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Excerpt from
Catfishing From A to Z
by Terry Madewell
(A Book of Modern Catfishing Techniques)

Catfish Baits
It Takes All Kinds

   Deciding on the baits used to tempt and catch catfish is much like bribing kids with ice cream.  Some days any ole flavor will work just fine, but on other days it's gotta be dingle-berry whip with tooty-fruity topping in a sugar cone.

   Let's face it, catfish have weird eating habits, and if you talk to ten old salts who have catfished for years each will likely have a distinct bait preference, but seldom are two ever exactly the same.  I've actually caught catfish on rotten corn cobs, hot dogs, ivory soap, and a host of other offbeat treats.  There are times that these baits work pretty well and an angler can carry home a  pretty hefty string of fish.  However, with each of the above baits I have also spent far too many fishless days, or caught far too few fish in comparison to what other anglers brought in.

   When I think of catfish baits, I like to think of them in terms of the ones that I can consistently score well with.  For general purposes, I like to group catfish baits into broad categories for discussion.  The basic groups are stink baits, blood baits, natural baits, cut baits, and creative concoctions.

   There was a point in my life several years ago when I thought I had pretty well solved the riddle of "what are the best catfish baits?"  Through years of fishing and extensive experimentation with baits, I had pretty well narrowed the list of what I call "first string" catfish baits down to two.  Both were in the natural category, and are among the few baits that will consistently catch all three species of the Big Three of catfishing, the channel, flathead, and blue catfish.  The two baits were live shad minnows and plum, juicy night crawlers which seemed to be just what the catfish doctor ordered.  That is, until I got a whiff of another type of doctor.  Namely Doc's Catfish Getter Dip Bait.

   While working on a magazine story assignment several years ago, I ran into a fellow who claimed he could catch catfish by the cooler full in "no time flat."  That was pretty fast, I had to admit, so we worked up a trip to test his bold statement.  I was so preoccupied with other stuff, I forgot to ask him what we would be using for bait until we were in the boat and heading up the lake.

   He pulled into a cove, throttled back, and drifted to a stop.  He eased the anchor over the side, apparently with no regard to any specific structure since he didn't even have a depth finder on the boat.  I would soon find out that the ole boy knew exactly where he was and what he was doing in terms of fishing structure that day.  And he also knew his catfish baits.

   He grabbed one of the rods and threaded a piece of sponge onto the hook.  He noted my inquisitive look and told me to get the bait bucket out of the back of the boat.  I saw a bucket with a towel placed over the top, and very carefully, I peeked under it.  Whew!  I'll never forget the smell.  The bucket was full of a brown smelly goo (sorry folks that's the best way to describe it) and what looked like a stirring stick.

   Taking the bucket from me, the fellow dropped the piece of sponge into the goo, then took the stick, which he called a "dipstick," and stirred the sponge into the stuff until it was saturated.  Handing me the rod to which the sponge was attached, he pointed to the area I was to cast to and cautioned me to "cast very gently, or the bait will drip off the sponge and get on ya, or worse, on me."

   I managed to cast the bait out okay and reached for another rod, but he told me not to bother.  I wouldn't have time to rig it up.  The fish would be hitting too fast, he said.  Now, I tell you, I was beginning to admire this guy's confidence, but I was a little surprised he didn't know that catfishing was a waiting game.  About the time I dipped the second piece of sponge, my first rod started sliding across the bow of the boat, headed for the lake.  I grabbed it just in time and set the hook on a hefty catfish.  A couple of minutes later my newfound friend netted my four-pound blue catfish and dumped it unceremoniously into the cooler alongside the six-pound channel cat he had just caught.

   I re-dipped and cast again.  Once again I reached for my second rod but the noise of the graphite bass rig being pulled out of the boat caught my attention, and I saved it just in the nick of time again.  This time I had a channel cat of about three pounds.

   You know, I never did get to use that second rod.  Twice that morning we went back to the landing to unload catfish out of the cooler, get more ice, and of course, more bait.  On our third return trip I was ready to do a little experimenting.  Somehow, after catching two hundred pounds of fish that morning, I was convinced that the fish were definitely in the area.

   I had carried along night-crawlers and cut bait, generally two very good producers.  To shorten the story, my buddy continued to catch fish as fast as he could set the hook, re-bait and cast again, while my two new baits drew a blank.  After about an hour I got a  hit on the worm but missed the fish. 

   I re-rigged one of the rods with the sponge and Doc's dip bait and immediately began catching fish in the same area I had been fishing with the other baits.  The other rod, rigged with a different bait, accomplished nothing other than drowning a gob of worms.

   I've never totally understood what exactly happened that day, why the stink bait was so productive and the others so poor.  But that is one of the traits of catfish.  Some days the odoriferous baits will draw the fish like flies to honey.  My experience in the past several years has been that although there are days when other baits may seem more productive, few are the times when Doc's Dip Bait wouldn't produce fish.  When that happens I have to concede that this ole country boy might not have been able to find the fish on that particular day.


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Parkersburg, Iowa 50665
Email: docscatfish@docscatfish.net

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