What is the Best Fishing Bait for Blue Catfish?

The Best Fishing Bait for Blue Catfish is Fresh Cut Bait

Blue catfish are an increasingly popular freshwater game fish. They grow quite large and are widely distributed. There are several baits that are effective when fishing for blue catfish. However, there is one bait that is the best fishing bait for blue catfish.

The best fishing bait for blue catfish is fresh cut bait. There is nothing that a blue catfish prefers more than a freshly cut chunk of locally available forage. It is always best to use fresh bait, especially if that bait is present locally in the waters. Fresh cut bait puts out a ton of fish attracting scent, which will attract blue catfish to the hook.

best fishing bait for blue catfish

Blue catfish were introduced into many larger river and reservoir systems throughout the country, particularly in the Southeast and Midwest. This was done to give anglers the opportunity to catch a very large game fish. Blue catfish grow to over 100 pounds! They have a large mouth and a voracious appetite, making them an apex predator.

Best blue catfish baits

As mentioned above, the best fishing bait for blue catfish is a chunk of fresh cut bait. The best baits are normally shad, herring, and suckers. Shad and herring have been stocked into many larger lakes to provide a food source for striped bass. They are certainly happily devoured by blue catfish as well.

fishing for catfish

These are oily fish that put out a mini chum slick of scent into the water. As blue catfish primarily feed on forage fish and are also scent feeders, this makes a chunk of fresh cut bait a natural choice. Some anglers do go to the trouble of using live bait fish for blue catfish as well. However cut bait is very productive and there is no need to keep these fragile bait fish alive.

Frozen bait can be used in a pinch, however fresh bait will drastically outperform frozen bait in most instances. Fresh baits can be purchased at some bait shops and even grocery stores. However, most serious anglers fishing for blue catfish catch their own bait. Shad and herring are most often caught by anglers throwing a cast net. Suckers are usually caught on a hook in line with a piece of warm, but can be caught in nets or traps as well. It is important to check local regulations to determine what baits are legal to use and what methods are legal to use an order to obtain them.

Catfish bait

Anglers using fresh cut bait when fishing for blue catfish have two options; fillets or chunks. Most anglers opt for using chunks for several reasons. Using a sharp knife, the bait fish is caught into several sections, usually around 2 inches wide. This results in each piece of bait having some blood and entrails which will help attract the fish. The bone under the top of the bait fish helps keep the bait on the hook longer.

Best fishing rod and reel for blue catfish

Blue catfish grow very large. Fish in the 30 pound to 50 pound class are not at all uncommon. The current world record blue catfish is 130 pounds. For this reason, fairly stout conventional tackle is the best choice when fishing for blue catfish.

bank fishing

Fortunately, several manufacturers offer quality cat fishing outfits at a very affordable price. A 7 foot to 8 foot medium heavy rod with a fairly limber tip and matching reel is an excellent all round combination. This outfit will be light enough to enjoy the fight of a small to medium-size blue catfish while providing the power to land a trophy. Most anglers use braided line, with 50 pound test being a good choice.

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Anglers can certainly use heavy spinning tackle as well. Spinning tackle is actually advantageous in situations where anglers need to make long casts. Again, a 7 foot to 8 foot medium heavy rod with a 6000 to 8000 series reel spooled up with 40 pound braided line is an excellent spinning outfit when fishing for blue catfish.

fishing for blue catfish

Hooks and rigs for catching blue catfish

There are many different choices when it comes to hooks when fishing with cut bait bait for blue catfish. Many anglers have turned to circle hooks as they tend to end up in the mouth of the fish, which reduces catfish mortality rates. Other anglers still prefer to use “J” hooks. There really is no wrong answer, it is just a matter of angler preference. 5/0 “J” hooks and 10/0 circle hooks are good all-around size is when fishing for average sized blue catfish.

catfish leaders

While blue catfish are most often found on or near the bottom, there are several different ways to present a chunk of cut bait to them. The most commonly used rig would be the sliding sinker rig, also known as a Carolina rig. This consists of a sinker with a hole in the center, which the running line slides through. A swivel is then tied on, which not only stops the sinker but facilitates use of a leader. A short leader is used between the swivel and the hook.

This rig allows catfish to pick up the bait and move off a bit without feeling the weight of the sinker. Is a very effective rig for catfish and just about any other bottom feeding species. Many anglers opt for special flat catfish sinkers which sit on the bottom and do not roll. These are also known as “no roll” sinkers, for obvious reasons.

fishing for blue catfish

More blue catfish rigs

Blue catfish will also feed a few feet above the bottom. Anglers often do well with a high low rig, also known as a spreader rig. With this rig anglers can present multiple baits at varying depths above the bottom. Most anglers limit this to two or three hooks at most, as it becomes cumbersome after that.

fishing for river catfish

Three-way swivels are used to tie this rig. The running line is tied to one end of the swivel. The leader with a hook in it is tied to in other end of the swivel. A short piece of line connects the third ring of the swivel with either a sinker or another three-way swivel and the process is repeated.

Blue catfish will be found quite shallow at times, especially true at night. Submerged timber, rocks, and other structure including flats and drop-offs will be prime spots to catch channel catfish. Fishing a chunk of cut bait under a float can be a very effective presentation during these times. This is a simple as adding a float several feet above the hook.

Other effective blue catfish baits

While fresh cut bait is the best fishing bait for blue catfish, there are other baits that can be productive as well. These include live versions of the same cut bait, prepared baits, and nightcrawlers.

Live bait fish

As mentioned earlier, live a shad, herring, suckers, and even panfish where legal can be very good baits when fishing for blue catfish. The main disadvantage is the extra care and inconvenience that is required when fishing with live bait fish. Herring and Shad in particular are very delicate and require large live wells with strong pumps in order to keep the bait alive for very long. Suckers and panfish are a bit easier to deal with. There are some anglers fishing for blue catfish who feel that live bait fish are worth the trouble.

Prepared catfish baits

Catfish Bubblegum

There are many commercially available prepared catfish baits that will certainly full blue catfish as well. These normally do not work as well and heavily pressured waters. The main advantage to these baits is their convenience. Anglers can keep them stored in their tackle boxes or garages for a long time and they are ready to use whenever the angler wants to go fishing. These tend to catch more channel catfish as well, which may or may not be a good thing, depending on the angler.

Nightcrawlers

best live bait for freshwater fishing

Nightcrawlers will catch just about every freshwater species, and blue catfish are no exception. There are times when a gob of lively nightcrawlers on I hook will be the preferred bait for anglers fishing for blue catfish and other species. Nightcrawlers are readily obtainable and easy to keep alive, which are both definitely advantages. The main disadvantage, if you want to call it that, with nightcrawlers is the fact that just about everything else will eat them. Anglers targeting blue catfish will often find these other game fish to be a “nuisance”.

In conclusion, this article on the best fishing bait for blue catfish should help anglers catch more of these powerful freshwater game fish!