Want to put together a home brew for attracting channel catfish? Here's what you need to know.
Good catfish bait stinks, but not everything that stinks is good catfish bait. Not all stink is created equal. As important, good bait needs a consistency that you can keep on a hook (most likely with the aid of a sponge, tube or ribbed bait worm). But it will also need to break up in the water to attract catfish.
Fortunately, various combinations of ingredients will create concoctions that will call in channel catfish. So, if you're a do-it-yourselfer, you can enjoy the added satisfaction of catching fish on something you created, or if maybe you just want a bait that no one else is using, you definitely can make your own catfish bait.
The first step is to find a working space that is away from the house and to gather a few containers and mixing tools — and given how they will smell by the time you are done, these tools should be items that you don't plan to use for anything else.
A common denominator of most effective stinkbait mixes is a base of melted cheese. Some catfish bait makers favor specific stinky cheeses, but most cheeses work. Use whatever is most affordable or whatever you have left over.
Alternatively, find a deli that will sell you mixed cheese scraps for cheap. Nacho cheese is a popular base because it is inexpensive and begins in liquid form.
The other major ingredient in most good catfish baits is something meaty, which gets ground up (possibly with a food processer) and mixed into the melted cheese to create a mush.
Some ingredients, like minnows, shad, old shrimp or seafood-flavored canned cat food, are fishy. Other effective meaty additions include chicken livers, hot dogs and lunch meat. A normal ratio of cheese to ground "meat" is about two to one.
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Many stinkbaits also include one or more spices. Fresh garlic is the most popular by far. Anise oil and onion powder are also popular. Not surprisingly, many recipes include some "secret spice."
Once you've created your mix and let it ripen a bit in the sun, evaluate the consistency. If you can mash a ringed catfish worm or sponge into it, come out with a nice wad of bait, hold it underwater and not have it immediately rinse away, your bait is ready for use.
If not, thicken the mix with flour, cattail fuzz or some other plant fibers. If it's too thick, thin with water, but do so a little at a time.
Another totally different and highly effective type of bait that is fairly easy to make but comes with definite challenges is blood bait.
Challenges include hooking and fishing with it, messiness, getting the blood, and potentially rules from the health department or home.
Get beef or chicken blood from a slaughterhouse or butcher, mix in some garlic salt, and chill the blood until it coagulates to a Jell-O like consistency.
To make a modest amount that can be cut into bait-sized chunks, fill a baking pan halfway and put it in a refrigerator. Once the blood gels, set it in the sun until it gets a bit of a crust. Cool it again and cut it into bite-sized cubes.