How to Catch Big Catfish - The Best Baits for Giant Flatheads and Big Blues
That's A Big Flathead Catfish!
What Is The Best Bait to Catch Big Catfish?
Which bait is best is the age old question of catfishing!
Even more the bait is one of your most single important elements!
You can have the best rod, reel, line, guides, boat, etc. None of that even comes into play if you never get a bite, right.
Now don't get me wrong, I spent days writing pages about the best equipment to use in my other hubpages so read those too, you can find links to them further down this page, but your bait is critical.
What if you do use the best bait and hook that 120 pound flathead only to lose him because you used a cheap line? Those hookups don't come often and when they do, you gotta be ready. Look I'm not just saying that because it sounds good, I've been there done that.
On a beautiful afternoon I waiting on just such a bite, I was using a hand size bream on an 8/0 Gamakatsu hook with a OML25 reel spooled with 100 pound PowerPro.
I was ready, or so we thought. WHAM!!! The rod is bent over like lightning, and now it is just there, warped down toward the water, not moving, as if it was attached to a boulder. After a quick astonished glance toward my buddies I grabbed the rod and struggled to free it from the rod holder. As I pulled up on the rod the beast began to pull back, I was fishing about 12-18" of the bottom and that's where he wanted to stay!
I pulled up hard trying to get him up off the bottom, my buddy was just getting the video camera started when the fish came up 3 or 4 feet and that must have really ticked him off because all of a sudden the line started pulling of the reel and SNAP!, he was gone. What seemed like 10 minutes was really 30 - 45 seconds.
Well as fast as he hit, he was gone, what made it so bad was I thought I was ready. So please do this for me and you both- use the best equipment you can, look for deals and get the good stuff at a discount- cause I want to see the pictures of you with a monster catfish not the face like I had of a 4 year old kid who just dropped his ice cream cone!
OK, enough about my problems, lets see what kind of bait you are going to use to catch your own monster catfish.
Big Flatheads Are Out There!
Let's start off with the flathead catfish. Now you all have undoubtedly heard that the best time to catch flatheads is at night, right. Well, I agree, this said lots of people don't fish for or target flatheads in the daytime just because of this. Big mistake, just because they bite better at night doesn't mean they won't smack down a good bait in the daytime.
Flatheads are preferential to live bait, we've all heard this and it's true. But, I have seen flatheads caught on all kinds of stuff,hotdogs, shrimp, cut herring, chicken, liver, bream heads, frogs, snakes, stink baits and even soap why? Because it happened to be there when they were feeding. Now given their druthers they seem to pick live flashy active baits much faster than all that other stuff.
Since nearly all catfish over 2 feet long feed mainly on other fish almost exclusively, your best bait choices are going to be other fish. Which ones depends on where you are, what season and a few other factors.
So if you are going to spend your time and money in pursuit of these big flathead catfish you may as well use the baits that draw them into action or at least give you your best shot, right.
After he smacks down on your bait it's all up to you and your equipment from there!
Now let me get the legal stuff out of the way right here: "Gary
says" will not hold water when you tell the Game Warden some junk about
what I recommended. I was in Alaska recently and suggested we use live
bait, people all looked at me like I had three heads then started
laughing as if I was kiddin'.
Read your local Fish and Game regulations book in the State you plan to fish. No live bait for freshwater fish in Alaska.
In Georgia a bream must be no longer than 4" to use for bait, the Game Warden told me, but in South Carolina there is not a size limit imposed on them. On page 17 of the 2009 South Carolina DNR Rules and Regulations it says "Game fish may be used as bait to catch fish but must be included in the daily bag limit." On page 12 of the Georgia it says something very similar.
Check your local regulations, if you can't find an answer you can call them and ask them specific bait questions. It's a good idea to ask what page that is found on in the DNR book just to be safe. I have been told Fishing fines aren't what they used to be!
READ THESE PLEASE!
OK, enough legal mumbo jumbo, we want to catch some fish today!!!
My number one choice -jumbo bluegill, you can catch them at the same place you are fishing for big cats or catch them in advance. I recommend catching them in advance, they seem to dissapear when you need them. You may us line and pole, cast net, or even buy them off a stocking truck-check your regs, please, I fish all over, what works one place is illegal another.
My favorite flathead catfish baits are bream, bluegills to be exact.
Hand size Bluegills
My second choice of bait is most likely going to be a big gizzard shad or herring, they aren't as hardy on the hook sometimes as you would like them to be but the big cats love'em. You can pick these up at local bait stores or catch them with a cast net or a sabiki rig as you are going out. Speaking of sabiki rigs and herring, you have to see this crazy video of herring being caught for bait.
Catching Bait the Fun Way!
My third choice is going to be big flashy goldfish. Check your regs on this. Big flashy goldfish are very hardy and large baits can be purchased or grown. I grow my own, you can purchase them for $10 - $15 a hundred when they are 1' - 1 1/2' long. In a large tank they grow fairly rapidly. I have a 2000 gallon tank I grow them out in. I get the bright orange, the albino orange mix and the mottled ones. You can also buy grown ones at larger bait stores just be prepared to pay a few bucks for them.
The next big catfish bait I would try would be some bullheads or small catfish. A large flathead can easily eat a 10 pound fish so don't be wimpy with your baits. If you can get big baits use them. Bullheads are very hardy on the hook and in the bait tank. You can purchase them at some bait stores or just catch them yourself on worms and chicken liver.
WARNING: Be very careful when handling small catfish, their sharp pectoral fins don't come back out easily and can give you quite a sting. One camper learned the hard way, he told me he could unhook his own fish and that he knew about the fins. A few minutes later he stood in front of me with a catfish fin through his hand. I had to wedge in a pair of snips because they are barbed fins and don't want to back up. Pretty nasty so please handle them with respect.
White perch, now there is a good bait, hardy, they will last for hours. They will be tugging till the cows come home. They are one of my favorite baits. You may find these in a bait store or you can catch them with a cast net. Jigging a 1/4 Hopkins shorty will land you a few sometimes too.
White Perch are a Great Bait
Creek chubs and Suckers make a good flathead bait if you can catch large ones, 4 - 12 inch will work great. You can buy these in some bait stores or catch your own. I catch mine in a nearby creek with a large minnow trap. You can catch them sometimes with a #10 or #12 hook baited with little pieces of worm.
Salties or Black Salty is a kind of brackish-saltwater carp that some bait stores are carrying now. They are very hardy and make a good flathead bait.
If you have access to eels, they are also a great live bait option for big flatheads.