The catfish is really an omnivore, which means it can be caught with a whole range of bait species. Often the fish species that occur in your fresh water will be the most obvious choice. The advantage of this is that the catfish knows these fish and is 100% trusted with them because he has been eating them all his life. Fishing with bait species that do not naturally occur in your fresh water can work against you because a catfish can really distinguish its prey fish from each other. It may be possible that he does not just accept a strange baitfish or perhaps does not like taste or smell. This can also happen if there is an abundance of a certain type of bait, the catfish can focus 100% there and he will not just accept another baitfish. This occurs especially during spawning, thousands of bream, roaches or windes can then gather together in the water, the ideal place to go fishing, but use that fish as baitfish.
With catfish we think of the following:
1. Baitfish (alive and dead):
a. Silverfish: bream, roach, chub, carp, tench, etc.
b. Predator fish: perch, zander, eel and predator
c. Sea fish: mackerel, sardine, etc.
2. Other bait types:
d. Organ meat
We will discuss the different bait types and the corresponding tactics piece by piece and indicate when you use them and how. Let’s start with bait fishing.
Traditionally the catfish is often attacked with large live bait fish, a bait fish of 30 to 40 cm is not unusual for many catfish fishermen. However, fishing is also possible with larger fish of 50 to 60 cm, depending on the species, but in recent years fishing with smaller bait fish has also become popular. Think of fish or even 10 cm. So always keep this in mind. Usually, it is a good bet to start with a bait of around 25 cm, which is great for fishing and will not be ignored quickly.
You can, of course, catch your bait fish while you go fishing, but of course, there is a high risk that they will bite badly and you spend more time catching bait fish than fishing with catfish. In addition, you have to bring two sets of equipment to the water. So make sure you have a stock of baitfish available.
In the overview we briefly showed a few baitfish species, we will briefly discuss them below:
Bream is baitfish number 1 in many waters, the reason is simple; in most waters, this is the first whitefish and catfish knows this bait and will eat it with confidence. In addition, a bream is a strong baitfish (from 20 to 25 cm) and it will last for a long time underwater. Because of its sturdy construction, a hook will not quickly bring this fish out of balance and will therefore naturally keep moving for a long time. The problem of bream is often keeping it well out of the water, the fish needs a lot of oxygen, so if you have to transport them you must always use an oxygen pump.
Roach is also good all-round bait fish. Here too they are daily on the catfish menu. These baitfish are somewhat more sensitive to heavy rigs because they are easily pulled out of balance, but with lighter rigs or a single hook, they are top bait fish.
Also a good bait fish, especially in running water. They are fierce and therefore make a lot of turmoil underwater, which will not escape the catfish. Due to the fierce swimming behavior, they will be more inclined to confuse the assembly, but in running water and mono underline this is quickly remedied.
A classic catfish baitfish which was baitfish number one for a long time, and perhaps still is. They are very strong and last for days on end. It is a fierce baitfish that makes a lot of noise underwater, and here too the catfish will not go unnoticed.
The advantage is that smaller carp can be kept at home in a container with an oxygen pump and transport is also not too difficult.
Another classic, the main reason is the ease with which this baitfish can be kept and transported. The Crucian carp can handle little oxygen for a long time and this ensures that you can easily transport it in a bucket over a longer period of time, even at high temperatures. In addition, it is a sturdy fish that lasts a long time during assembly. This is still a top baitfish, especially recommended as a summer back-up.
Almost a shame to hang on, but a good bait fish. It is a strong fish that has caught many catfish, also they are easy to keep and transport. Now, tench is not easy to catch but it is often cultivated and can easily be purchased.
It is a fish with soft meat, because of this, the body hook will sometimes come loose, so you have to fix it properly.
Barbel is a fish species which will not be hooked quickly but is part of the daily diet of our catfish friends. This is sometimes a top baitfish, especially with ground installations such as the underwater float.
A nice bright and sturdy baitfish, where you really don’t have to be afraid of the spines, our catfish friend swallows him in without suspicion. Perch is everywhere and is often easy to catch and fairly good to keep. The second hook of the rig will be more difficult to hook into the body, but if it is, it will not come loose.
Again a fish that many would rather see swimming around or on the plate. However, it is a very good baitfish which, it seems, can offer that little bit extra, especially in difficult periods. This can be a top baitfish especially close to the bottom. Note the minimum size, in many waters, for many may be on the large side.
