Channel catfish consist of more than 2,000 species that live in freshwater habitats in North America and tropical regions. These fish species include blue catfish, white catfish, bullheads, flatheads, river catfish and spotted catfish. You can find these fish in lakes, reservoirs, streams and rivers. Because they eat just about anything, you have a number of options when choosing bait for channel catfish trips. Channel catfish have a strong sense of smell, so meat-based baits with strong odors work well.
Shellfish, such as shrimp, prawns and crawfish, are common baits used for channel catfish. Tackle and bait shops, as well as the meat section of grocery stores, carry them. Remove the shells before placing them on the hook. According to the Catfish Baits website, shellfish work best during spring and late fall. Crawfish meat is light and easily falls off the hook, so use it in still waters.
Clams and Mussels
Fresh clams and mussels work better than frozen kinds as fishing baits, and they catch fish year round. Clam and mussel meat is soft, so it's better to let them dry for a few minutes in the sun before putting them on a hook, according to Take Me Fishing. Put as much of the meat on the hook as possible, making sure to hide the point of the hook. You can also use wire to hold the bait onto the hook.
Cut bait includes bait made from chunks of minnows, anchovies, eels, mackerel, bluegill and sardines. Fishermen use square pieces for still fishing and long strips for trolling -- fishing from a moving boat. Donald L. Bonneau's "Fishing for Channel Catfish," published by the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, says cut bait yields better results in late winter and spring in waters of less than 60 degrees F. Tackle shops and sporting goods stores carry cut bait.
Worms and Grubs
Worms have always been the go-to bait for fishermen because they are inexpensive and you can get them yourself just by digging in your backyard. Worms include earthworms, nightcrawlers, garden worms and minicrawlers and produce good results in muddy waters. Grubs look like fat caterpillars. To entice channel catfish, attach several small worms on the hook. If you are using big worms or grubs, thread them on the hook, hiding the point. Though some fishermen dig for their own worms and grubs, tackle shops often have a section with worms and grubs.
Prepared baits include dough balls and paste that you purchase at tackle shops or make at home. These baits have strong odors and contain cheese and ground meats, flour, cornmeal and seasoning. Attach dough balls to the hook and squeeze it until the hook is completely covered. Tackle shops sell special hooks designed to keep prepared pastes in place. Another option is putting the paste in a cut piece of pantyhose, knotting the hose and hanging it on the hook. "Fishing for Channel Catfish" says prepared baits work best in summer months.