While lunker catfish can be a bit persnickety, those little 2- to 4-pounders that look so good fried to a golden brown will eat just about anything, including some things that would gag most humans.
However, natural foods that put out plenty of scent are hard to beat.
Cut shad is a favorite, and many anglers like to cut it in 2-inch squares, add a bit of salt and chill it on ice for a couple days before use — the salt and the cold makes the bait tougher.
Some anglers swear by rooster livers, and across much of the South these large, bloody organs are sold.
Of course, these days there are lots of prepared catfish baits, both dough-type and the “dipping” varieties, usually made with blood, cheese, menhaden oil or other edibles that put out lots of scent.
These are available in sealed packs at big box stores, as well as at bait shops — they require no refrigeration and can be kept until ready to go fishing, so they have advantages over fresh bait, and are often even more effective.