Another classic catfish bait, even in the oldest articles about catfish, eel are mentioned as the catfish bait. The big advantage of eel is the ease with which you can keep and transport it. A little bit of water in a bucket and a bunch of eels will stay just as good, as long as they stay wet. But the liveliness of the eel underwater also attracts catfish, this is also the disadvantage. In stagnant water, an eel will hopelessly confuse your rigs without a problem, in running water this will immediately become a lot less.
Mackerel & Sardine
We will have to offer mackerel and sardine as dead baitfish. The results seem to vary, and I often hear more catches of mega-large pike on this bait than catfish.
So far for the baitfish itself. When hooking on baitfish it is very important that this is done properly, especially during static fishing the bait lays out for many hours before a bite follows. You want to be sure that the hook or hooks are in the right place.
When we talk about smaller baitfish we are talking about bait fish of 10 to 20 cm. These smaller bait fish are best fished with a single hook, many use circle hooks for this. The latter to prevent the hook from being swallowed and hooked too deeply. With small baitfish, it is important to use a hook that is not too large because it completely unbalances the fish and causes a lot of damage, causing it to die quickly. This is, of course, less important with a dead baitfish. For smaller bait fish, make sure that there are more subtle offers to make them appear as natural as possible.
Medium sized baitfish
With medium-sized bait fish, you should think of baitfish of 25 to 40 cm. These are very common bait sizes that can be eaten by any catfish, even smaller catfish, although the real little ones (<80 cm) will often give false bites on it.
With these baitfish, the bait offer is already a bit more robust, partly because these fish naturally have the necessary power and lighter floats can easily keep underwater for a long time and give fake bites.
With large baitfish, it is specifically about fishing at the tip of the catfish population. Bait fishing from 40 to 60 cm is used for this, in some cases bait fishing up to 80 cm. However, this is the exception rather than the rule, dressage and other circumstances can offer an advantage to use this bait, you exclude a good portion of the catfish from a good bite.
With these bait sizes it is not unusual to use a double hoist, so a single hook with two (large) dredges.
Other bait types
Because a catfish is an all-eater, there are other types of bait that are very suitable. We will go through this one by one:
These are in many cases a very good bait type, and it is often wrongly assumed that these are only the smaller fish that take worms.
The problem with worms, however, is that they are soft and all types of fish are fond of it. Leaving them out for a long time quickly produces an empty hook, especially on or around the bottom. But if you actively offer them under a bobber or from the boat with a quack, they are good bait.
The best are large Canadian Crawlers, Dew worms, and Dendrobaenas, these are for sale at fishing tackle shops as well as at breeders. These worms are sturdy and therefore remain firmly on the hook. Don’t be frugal with your worms, make sure the hook is full. A good way is to puncture the worms through the thicker dark-colored upper side so that they stay in place even better and they wind vigorously. By the vibration and movement and the smell, the worms attract the catfish to your hook.
Squid / calamari
Squid has been a proven catfish bait for a long time. These are easily available in the Asian Toko’s and are also cheap, a kilo pack costs you only a euro or 5 and contains a lot of smaller calamari. You put this in its entirety on the hook, with tentacles and all.
The large squid is also used, you do not use whole squid, but only the inside of its head, a white dot. Better known for the meat in the squid rings, also tasty but with garlic sauce and a glass of wine. This large variant is usually mounted on two hooks. The advantage of this bait is that it is nice and sturdy and tough and therefore stays on the hook. It is often advised to let this bait “ripen” in the summer sun, I myself have no experience with that, but the extra odor would attract the catfish better.
Especially in Russia and the Eastern Bloc, mussel meat has been used as bait for a long time and often. In the warm summer water, the large swan mussels often die in clumps and float around or roll open on the bottom. So a welcome meal for the catfish, just collect them and hook it up.
Organ meat or offal may not be used everywhere, but fishing with chickens and pieces of pig/beef heart and pieces of the liver has already yielded many beautiful catfish. However, they are not always easy to fish because they are or become soft. Lately, reports have regularly appeared from people who use chicken pieces, feed them and catch them, so it certainly works.
Many carp anglers may have thought they had lost a record carp, while in reality, it was a nice catfish that had caught their fishmeal boilie or pellet. Especially Europe fishing with pellets is a real craze, here huge numbers of catfish have been caught for years on the so-called halibut pellets. However, they have also been fed here for many years with this bait (note, this is tons per year) and they are therefore very confident and have grown a lot. Where this habituation is not (yet) the case, catfish will not always accept pellets and boilies immediately, feeding them may help but it is not necessary. Fishing is then the same as carp fishing with the pellets on a hair under the hook and with a fixed or free-running lead system.
As far as all possible bait types that you could use to catch a catfish. We hope that this article will help you better estimate when it is best to use a certain type of bait.