Arguably, no bait is more closely associated with catfishing than a chicken liver. The reason is simple: livers produce catfish and lots of them. With their strong, meaty smell, chicken livers draw cats from broad areas. Once the cats find the bait, they have trouble resisting them.
Livers typically do not produce many huge catfish. However, for channel cats up to about 10 pounds, chicken livers are extremely productive. They also are inexpensive and available from any grocery store.
One major caveat of baiting up with chicken livers is that they initially can be difficult to keep on the hook. They toughen up once they have been in the water a few minutes. But if you are not careful, casting this bait much farther than your hook travels is common.
Among the best ways to keep livers hooked is to use treble hooks and relatively small pieces of bait, and wrap the liver onto the hook. That allows the bait to be hooked in a few different places, and the bends of the three hooks work together to keep the offering in place. Beyond that, you simply need to make lob casts instead of fast-action snapping casts.
Livers also tend to work best for the first 15 or 20 minutes they are on a hook. They lose a lot of their natural juices over time as well as much of their appeal. Anglers are wise, therefore, to re-bait rigs periodically and to always begin with a fresh piece of liver after moving to a new spot.
Chicken livers work well any where channel cats or smaller blues are the main attraction and where currents are not too overpowering. Extra strong current such as in tailraces of dams, for example, often tear livers off hooks before the cats get the opportunity to find the bait and eat it.
For ponds or other small-water settings, all you typically need to add to the line is a split shot or two. In bigger lakes or rivers, more weight typically is needed.
A couple of final considerations about livers are worth noting. First, when cats are active, livers go quickly. It is wise to bring two or three containers of bait for a day of catfishing. Also you should always bring a hand towel or two and be prepared to make a mess out of them. Chicken livers are incredibly sticky.