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The Great Bait Debate #14570718 12/21/22 02:22 PM
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Catfish Tim Online Content OP
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As long as I've been on the TFF, which admittedly isn't very long compared to some of us; there have been threads about bait. What to use when to use it how to hook it, how to make it stay on the hook, etc. etc. From Shad to Koolaid Chicken to Stubby and Shannon making a 3,000 pound cheese run! It's all aimed at the same goal. What bait is gonna catch fish? After all, that's what this whole thing is all about. Catching fish. Fish with whiskers. I consider myself an accomplished catfish angler. By no means am I a professional level catfish angler, but I am somewhere in the middle of the pack. I say this because I know guys who are professional level. Guys like Josh Brown, JR Hall, Joe Granata, Christian Moore, Chad Ferguson, Cody Mullenix, Steve Douglas, Larry Muse, and on and on. The guys I names are PhD level catfish anglers. I might be post graduate but a long way from that group. So for my doctoral thesis I'm going to talk about bait.

Before we decide what our best bait is we need to define what kind of fish were going after. Channels for a fish fry or trophy blues or the elusive flathead. Are we looking for numbers or size? Or both? Or anything we can get to bite? Are we bank fishing, are we in a boat? Does that even come into play when we are talking about bait? Well, enough questions... Let's get started answering a few...

Let's start with the channel cats and the numbers of fish that can be caught. You all have seen the results that Shannon aka Littlewheel puts up using Stubby's cheese bait. I think sometimes he could just hold a bucket of that stuff over the side of the boat and the fish would jump in it! In the interest of full disclosure I have not used Stubby's. I am always looking for big fish not numbers so I take a different path when it comes to choosing bait. But I see the results just like the rest of you. I have, in the past, tried the Team Catfish Secret Seven and had zero results. I don't mean that as a slam against it, I'm sure it has produced for some guys, just not for me. I also tried one that Chad Ferguson uses, CJ's Punch Bait, again with limited results. But I've seen Chad use it and catch fish after fish with it.

In my humble opinion, the prepared baits have a solid ranking when you are looking for numbers of fish to go to the grease bath. Small blues and channel cats seem to take those baits well. Once they get a little more mature they seem to favor other more natural baits. Not to say they stop hitting prepared baits at a specific age or size but the trend is away from prepared bait and towards natural foods such as bait fish. While we are on the subject of age, the recent story of the new Mississippi state record 131 pound blue cat caused some ruckus in the catfish world because the fish was harvested. Personally, I would have CPR'd it but the angler who caught it did not. And he was well within his rights to keep it. The most interesting thing about that was the age of the fish. The DNR determined that at 131 pounds the fish was 20 years old. 20, that's it. Living in the Mississippi river, obviously the fish had access to lots of bait fish. As the apex predator, it would have eaten every other species of fish in that river, shad, asian carp, common carp, buffalo, bream, black bass, striped bass, sand bass, yellow bass, crappie, and on and on. I note this to reinforce the idea that once a catfish gets old enough and big enough to be on top of the food chain, they will eat whatever they want. I reported on the TFF a few weeks ago that I cleaned a channel cat that had a bird in it's stomach. either a small juvenile duck or cormorant. And this, in a 8 pound channel cat! Image what a 131 pound blue would eat!

So, moving on from the prepared bait, next is what I would call the gimmicky baits. Koolaid Chicken Garlic Chicken, Koolaid Hot Dogs, etc. Will these baits catch fish, absolutely yes. Will they catch big fish, absolutely yes. Does it depend on certain other influenced, absolutely yes. I have a theory about chicken. I have tried using chicken and had some limited success with smaller fish. I know we have all seen bigger fish caught on chicken too. I have a theory about bodies of water where chicken seems to be more effective. I think it works better where the fish have mussels in their diet. Maybe it's because texture is similar, I don't know for sure but there seems to be some level of correlation there. As for the rest of this category, I think it is to be expected that some of these highly aromatic pungent baits will get bit from time to time but I do not count them as a go to bait. More of a "it will do in a pinch" kind of offering.

