I've tried a bunch of commerical baits and all the livers I could lay hands on but I keep coming back to the good ol' night crawlers. Nothing has ever beaten beaten them, antelope steak came the closest.
The catalpa worm is really about as good as it gets IF you can get them. They are tough as nails and stay on the hook better than any other bait I've ever used. Plus the juices from them really draw in the cats.
Also used hellgramites, crawfish, cut bait made from other fish and the huge night crawlers we used to get by sawing for them. To do that you found a low lying moist area covered in leaves with small trees growing there. Cut off a tree about 1.5"-3" in diameter about 2'-3' from ground. Now take a handsaw and saw downward into it slowly. You're not trying to cut so much as to vibrate the ground. They come up in droves and can be over a foot long. For trotlines those are what we have mostly used. Some whole small fish like bream or shiners.
For rod and reel fishing mostly either catalpa worms or earth worms. Never did like liver as it don't stay on well and I just don't like liver. Yuck! Most stink baits are too delicate for running water I've fished.
Used chicken livers for years. Went to an outdoor show where I met this bigtime TV fishing show guy that chose to make fun of me and my choice of bait in front of everyone there. Told him the reason he didn't see chickens swimming on the Ohio river was because the big cats ate um all.
2 days later we saw this same guy on the river with camera crew in tow. Must have had half a million dollars worth of fishing equipment, but no fish. Just to show there were no hard feelings, we pulled along side and showed him what 11 fish from 9 to 43# actually looked like. Only thing that would have made it better would have been if his whiz bang motor wouldn't have started, but it did. He seemed to be in a hurry to go some where.
I don't like the taste of liver either but channel cats sure do. Use chub minnows from a local branch, 8 or 10" long, for flatheads.
I just remembered this one after reading a magazine the other day. Years ago there was this older black man who always sat in the same lawn chair on the same spot on the bank of Tennessee river. This gentleman always had a good "mess" of fish. My family fished there often during the summer. I think I was 10 or 11. We always used liver or night crawlers and had fair success but nothing like this gentleman. I remember my mother asking him what he used for bait and he said "mussels" The Tennessee river is commonly used for the commercial harvest of freshwater mussels. Later in life I found out from a friend who lives in the area that we were about ten or fifteen miles from a mussel processing plant. Mussels are harvested for freshwater pearls and their shells. This gentleman was getting the meats from the mussel divers to use as catfish bait. The meats are very tough and rubbery, just the right size for a hook and have a strong odor. The perfect bait. James, a buddy of mine who lives in the area still fishes the River and has reported finding open mussel shells in the stomachs of catfish. Seems the fish seeks out these mussels, they eat them, then the acids in their stomachs kill the mussel causing them to open where they are digested with the empty shell being expelled. I've seen it work before, I need to get my hands on some shell fish to try this out.... Good Luck............
Back in the '50s along the Coosa River in Bama there were plenty of mussels and we'd often gather them for bait either for trotline or more often for use on rods for cats. Up above the island across from our boat dock was a small towhead. Lots of shallow sandy and gravel bottom around that area and we'd gather lots of mussels there. Could find several varieties from the size of a quarter to quite large ones as big as ostyers.
Best bait that I have found is small white juvenile crawfish in the spring. When I was a kid we used a leaf rake to drag them up on the banks of small ditches then grab them and throw them in a bucket. This tended to get a little intense when you drug up a water moccasin. They ususally were not very understanding and since they were drug out of the water right at your feet, arrangements needed to be made to adjust his attitude rather quickly. It is a shame that some of those confrontations weren't caught on film. Later we made a drag out of screen wire and a long pipe for a handle.
For trotlines we used to use crawfish as much as possible. Most any mud hole or water filled ditch might hold them. Used either a long handed scoop made with wire mesh or a net if the area was large enough. The scoop thing really worked well in small bodies of water like ditches and swamps too shallow or thick to use a net.
The scoop had a water pipe handle screwed into a fitting that was welded to the heady duty wire frame. Size of scoop was about 18" wide by about 15" front to back and maybe 4" deep. Used 1/4" mesh wire on bottom sides and back. Some times also used it to gather hellgramites.
down here in texas grasshoppers seem to be the #1 choice of the cats in my favorite pond. i cleaned them and a whole belly full of them just came out it did that with every cat i cleaned and the sa,me results in the lake but i have good luck with mussels there is a place called tyler state park me and my cousin go camping there every summer a couple of times and the water is clear enough to see to the bottom at like 10 foot so getting mussels is ratgher easy well ttyl
One of my favorite baits for fishing for catfish in farm ponds when I lived in Oklahoma was turkey liver. I found it more durable than chicken liver and being that it is bigger you can cun it to match your hook better. I also cured my liver by leaving it in the hot sun and by doing this it devlops a crust on it which helps it stay on the hook. When you are done with it be sure and refreeze it and then thaw it back out for your next trip. Just remember to label the container it is in so you do not make the same mistake I did by thawing some out and opening it in your house as it will become extremley ripe over time. Another great bait where legal is live bluegill and waterdogs (salamenders) are also excellent bait. 8)
Gotta go with Greybeard on this one. Down Here Catalpa worms are best, when you can get them. Next to that is shrimp, but they have to be fresh. The frozen ones with the preservatives don't work. I have heard some have had success by cutting bait fish like shad, but I haven't triedthat yet.
Man I love fishin' for cats and can't wait till it warms up a little!! Come on down and lets go, I am always lookin' for a fishin partner!!
For channels and blues shad can't be beat, and the fresher the better. Sometimes whole shad, sometimes shad heads, shad fillet, fillet with gut, whatever. With shad there's always some way to make em bite.
For flatheads give me a live perch.
My second choice would be night crawlers.
I've got a bad feelin towards catalpa worms. I used to use em some. There was a house in town that had two trees in the front yard and one in back. The old woman that lived there always let me gather all I wanted each summer. They seemed to work way better fresh than they did after being frozen.
That old woman got in bad health and had to go to an assisted living home, so me bein the wise entrepreneur I was, decided that I'd just buy that place, have me some rental income and my own personal bait stash.
Boys I guess I owned that place for something like 12 years, and never got one damn worm off those trees.
Blood baits, livers, chicken hearts, worms and night crawlers all work but my favorite is pickled minnows. Take your minnows and put them in a water proof container with just enough water to cover them. Add formaldehyde, about half a cup per quart, and refrigerate. Toughens them up so they stay on the hook as they are not easily ripped. Old trick I learned from a commercial fisherman. Lawdog
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