What Smell Attracts Catfish? Get The Answer Here!

Catching more catfish is something we all want to do. We want to increase catch rate and learn the hot spots and the newest hot baits.

For the newer catfish anglers, you may be wondering what works best.

What smell attracts catfish? What can we do to bring in more trophy catfish each time we hit the water?

It’s something I was wondering as well so wanted to do some more digging on the topic.

After doing some research and having my own background in catfish fishing, here’s what I learned.

What scents attract catfish?

Catfish are one species of fish with an extremely strong sense of smell. They can pick up smells much more profoundly than other species of fish such as trout. Live baits, cut baits, and some homemade baits can be considered the best scents the smell that attracts catfish.

Read also: When Do Catfish Bite?

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What do Catfish Like Best?

This could probably be argued for hours amongst us. All of us who catfish on a regular basis all have our favorite methods for catching catfishing and bringing them toward are rig. It’s hard to say what exactly catfish like best.

However, catfish seem to like the live bait, cut bait and stinkbait the best.

That’s my opinion and I’m sticking to it. These seem to stimulate the catfish on all fronts. Sight, smell and appealing to the natural predatory state a catfish is used to being in.

Catfish already prey on baitfish each night. Using cut bait and live bait is just appealing to the catfish’s natural environment. That’s never a bad idea.

Can Catfish and Other Fish Smell Well Underwater?

For fish, including catfish, the sense of smell is known as olfaction. Catfish don’t use nares like humans use a nose. When a catfish uses its sense of smell and it carries through the nares, it travels to a chamber lined with sensory pads.

These create very profound and incredibly strong senses of smell. Catfish use these “nostrils” to help detect substances in the environment.bCatfish have a grand total of 140 of these folds in the tissues of the nose creating an incredible sense of smell.

This could be why we all have great luck with live bait, cut bait, and stinkbait. Clearly, it stinks. There is something important to keep in mind with this theory, however. Just because we can smell these baits in the plain old regular air, does not mean it smells the same way beneath the water surface.

The sensory and the chemicals that a fish can smell after a bit so it’s not always going to smell the way we smell it above water… (and as humans). Amino acids are some of the easiest scents and tracks for catfish to pick up.

Regardless of what stinky or non-stinky bait you choose to use targeting catfish, you should have good luck.

Catfish have the perhaps strongest sense of smell compared to other freshwater-gamefish. Just get something out in the water and find some structure and you will be good to go! (Eventually)

Do Catfish Like The Smell of Garlic?

Another common question that comes up when discussing methods for catching catfish.

Do Catfish like the smell of garlic?

Yes, garlic works as a bait attractant for catfish and seems to get catfish stimulated. Especially when you use it in conjunction with other highly scented baits or natural scented baits such as nightcrawlers, baitfish /cut bait and shrimps.

Wanna catch more carp? This is the best carp bait.

I’ve noticed garlic works best when fishing for catfish or carp. You need to use the high scents to your advantage for the fish that have well…. strong sense of picking up the scents.

Not all fish have the same receptors for scent built in like catfish and carp so some of the items we discussed won’t apply to other freshwater fish.

Just keep that in mind.

How Far Can Catfish Smell Bait?

Catfish can smell the bait far away. Actually, catfish can smell the bait and have been known to use there extremely strong sense of smell for up to 15 feet from what they are interested in. Sometimes even further.

If you target catfish with the correct baits and relatively within the range in a decent location, trust me, you will get their attention. Give it a few minutes and wait for the strike.

What is a Good Home Maid Catfish Bait For Catfish?

If you must narrow the homemade catfish bait to one choice or possible 2. The two best would be cheese bait and blood bait. Cheese bait is the best homemade catfish bait.

Blood bait is still better off purchased commercially in you ask me.

I’m not huge on making my own homemade cheese baits but I do know some great recipes are floating around on the internet that will easily get the job done for you and create a decent homemade catfish bait that can apply to all their senses.

Here’s an example of a good homemade cheese bait recipe you can give a try. This is a win/ win as your mixing a bit of the blood into this mix as well. Can’t go wrong with that killer 1,2 punch.

  • 1LB of Cheese Spread – Don’t use Nacho Cheese. Spend a few Extra Bucks on a Firmer Consistency
  • 8oz of Beef Blood
  • 1 Container of Minced Garlic
  • Sawdust

Allow the cheese to warm for a bit in the heat of the sun for added stink and flavor to appeal to those strong catfish senses we discussed previously. For a full scope look at the full recipe, you can see here.

What Color do Catfish Like?

Catfish have a great sense of vision as well. Many believe it’s only the smell and taste receptors causing catfish to feed, but they are highly visual as well. Enough stimulation visually for a catfish and you can entice a nice bite.

If you notice when holding a catfish, for a few moments, the eyeballs will follow you as if he/she is watching every move you make. They can see clearly beneath the water as well. Some believe bright colors work best.

Catfish like colors like yellow, bright greens and reds for dip worms or “stink bait worms” are often used to appeal to this side of the catfish.

If you haven’t used these colors in the past, you should try and give them a try. Can’t hurt to see if you can appeal to these slimy trophy catfish from every angle. I’ve never noticed a huge difference based on the color of my presentation, but I do know others swear by it.

Give it a try and see what happens. What’s the worst that could happen?

What’s The Best Bait to Catch Big Catfish?

This could be debated among catfish anglers.

Live bait is the best bait overall to catch the big catfish. Especially trophy flathead and trophy blue catfish. We all have our preferred methods and baits, however, so I don’t want any angler discouraged by my vote for using live baits as the best baits.

Plenty of options are good viable options to catch big catfish. If something works for you, no need to change it up. If, however, you’re looking to try something new in your catfish angling game. Try live baits and cut baits for optimal success catching large blues. I don’t think you will be disappointed at the results.

So What Smell and Bait Are You Going to Use to Bring in Trophy Catfish?

You have plenty of options. With how strong the scents are with catfish, you can have pretty good luck using just about anything in the water with few exceptions.

Yes, they have preferred baits that all of us anglers have used for many years but all in all, they aren’t all too picky.

Just hungry, so get out there and give them something to feed on? What’s your favorite catfish bait or method of stirring up that sense of smell in trophy catfish?

Drop a comment below if you’re willing to share your secret methods or secret bait you use for catching more trophy catfish.

Remember to read: Best Fishing Pliers.

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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