Now, when we get to bait fish, the low man on the totem pole is shad. Think about life as a shad. From the day you're born, everything in your world and above your world is trying to eat you. It amazes me that gizzard shad live long enough to get as big as they do. Going back to the channel cats for a minute, they will feast on small 2 and 3 inch threadfin shad or small cut pieces of gizzard shad. When I say they are low man, what I mean is they are food for everything. We'll get to the other bait fish and even game fish that are food for the whiskered species out there but for now let's focus on shad. If you've used your electronics to search for bait in the winter months you have seen the great clouds of shad in most every body of water. I have seen them so thick that I get a false return on them where my sonar thinks they are the bottom. They are in most of our bodies of water by the millions. They are, however, a delicate fish. When the weather gets too cold, it can induce a shad kill. There have been times when Texoma has been stocked with shad to maintain the population. The shad population on Texoma is the foundation of a 30 million dollar industry revolving around striper fishing. So the state of Texas and the state of Oklahoma have a vested interest in keeping the shad population healthy.

Catching shad to be used as bait is a topic unto itself. In Texas, you can use a 7 foot radius cast net, in Oklahoma the size limit is 10 feet. In other parts of the country, you are allowed to use gill nets to catch shad. The method of throwing a cast net is a personal thing. Everyone has their own process. It is usually based on a common technique that we all modify to fit our own capabilities. The net you use is a very personal decision too. Whether it's a Lee Fisher, a Fitec or some other net, they will all catch bait in the right circumstance. lighter nets can be used in shallow water but in the colder months when the shad go deep a taped net can be the key to successfully catching bait on a regular basis.

Cast nets are agnostic. They will pick up anything and everything underneath them. That includes other species of fish, snakes (that was a bad morning) trash, sticks, logs, rocks, etc. I have had days when all I can catch is small threadfin shad. If that's what I have, that's what I use. I can make a good bait out of 3 of 4 small shad. I have also caught good fish on small baits. I have boated 30 pounds blues on a 1" square piece of bait. Bigger isn't always better but sometimes it helps weed out the dinks. Out east on the Tennessee river skipjack is king. I have brought some back to Texas and the blues here seem to like it just as much as they do in the Tennessee river.

I like having lots of good size shad in the bait cooler before I head out for a day of fishing. I also like having a mix of shad and bream, maybe a drum or two and in a pinch I have gone out with just a buffalo and done well. Bream is a favorite bait of mine too. The greatest advantage bream has over shad is it's tougher and stays on the hook better. I think a blue would eat either one the same. Although it seems shad is favored when the water is warmer. Where it's allowed (Oklahoma) sand bass seem to be favored over shad when the water gets cold. I'm not sure why that is but I have had days when winter fishing that I couldn't get bit on shad but I could on other baits like bream and sandies.

Other trash fish like drum (gasper geaux) and buffalo make good baits too. If you can cut up a bullalo, it makes a good oily fresh bait and the skin in so tough it will stay on the hook for ever. I know some guides on Tawakoni that swear by drum for trophy blues. I would like to see Texas allow the use of some game fish for bait. I understand why they don't but I would like to see the regulations more in line with what they have in Oklahoma. I was taught that flatheads only eat live bait. I was taught wrong... I have caught flathead on cut bait just like blue cats. I prefer cut bait as live bait seem to always tangle my lines!

I could go on here forever but I need to wrap it up before I put you all to sleep. In summary, use what you can get and what's allowed by law. Don't kill yourself trying to catch bait. I have been known to give my good friend Blue Cat Bob a hard time for not catching bait or giving up too soon. But the reality is catch it or buy it just get it so you can fish. After all, that's what were all here for, isn't it?

Last edited by Catfish Tim; 12/21/22 02:25 PM.

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Re: The Great Bait Debate [Re: Catfish Tim] #14570838 12/21/22 03:44 PM
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You put alot of thought into that. But you left out the natural baits. Garden snails, grasshoppers, June bug grub worms, crickets, tadpoles, salamander(Mud Dog), cut snake(The bull snake you killed for killing the chickens), garden slugs, tomato horn worms, and corn worms.

You do not have to buy the latest and greatest store bought bait to catch the monsters.






