catch smaller catfish, but it is possible to catch some big catfish in between the small fish.  Most anglers fish the chicken liver on the bottom.  The biggest challenge for most anglers is learning how to get the liver to stay on your hook.


Nightcrawlers are a great bait for catching catfish, especially channel catfish, white catfish and bullhead catfish.  A live nightcrawler rigged on the bottom or suspended just off the bottom can work wonders on all 3 types of catfish.  Most anglers will use hooks in the #2 and #4 sizes, but some anglers will put a few nightcrawlers on the same hook.  When this is the case, hooks in the #1, 1/0 and 2/0 sizes will work better.