Outdoor Life Online Editor
As long as anyone can remember, catfish anglers have been enticing their quarry with strange baits. It’s not unusual to find a cat man mixing a batch of secret-recipe stinkbait with the solicitude of a French chef preparing a sumptuous bouillabaisse. He stirs together a pinch of this, a cup of that, a dollop of some secret additive. Then, like a connoisseur sampling the bouquet of an expensive wine, he lifts a cupful to his nose and inhales. His eyes water, his knees shake, his stomach convulses, and he proclaims, “Whew! That would gag a maggot. The cats will surely love it.” Outdoor Life Online Editor
Indeed, catfishermen seem to believe the worse it smells, the more cats it will catch. To make it so, they add some fetid ingredients to their potions. Limburger cheese, for example. This semi-soft cheese reeks. Normal humans can’t eat it without holding their nose. Stinkbait manufacturers and catfish love it. Outdoor Life Online Editor
Decades ago, many hardcore cat men concocted productive scents by combining various tinctures, resins and oils. One ingredient almost all of them used was asafetida. Also called stinking gum and devil’s dung (for reasons that become obvious when you handle it), this resin works on catfish like catnip on cats. Soak a cotton trotline with a solution of it, and catfish will rub against it and get foul-hooked. Dip a strip of cloth in the mixture and put it on a hook, and you’ll catch a cat every time. Outdoor Life Online Editor
Anise oil, which is used to flavor licorice and other foods, also has an aroma – in this case a pleasant one – that whiskerfish just love. Catfish fans take advantage of this fact by soaking pieces of sponge in the oil and fishing them on treble hooks. Cats go after them like kids after candy. Outdoor Life Online Editor
Now here’s a really strange pair for you: WD-40 and Preparation H. In recent years, word spreading through the catfish underground has it that a spritz or dab of one of these on your bait will increase your catch rate. We haven’t tried either one, but figure it couldn’t hurt to put some in the ol’ tackle box in case they’re needed for normal uses. Outdoor Life Online Editor
Your local grocery store has tons of stuff you can use for bait – some you may have tried, like chicken liver and shrimp, and some highly effective but lesser-known cat-catchers such as golden raisins, grapes, bacon (hickory-smoked works best) and Hormel Spam. We favor the latter in particular because Arkansas angler Charles Ashley used a chunk of this spicy canned meat to catch a 116-pound, 12-ounce world-record blue cat in the Mississippi River. And if the fish aren’t biting…well, you can eat the bait. Outdoor Life Online Editor
Ever heard of cats eating dogs? Well, they do. Hot dogs are another great grocery bait. On South Carolina’s Santee Cooper lakes, hallowed water for catfish fans, frankfurters are a favorite of local guides – but not just any franks. “They don’t like all-beef hot dogs,” one guide reports. “But they love the cheap kind made out of chicken or turkey.” (And you thought catfish weren’t discriminating diners!) Outdoor Life Online Editor
If you do fish with wieners, here’s a trick to try. Slice several into 1-inch pieces and put them in a pint fruit jar. Add one package of unsweetened strawberry Kool-Aid (it’s gotta be Kool-Aid and it’s gotta be strawberry) and several whole cloves of garlic, slightly mashed. Fill the container with water, and allow the hot dogs to marinate overnight. Use for catfish bait (or midnight snacks). Outdoor Life Online Editor
Some anglers actually use bubble gum for bait. “We use Bazooka, Double Bubble and Bubble Yum,” a Georgia catfisherman said. “They all catch cats so long as you chew the gum a little before baiting your hook. Don’t chew all the flavor out, though, or they won’t take it.” (Neither would we.) Outdoor Life Online Editor
The idea of a catfish eating fruit stretches the imagination, but cats are opportunistic, often gathering to feed on muscadines, mulberries, haw fruits and even acorns and hickory nuts that drop from trees overhanging the water. When available, however, there’s no fruit they like better than persimmons. Impale a ripe one on a hook, cast it near cover and hang on. When a cat hits a ‘simmon, it’s liable to yank your arm plumb out of the socket. Outdoor Life Online Editor
Worms aren’t weird catfish baits. Lots of folks use them. But worms in beet juice – now that seems a bit wacky. Don’t knock it till you’ve tried it, though. Soaking night crawlers and garden hackle in a jar full of beet juice toughens ’em up so they stay on the hook longer and imparts a flavor and color catfish find irresistible. Outdoor Life Online Editor
When fishing for a bass, you wouldn’t think of using another bass for bait. But catfish anglers have long known that one of the best baits for big catfish is a smaller catfish – the bullhead. Bullheads are the important prey of flathead, blue and channel catfish in many waters, and where they’re legal to use for bait (check local regulations), give them a try. This is an A-1, first-class, blue-ribbon bait for cats over 50 pounds. Outdoor Life Online Editor
Bugs for bait? Yep, cats love ’em, and the bigger the better. A fat grasshopper floated on the surface will garner a topwater strike like you never saw. (And you thought cats were just bottom feeders, right?) Outdoor Life Online Editor
A buzzing cicada impaled on a hook also will draw kitty cats up from the depths. And during those years when these big bugs are hatching out by the millions, you won’t have any trouble collecting all you need by just picking ’em off the trees. Outdoor Life Online Editor
How’s this for weird bait? Fingers. These are used in a sport called noodling, or grabbling, where bare hands, not hooks, catch the quarry. The hand is inserted in an underwater hole where a catfish might be guarding its eggs. And when the hand has been inserted, the fingers are wiggled like worms to attract the fish’s attention. If a catfish is home, it’ll chomp down on the fingers, and with luck, the noodler can grab it and pull it topside. Be warned, however. Guys who try this usually have nicknames like Nubbins and Three-Finger Jack. Outdoor Life Online Editor
The wackiest cat bait of all? Ivory Soap gets our vote. Proctor & Gamble probably didn’t think this product would become a popular catfish bait when it was introduced in 1879. That’s exactly what happened, however, and for more than a century now, bars of this “100% pure” hand cleaner have been a staple in the bait boxes of hardcore cat men. We have to wonder, though: if you keep a catfish you caught on soap, do you still have to clean it? Outdoor Life Online Editor

When it comes to fishing baits, you wonÂ’t find a more unusual variety than the strange brews, odd critters and home-style foods often used to catch catfish.