Last edited by Grasshopperglock; 12/21/22 03:45 PM.
Re: The Great Bait Debate [Re: Grasshopperglock] #14570871 12/21/22 04:12 PM
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Originally Posted by Grasshopperglock
You put alot of thought into that. But you left out the natural baits. Garden snails, grasshoppers, June bug grub worms, crickets, tadpoles, salamander(Mud Dog), cut snake(The bull snake you killed for killing the chickens), garden slugs, tomato horn worms, and corn worms.

You do not have to buy the latest and greatest store bought bait to catch the monsters.



Those baits will likely be in the same category as dip/cheese baits IMO. They will work better towards eater sized channels and blues most of the time fished over baited holes with occasional big fish mixed in.
Gizzard shad/cut baits such as chunks of fresh cut carp would be more reliable and get my vote if I was trying to target bigger fish.

Re: The Great Bait Debate [Re: Grasshopperglock] #14570888 12/21/22 04:22 PM
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Originally Posted by Grasshopperglock
You put alot of thought into that. But you left out the natural baits. Garden snails, grasshoppers, June bug grub worms, crickets, tadpoles, salamander(Mud Dog), cut snake(The bull snake you killed for killing the chickens), garden slugs, tomato horn worms, and corn worms.

You do not have to buy the latest and greatest store bought bait to catch the monsters.







See what I mean about going on and on. lol... I think your list might be worthy of it's own category.


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Re: The Great Bait Debate [Re: Lewisville Catfishing] #14570889 12/21/22 04:25 PM
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Originally Posted by Lewisville Catfishing
Originally Posted by Grasshopperglock
You put alot of thought into that. But you left out the natural baits. Garden snails, grasshoppers, June bug grub worms, crickets, tadpoles, salamander(Mud Dog), cut snake(The bull snake you killed for killing the chickens), garden slugs, tomato horn worms, and corn worms.

You do not have to buy the latest and greatest store bought bait to catch the monsters.



Those baits will likely be in the same category as dip/cheese baits IMO. They will work better towards eater sized channels and blues most of the time fished over baited holes with occasional big fish every once in awhile.
Gizzard shad/cut baits such as chunks of fresh cut carp would get my vote if I was trying to target bigger fish.



Growing up here. You'd see guys brag about their huge catfish by sticking it's head on a fence post. The only commercial bait available was, 'Stink Bait' in a mayonnaise jar. Which was used with red sponge, smashed into the goop of a bait. It stank because it was limburger cheese. Something people mixed up at home before someone started selling it.

The top of the list on secret squirrel baits was goldfish.


Never saw or heard about anyone using chicken breast, or perch. Livers, Yes. Red Soap, Yes. But seeing how the fishing world has become a gigantic commercial. With every tom, dick, and harry trying to sell you some magic bait.

It's the skill of catching those monsters more then it is the bait.

Last edited by Grasshopperglock; 12/21/22 04:25 PM.
Re: The Great Bait Debate [Re: Catfish Tim] #14570899 12/21/22 04:32 PM
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Not sure what you are getting at about "secret squirrel bait", but goldfish was and still is a fantastic bait for trotlines targeting flatheads as my dad used that for years in the 70s on Grapevine.

Re: The Great Bait Debate [Re: Lewisville Catfishing] #14570909 12/21/22 04:39 PM
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Originally Posted by Lewisville Catfishing
Not sure what you are getting at about "secret squirrel bait", but goldfish was and still is a fantastic bait for trotlines targeting flatheads as my dad used that for years in the 70s on Grapevine.



Secret Squirrel as in the neighbor inviting you over. While cleaning 3-4 catfish, that pushed the scale at 30# each. Standing there talking about everything but the bait used. The secret came later after a few beers. Then the guy would open up.

"Yep, caught them sum bitches on goldfish".

Last edited by Grasshopperglock; 12/21/22 04:39 PM.
Re: The Great Bait Debate [Re: Catfish Tim] #14570927 12/21/22 04:53 PM
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Very thoughtful and detailed write up.

I enjoyed it! Thanks for taking the time to write that up and share it.

Wish I could get my hands on some bluegill about now. Those to me are my best bait. Just stay on the hook so well and seem to catch the bigger fish. I like to take their heads off and run a big circle hook through the eye socket. It's money!

