13 TOP Best Channel Catfish Baits You Have to Try (How to Catch Channel Catfish)

Looking for a decent bend in your rod? They don’t come much harder fighting than channel cats!

These mighty creatures are the most prolific catfish species in America! So why not take advantage of this fact by getting out and catching a few?

To do it successfully, you are going to need the right bait.

Today I’m going to show you’re the 13 best channel catfish baits to help you catch a monster.

Channel Catfish in river

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13 Good Channel Catfish Baits You Have to Try

Asian Carp

Listen, I’m not normally a fan of invasive species.

But here’s the good news.

Catfish absolutely love a mouthful of Asian Carp. Catfish are carnivorous, and they seem to have developed quite the taste for this nuisance species. The flesh of an Asian carp gives off a fairly strong scent and is jam-packed full of oils… Just what catfish love.

However, there are a few things you need to be aware of.

Because Asian Catfish are considered an invasive species, there are restrictions on their use. This depends on which state you are in, so it is well worth checking beforehand.

Also, it isn’t like you can just pop down to the store and buy a lump of Asian Carp.

Here’s the answer… And it’s great for a couple of reasons.

Catch your own Asian Carp! You’ll get to experience all of the fun of bow fishing, and you’ll be helping the ecosystem too!


Depending on where you live, you might be able to collect a bucket of crawfish. They are pretty easy to find in most freshwater venues. Check under rocks close to streams and ponds. You could also consider setting a simple crawfish trap overnight and checking back.


Does this sound like hard work to you? Because it sure does to me.

There’s another solution.

Go artificial!

Companies like Berkely produce lifelike synthetic crawfish that can perform just as well as the real thing! They often have a lifelike action that most species, including catfish, will love.

If you are fishing in heavily colored water, it may be worth pairing these excellent catfish baits with a scent dip.

Cheese Dip

Speaking of dip…

Ever noticed the little ‘feelers’ on either side of a Catfish’s mouth? These are what the catfish uses to find food. Channel cats have a really keen sense of smell. In fact, they use this as the primary way to find food.

Here’s what you are going to do…

Use this fact to your advantage and make a good channel catfish bait that really stinks.


Easy, cheese dip! This stuff is really sticky and pungent. The best thing is that you can use it with live baits, dead baits, and artificial catfish baits. Just give your hook bait a good dunking and cast it out!

Oh, and pro catfishing tip…

You might want to wear gloves. This stuff stinks!


As with all things fishing, there are a few ways you can get the job done. Nightcrawlers are a great catfish bait.


Next time you hook a live nightcrawler, give your hands a sniff afterward. They release a really powerful smell that fish are drawn to.


You could spend the evening, hunched over a shovel, with a bad back, making holes in the lawn in your search.


You could go for artificial nightcrawlers.

These are just as good as the real thing. They tend to stay on the hook a lot better too! Berkley infuses these little worms in a secret scent that seems to draw fish like a magnet. The good news is that they keep forever too, so you only use what you need.

Stink Bait

What is the best stink bait for catfish?

Here’s the truth…

It depends entirely on what the fish like on the day. There are lots of stink bait varieties available, so here’s what I suggest… Pick something that smells like what the fish would normally encounter. Anything fish-based is a great start.

Many stink baits use crushed fish eggs to produce that scent trail.

The beauty of stink baits is that you can fish them in so many ways. I’ve often found the most successful way to use them is to soak a dense sponge, hook it and throw it into the water. Catfish seem to hone in almost immediately.

Stink baits are the best channel catfish baits for lakes.


It doesn’t take long for the scent to be washed out and away downstream in moving water. Provided you are accurate with your casting, you can create a real feeding hotspot in still water.

Catfish Dough

Have you ever been sat down on the bank trying to catch a catfish, and they aren’t going for your bait?

Frustrating, right? So here’s an idea.

Take a variety of the same bait. I’m talking about catfish dough.

This stuff is great value, and you get four flavors in a pack. This is perfect for trying out a variety of scents, and if you like, you can even mix a few to create your own special blend.

How do you use catfish dough?

It’s actually really simple. Take a treble hook. Pinch off a marble-sized lump of dough and cast it out!

Punch Bait

If you want to catch a catfish, you’ve got to tick a lot of boxes. You are going to need something that:

  • Stays on the hook
  • Smells appealing to catfish
  • Sits where they are most likely to feed.

There is a perfect bait for catfish that satisfies all of the above… Punch bait. And believe me, when you open the lid, it certainly packs a punch. This stuff smells.

Smells of what?

Success, that’s what. As to what punch bait is… It’s a mixture of dough, bits of cloth, and fiber, all mixed with smelly additives. It is called ‘punch’ bait because you use a stick to poke your treble hook into the bucket. When you pull it out, you’ll find a decent-sized hunk of bait attached.

