Catfish are among America’s favorite freshwater fish to angle. There is something so satisfying about landing one of these monsters of the deep. What you may not know is most catfish varieties are opportunistic or scavenger eaters and will suck up anything triggered near their barbels. Catfish can detect odors on a scale of parts per million. Thus, it is important to use baits that are odorous in nature. Here is a breakdown of the best non-traditional catfish baits that have been successful among anglers.


1. Mystery Soup

There’s really no going wrong with a catfish mystery soup, but here’s the bigger question; what is it? The answer is; that it’s a variety of anything that one may have on hand. Although vague in nature, anglers have used deli meat marinaded in minced garlic overnight. While others have praised the use of deli meat or hot dogs in gravy, left to sit. Do you have leftover chicken skins from prep or some questionable chicken in the fridge? Consider throwing it into a bath of mince garlic or soy sauce.


2. Hot Dog-gity?

hotdog sandwich with tomato and cheese

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The use of the hot dog in luring catfish has been tried and tested for many decades. Whether the catfish prefer a classic Oscar Meyer Weiner or Top Dog has yet to be determined. However, why this bait is so effective comes down to the fact that this is a meaty protein with an enticing scent and flavor. Why it’s desirable among catfish species is the soft nature of the meat, since catfish have downward-facing teeth. Just don’t cut the wieners too small, or they won’t fit on the hook.


3. Kool-Aid Conspiracy

While you’re rummaging through your fridge and pantry, chances are you aren’t considering this hidden gem of a bait; Kool-Aid. Alas, there’s no certainty if catfish enjoy cherry over blue raspberry as the flavor of choice. It is certain that this sugary powder has been tried and tested with outstanding results. A similar alternative would be to use a pack of Jell-O, which is an animal-based product utilizing rendered animal fat. 

However, both Kool-Aid and Jell-O are water-soluble, which in turn means, it spreads out in the water effectively. To prepare your scented bait, throw a protein such as a hot dog into a Ziploc bag, incorporating any meat juice, and let sit for up to 24 hours.


4. Cutting the Cheese?

assorted pile of cheese

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As you have probably figured out, there is an emerging theme, of protein-based products, here. Most cheeses are made with an animal enzyme known as rennet. Depending on the process, some cheese will bloom an odorous mold while others will not.  On this note, anglers should avoid soft and mild cheeses when selecting their bait. Remember, the stinkier, the better. This method, however, is best for targeting channel catfish over blues and flathead.


5. Fido’s Food

Have you ever opened a can of dog food and been taken aback by the aroma? It turns out, that a can of this gelatinous substance will make catfish go crazy. In selecting the best dog food, the key here is to look for one that contains chunks in gravy. As an added bonus, this bait can be used in chumming the water, enticing any nearby cats. Moreover, when it comes to target species, this method would be best used on channel catfish which has taste receptors throughout its body.


6. Soap

green and brown sliced cheese

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When it comes to nabbing big cats, this is one is considered a holy grail of catfish bait. But, it doesn’t come without doing some research, first. There are many varieties of bar soap that are full of harmful chemicals to the environment, and also contain additives. As a result, this can deter these bottom dwellers from hitting on your line. 

The trick here is to find a natural lye-based soap that contains protein, such as lard or beef tallow; that can be picked up from a farm. More so, a branded soap to note would be Ivory, which is a bar of pure soap. Lastly, to prepare your bait, cut the bar into 1-inch chunks for your line.


7. Gory Cutbait

Although, not the most controversial item on this, and indeed natural to the catfish’s diet. This reference to cutbait has more to do with the unusual presentation. To start, grab yourself a whole, skipjack herring, bluegill, sunfish, or gizzard shad.  Cautiously slit the belly of the fish, allowing the entails to spill out some. It’s essential to note, that this will take trial and error with various bait fish sizes, and it’s better to start off with a more petite slit. The result here should be a hooked bait fish that looks like it’s been in a horror movie. Catfish will not be able to resist the scent given off by the organs and blood.


A Word of Caution…

On the final note, there are numerous unusual baits out there, that work great in targeting catfish.  But, there are some harmful ones too. With the usage of WD40 rising to notoriety as a bait to target these freshwater monsters. Not only is WD40, an oil-based lubricate, but it’s also a cleaner with anti-corrosion properties, this is detrimental to the environment and even a deterrent for fish. Although it covers human scent, it is illegal to fish with. 

As anglers, we share the same waterways and should strive to ensure the ecosystem is at its healthiest for generations to come. If you opt to use a non-traditional catfish bait, be sure that it isn’t harmful to the fish and its surrounding habitat. There’s no harm in trying out different baits, and a little research can go a long way. But, if you’re stuck, here is our list of the best non-traditional catfish baits.