Chicken also works well for me.

Curious what specific correlations you saw between chicken and mussels?



Re: The Great Bait Debate [Re: Catfish Tim] #14570993 12/21/22 06:10 PM
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people often mention bluegill , but these little fellows are so much better.

I am surprised no one mentioned grasshopper for channel cat.

MO



Last edited by Mo; 12/21/22 06:10 PM.


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Re: The Great Bait Debate [Re: Mo] #14571071 12/21/22 07:08 PM
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Originally Posted by Mo
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people often mention bluegill , but these little fellows are so much better.

I am surprised no one mentioned grasshopper for channel cat.

MO





Meh same thing...

As guys in the bluegill section cringe at my comment bolt



Re: The Great Bait Debate [Re: Catfish Tim] #14571095 12/21/22 07:15 PM
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I really hoped this would get a good discussion going. Mission accomplished there! Thanks y'all for chiming in. Mo, when I mention bream or bluegill I am talking about everything from a warmouth to a shell cracker and everything in between. Dan, last few times out, throwing the cast net in the marina, I was catching as many bream as shad and like you I think the head of a cut bream is a really good bait. I know what you mean about the secret squirrel baits. The homemade punch bait with some special old timer's secret ingredient. I've also seen the goldfish and bullheads for flathead bait. I think they are both able to stay alive on a hook for a good while.

The insect baits, grasshoppers, crickets and such... I guess I've never thought of those as catfish baits. More for crappie and bass in my experience... Interesting though.


Catfish Tim
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Re: The Great Bait Debate [Re: Catfish Tim] #14571116 12/21/22 07:31 PM
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The grasshoppers in the hot months work great under a cork. I used to load up on them in the high grass/dried out field next to my boat storage at the Buck creek ramp on Raybob. That makes for some fun, fast action and great for taking the kids along to catch both bait and fish.

Re: The Great Bait Debate [Re: Catfish Tim] #14571139 12/21/22 07:40 PM
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Great read and Super good topic. Even better info shared CT, thanks. I like live shad in the 4-6 inch size, bigger than that they are great cut bait and my first choice is the head. I have fished with guys that would rather throw the head away and would if Rowdy wasn't there. Freak'n best piece of the cut bait.

From there my choice that is legal of coarse is perch 3-5 inch on those are good since they are more frisky and are fighters. Crawfish come in my next legal baits, I usually have to settle on 2 inch for the most part as that is the bigger size I can catch enough of. But when the occasional bigger Crawfish gets snatched up they are better for the trophy fish. The smaller baits of any of these I mention gets the quicker and more frequent bites and usually the eater size fish. Which I am not knocking at all, besides its catching fish too. Heck I don't care what kind of fish I even catch really lol. I like to go fishing and by definition that doesn't require catching... Just the going is great!

Now, just to talk about bait fish, two come to mind that if we're legal here in Texas, Rainbow trout and Crappie would be at the top of the food chain. Like Rainbow or Crappie in the 3-6 inch size would be an awesome bait that would rank right with the shad ijmo. We're just talking here, so no one get any idea of using these two for like bait. These two in artificial, you bet. A good artificial bait jimo here and only if it's a well made bait. The cheaper knock off's I don't waste my time with them. Heck those cheaper made baits, you will end up catching that nice trophy size fish and that bait will fail, least that is why I won't mess with them.

Live perch we could buy until this year, I suspect the places that sell them wholesale are maybe under the microscope of the feds. The number 1thing being the spread of Zebra muscles, that is just what I think they have been hard for me to get local when trying to buy bait. Perch has always been a great live bait and one I could buy. My searches online have found them that was legal for me to buy, I just needed a bait tank big enough for 300 perch the size I want.

Which becomes possibly my future project this spring when all this freezing weather is over is a really big bait tank for such a purchase as I would like to have them around, and unless these locals don't get them this next year to sell, I very well may do it for my own use. I already have a good tank, just need to plumb it with pump and filters which is right up my alley anyway. You guys ever saw what I did with my livewells on my Triton TR-21, you would know why I say this. I made some serious baitwells out of these two really big livewells.