Punch bait is one of the most effective baits for channel cats I’ve used. It’s certainly one of the best channel catfish baits for ponds without question.


Shrimp are found in most waters, and as a result, they are great for catching channel cats. There are a few ways you can use them, all of which are pretty effective:

  • Live shrimp for catfishing
  • Store-bought shrimp
  • Artificial shrimp

Live shrimp are ok, but they tend not to kick out a great deal of scent. For that reason, I nearly always use either store-bought shrimp or artificial shrimp.

If I use store-bought, I always make sure that I buy raw and frozen. This way, I can keep them in the freezer until I need them.

They also last longer when it comes to creating a scent; as they thaw, they release a nice trail slowly.


As I said before, catching a good-sized channel cat is more about smells than looks.

I find that this synthetic version from Berkely is the best for creating an attractive scent trail. These are often used for sea fishing but work equally well in ponds and still waters.


Herring isn’t normally found in still water. But that doesn’t seem to matter to catfish.

Here’s why they love them…

They stink! You won’t be able to catch these at your local pond, so what I’d suggest is a trip down to the local fish market to pick up a few packs. There are also alternatives if you can’t get hold of herring. You could also try:

  • Mackerel (either whole or fillets)
  • Shad
  • Skipjack Herring
  • Sardines
  • Sprats

Here’s the bottom line.

If it is herring shaped and smells strongly of fish, you have every chance of success when using it as a channel catfish bait.

White Suckers

There are plenty of poor suckers down by the bank… With this bait, you aren’t going to be one of them.

White suckers are found all over the United States. They are the natural prey of the catfish and therefore are a good choice for catching them.

You might need to put in a little bit of work as they need to be caught. They are much less wary than catfish, however. I like to get going with a catfish rod, and while I am waiting, set up a second smaller rod to try and catch white suckers.

Chicken Livers

Don’t get me wrong, chicken livers are one of the best catfish baits out there, for sure. They are readily available, and you might even be able to pick up a huge batch at the local butcher’s.

But, and it’s a big but…

There are several issues with using chicken livers. First, storage can be a real pain. You have to make sure that you have a water-tight container. Trust me, chicken liver juice is not something you want in your tackle bag. Ever.

Second, it is really messy. Chicken livers tend to be super slippery. Having a handful of funky chicken liver isn’t my idea of fun.

Finally, it doesn’t stay on the hook well. Anything more than a gentle cast will result in your hook going one way and your bait going the other.

But here’s the good news…

You can still catch catfish using liver… Dried liver cubes offer all of the catching power, with none of the mess. They hydrate when they hit the water, releasing a huge scent trail indistinguishable from the fresh chicken liver!

And the best bit?

These cubes are really tough. As a result, they stay on the hook, even during those really powerful casts. Cast it out and wait for your bite alarm to start singing!

Bait Chunks

Want to know what’s in these bait chunks?

Yeah, me too. Berkely seems to have absolutely nailed it. Catfish go bananas for these bait chunks. I think it has got something to do with the smell. And I must warn you, it is really offensive. But that said, when you’ve got a screaming reel and the catfish of a lifetime on your line, you really won’t care!

There’s a slight downside. Getting these to stay on the hook can be a real pain. Here’s what I do…

‘Borrow’ a pair of stockings or tights, and cut them into 3-inch squares. Make a little mesh bag and pinch the corners together with the hook point. Job done!

Oh, and here’s a word to the wise. This works to catch monstrous fish, so make sure you’ve got a line for catfishing that is up to the job!

There are loads of different varieties of bait chunks. While I find the Berkely PowerBait to be the best for catfish, why not try a few and see what works for you?

Blood Bait

If you’ve ever watched shark fishermen at work, they rely heavily on a process called chumming.

This fills the water with particles, along with another thing most predatory species are attracted to.


Nothing says ‘wounded fish nearby’ more than blood in the water.

You can use a similar technique when catching channel cats. You’ll hear some guys talking about mixing blood and brown sugar and letting it sit before hooking it.

Trust me, this isn’t the way. Ain’t nobody got time for that.

You don’t need to mess around. Just a few pre-molded blood baits that will leak their attractive scent into the water should do the trick!


The best channel catfish baits will satisfy a few important criteria.

First, make sure to pick something that offers a decent amount of scent. Second, choose something easy to handle and cast. Finally, be sure to take a variety of options, that way, if one doesn’t work, you can give something else a go.

Catfish put up one hell of a fight… Why not check my article on the best rods and reels for catfishing while you are here?

What’s given you the most success with channel cats? Share your secret below, and I’ll see about adding it to my list.

Bob Hoffmann

The author of this post is Bob Hoffmann. Bob has spend most of his childhood fishing with his father and now share all his knowledge with other anglers. Feel free to leave a comment below.

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