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Catfish are often an overlooked game fish. They swim slowly and live in ugly muddy water. But what many fishermen don’t know is that they can be a blast to catch. Some catfish grow over 100 lbs and 6 feet long! They’re also one of the few fish that are still easy to catch in the winter from shore. And the most common kinds of catfish make really good eating, either fried or in catfish stews.
So what works best for catching catfish? Catfish dough bait. Since Catfish are bottom eaters they look for scraps of dead animals or small crustaceans. Catfish dough bait works well for catfish because it often smells like what they’re used to eating. You can buy catfish dough bait pre-made, but we think it’s fun to make the dough bait at home. It costs less than buying it already made and can be a fun activity to do with younger fishermen.
In this article, we’ll cover how to make catfish dough bait, what catfish are, and how to fish your catfish dough bait. Let’s dive in!
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What are Catfish?
Catfish are a type of ray-finned fish that’s named for their forward-facing barbels, which look like cat’s whiskers. They range from extremely large (the Mekong Giant Catfish) to very small. The most common type of catfish in sports fishing is the channel catfish.
Channel catfish live in a majority of North America covering rivers and streams east of New Mexico and running from Canada all the way to Mexico City. Channel catfish have a very keen sense of smell, which is part of the reason why making smelly catfish dough works well for catching them. They are the most fished catfish species and are the official fish of Kansas, Missouri, Iowa, Nebraska, and Tennesee. Channel catfish are brownish-black in color and often grow to 40 or 50 lbs. The world record is over 58 lbs and was caught in South Carolina.
Catfish like water temperatures between 50 degrees and 80 degrees Fahrenheit. This means that the best time to fish for catfish is usually around dusk. You can catch catfish during the warmer hours of the day, but you’ll need a boat to get to the deeper water they like to hang out in.
The Best Tackle for Catfish
Depending on the type of catfish you’re fishing for you’ll need various sizes of fishing tackle. Since channel catfish are the most common type of catfish, we’ll briefly cover the types of fishing tackle that work best for them.
For fishing rods, we recommend using a surf fishing rod. These will allow you to cast your dough bait far out into the river where bigger catfish like to hide. The extra size of the rod will also help you battle a large catfish out of the main current.
We also recommend using either a surf fishing reel or a heavier baitcasting reel when fishing with catfish dough bait. Both options will work well with heavier monofilament line (20-40 lbs) or similar test braided line.
Types of Catfish Bait
Before dive into our favorite catfish dough bait recipes, we wanted to quickly go over the different types of catfish bait.
- Dough baits. Dough baits are the most popular style of homemade catfish baits because they are easiest to make and don’t have to sit for a long period before using them. Most dough baits are made using flour and water with additional ingredients added for scent. They’re very similar to mixed carp baits.
- Punch baits. Called punch baits because you ‘punch’ a bare treble hook into them to load the bait, they’re often made with cheese, meat, and a thickening agent. These baits are usually prepared ahead time and need to sit for an extended period for them to get the right consistency.
- Dip baits. Dip baits are similar to punch baits except that they’re thinner inconsistency. Often you’ll need to use a sponge or rubber worm to help coat the hook with the bait. It’s called ‘dip bait’ because you dip the hook into it.
- Blood baits. Blood baits are often either a dough bait or dip style bait, but they use blood as their main ingredient. The blood is then mixed with a thickening agent and allowed to sit for several days before using it.
The recipes we’ll cover in this article are mostly dough/punch type baits.
Catfish Dough Bait Recipes
Finn’s Catfish Delight
- 10 cans of canned fish, including juice.
- 1/2 cup parmesan cheese/cheese wiz
- 1/2 cup molasses
- 3 Tablespoons of soy sauce
- 1 box cherry jello
- 3 tablespoons of onion salt
- 2 tablespoons of garlic salt
- 1 cup bread crumbs/flour
Mix all ingredients in a bucket and let sit for 24 hours or until the consistency is to your liking.
Trinity River Catfish Dough Bait
- In 1/4 cup boiling water add 3 beef bullion cubes
- Mix in 3 oz of lunch meat
- 4 Tablespoons of melted peanut butter
- 3 tablespoons of onion salt
- 2 tablespoons of garlic salt
- 5 slices of white bread
- About 20 crackers
Pour mixture into a bucket and let cool. Then let it sit until it thickens enough to coat your hook.
Big Red Catfish Dough Bait
- 1 and 1/2 cups of cornmeal
- 1 cup of flour
- 16 ounces of Big Red
- 1 tablespoon of Anise oil
Add all ingredients to a pot. Heat and stir until combined. Once it starts to thicken, let the dough cool. Take the dough out and knead until the consistency of real dough. You can then form it into balls and attach it to your fish finder rig.
Another perk of this recipe is that the balls store well in the freezer. It also doesn’t stink as much as other recipes!
Uncle Dewey’s Catfish Dough Bait
- Two pounds of chicken livers
- Leftover baitfish
- 6 cups of regular oatmeal
- 2 cups of yellow cornmeal
- 1 cup of brown sugar
- 4 ounces of Limburger cheese
Stir all ingredients together and let sit outside for a week. Warning: this one smells really bad, so be sure to put it someplace people won’t get close to. You should also keep it covered to prevent animals and insects from getting into it.
Fishing for catfish is a ton of fun, and even more so when you know the bait you’re using is homemade. If you want a fun activity to do with a younger catfisherman, try making your own catfish dough bait from home. Then go fishing an hour before sunset to maximize your catfish feeding time. End up catching a giant catfish using one of our recipes? Let us know down in the comments!