I already have two round bait tanks that I have used to keep live bait on hand here at the house but the biggest is only about 65 Gallons. I hope the local bait shops pickup the perch this next year, so I don't have to mess with doing all that myself. I still need to go to the TPWD and I do have that planned, and visit with them to see exactly what I can and more importantly CAN'T do lol...

I really need to focus on getting new electronics and trolling motor on my boat and then learn how to use them and know what I am looking at, instead of big enough bait tank at the house for 300 perch orders lol... my knowledge of the use of electronics is limited to basically just about nothing. I know I would enjoy messing around with the equipment enough. It's all about time and money around my house usually the lack of either one of those, or both lol...

Re: The Great Bait Debate [Re: Lewisville Catfishing] #14571144 12/21/22 07:45 PM
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Originally Posted by Lewisville Catfishing
The grasshoppers in the hot months work great under a cork. I used to load up on them in the high grass/dried out field next to my boat storage at the Buck creek ramp on Raybob. That makes for some fun, fast action and great for taking the kids along to catch both bait and fish.



I was taught by a father in law on how to catch them. He had a beer and bait fridge on the porch. A half gallon milk jug full of grasshoppers. Wondering how he got them. I went along with him one evening.

He had a 150acre farm and in one small area was typical tall Johnson's grass. Around 9:00pm during the summer. The grasshoppers would hang off the top of the weeds. Using a flashlight, their eyes would shine like diamonds. You'd simply pick them off and stick them in a milk jug. After getting back home. You'd stick the jug in the fridge. The grasshoppers would go quiet. But once they warmed back up, they started clicking.

This gentleman didn't own a fishing pole. He ran trotlines using an old v bottom boat. 1950's era boat. Grasshoppers were one of his go to baits. Setting and checking the trotlines myself. They work quite well.

He'd keep the jug in the fridge until he needed more. They lasted A long time being chilled.




Last edited by Grasshopperglock; 12/21/22 07:46 PM.
Re: The Great Bait Debate [Re: Catfish Tim] #14571204 12/21/22 08:29 PM
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Nice post as usual Tim.

Lot of ways of thinking about bait. Lot of different baits - and different bait for different fish and conditions. Match the hatch as the fly fishermen say.

I grew up in Alabama and fished the river and lakes for channels, bream and crappie most of the time, bass some as I got a little older. The market fishermen on Weiss Lake used frozen honey bee's on their trot lines, and did well. Would not have believed it if I had not saw it. Thought they were joking first time, until they showed me. I have done very well with punch baits, and have a tub of Stubby's to try. Like to have it for kids to fish by the dock with.

Moved to Kansas in high school, and fished the Kansas river for flatheads. Live bream were king. Some monsters in there in the deep holes, etc. Lived in NC for a while and fished Cape Fear river for cats - mostly channels and flatties. Again, some big fish. Live bream and cut bream were favorites, as I could usually catch a few bream real quick.

Lived up north for a short while unfortunately, but did get to ice fish. That was a whole different fun. Little wax worms and catch all sorts of things. Hard to beat cold water tiger perch and walleye to eat! And just sat my beer on the ice!

Now living here in Texas and this blue cat game has cut my other fishing significantly... still like to catch crappie and striper every now and then. But for the blues, I want to drift, and while shad are usually always a part of my bait, I have had good luck with buffalo and carp also. I have also used chicken breast - with and without red jello. Jello tends to make it a little tougher I think, which is good. Not sure if color or flavor help any or not, but it don't hurt I don't think. I lost one of my bigger hookup's on a large chicken breast. I think this goes to the same line of thinking Tim called out about a BIG blue eats what ever it wants... wish I could have gotten that one in the boat - pretty sure my CC PB might be higher if I had.

I am still very new to this game, but at this point, I think presentation and timing are probably more important than specific baits - if the other baits are close in size and type (shad, bream, buffalo or chicken for example - all slab same size). Get the drift speed right and be in the area the fish are in...

I do wish Texas would allow game fish scraps to be used for bait... but understand why they don't. But it still hurts to throw away those crappie heads and Sand bass when cleaning them!

Tight lines all - be careful with the cold the next few days!

Ken


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