Catfish Lures Or Catfish Bait?
In most discussions relating to how to catch catfish, catfish lures are not all that often mentioned. Catfish baits seem to be more the norm, and if you delve into the subject at all, the first impression you'll get is "the more stinky, the better". We often think of the catfish as being strictly a bottom feeder and a scavenger, which may be why some don't like the thought of eating one (properly prepared, fried catfish borders on “heavenly").
The truth is, not all catfish hug the bottom all of the time, especially channel catfish. Catfish, while not always being particularly fussy about what they eat, do seem to prefer live bait over dead bait. As far as catfish lures are concerned, catfish can be, and often are, caught using spoons and spinners, as well as lures designed specifically with catfish fishing in mind. One doesn't normally go after catfish with a fly rod, but they've been know to strike a fly on occasion, although the fisherman is usually after some other type of fish, such as bass.
My Bait Smells Worse Than Yours Does - Browsing through some of the catfish forums found on line can be a real joy. Ask 25 experts what they think is best and you'll get 25 answers. An expert will usually tell you while the other experts are more or less on the right track, he has the sure-fire bait or lure (usually bait). Some use spoons and spinners and fish off the bottom, though not too far, and others use "Little Stinkers”, possibly the most widely used lure designed for catfish. The majority however usually put something either very bloody, bloated, or just bad smelling on a hook or in a nylon mesh, and let it settle on the bottom. If nothing else, catfish have a great sense of smell, and if there is one in the neighborhood, a bit of chicken liver or a bloated minnow is quite likely to attract it.
Frogs, chicken liver, and most any fresh-cut bait seems to do well. Liver is a favorite of many, and is normally threaded on a hook, tossed out 15 feet or so, and allowed to sink. Though it usually stays on a single hook fairly well, it might not if one tries to cast it any distance. Sunfish are another popular bait, though it may be best to check the local regulations first, unless you enjoy doing things on the sly. Some states or localities don't allow live bait, or bait of any kind except for worms. Beef spleen is another good choice if you can get it. Spleen will stay on the hook better than liver usually does.
The Little Stinker - If catfish lures are your choice as opposed to bait, you'll do better if you know the water, and the best conditions for catching the fish, as fishing with catfish lures can be more difficult than with bait. Being an opportunistic feeder, a catfish is apt to strike most any lure, even if the lure was intended for another type of fish. If catfish is the goal though, a lure laced with a bit of attractant is the best bet. Such a lure, which is quite popular among those fishing for catfish who don't want to mess with baits, is the "Little Stinker". This is a pyramid or tear-drop shaped plastic lure, with a double hook at the pointed end. It comes in various color combinations, though black and red seems to be the most popular. The lures are hollow, and meant to be filled with a substance having a scent that will attract a catfish. There are little pores in the lure which allow the scent to leak out. While one could put any desired substance in the lure, Little Stinker Tubes" are marketed for just that purpose. "Flavors" include the ever-popular chicken liver, blood, and rotten shad. Why shad? Maybe only the catfish knows.