Most of the effective catfish lures are going to stink. It’s just a fact of life that catfish love to eat gross, smelly baits, because they can easily find them with their highly defined sensory cells in their whiskers and their great sense of smell. They will rely on sight as well, as one of their primary sources of diet comes from small fish such as Bluegill, Shad, other sunfishes, and anything else around that size.
Fortunately, there are many artificial baits out there that stink. Some manufacturers focus largely on scented baits, which work great for catching catfish. Since most of these baits stink, they can basically be used in the same way as natural baits – simply cast out and wait.
Commercial Stinkbaits for Catfish
Most commercial stinkbaits are actually made from natural products such as shrimp, menhaden, or any other gross smelling creature out there, so it is difficult to consider them “artificial baits.” But, we’ll include them here since they are basically shelf-stable and purchased at Walmart.
Commercial stinkbaits are fished exactly like a stinky piece of natural bait such as cut mullet, chicken liver, etc. Put a generous size of stinkbait on a decent sized circle hook, and cast into the deep holes of lakes and reservoirs, before and after dams where the water cuts deep pockets, and the deep holes of turning rivers.
Commercial stinkbaits work just as well as some of the gross natural baits such as chicken livers for catching catfish. Many on the market are available in the Berkely® Gulp!® series, which actually uses natural ingredients for stronger odor and taste. Image taken from www.Berkley-Fishing.com.
Soft Plastics for Catfish
Perhaps the only other artificial baits that work decently for catfish are the soft plastics – especially the scented ones. Many of these are on the market, with the most popular probably being the Berkely® Gulp!® series. Soft plastics also work best in clearer water such as deep reservoirs and clear rivers, where the catfish will be relying not only on their keen senses of smell and taste, but also their sight. Catfish such as Channel, Blue, and Whites, all love to eat small fish such as Shad, Bluegill, and anything else that size, and will wait behind structures and under logs to ambush them. Swim the baits with the currents for best results with soft plastics.
In clear water where sight is used by catfish, soft plastics can catch ambushing catfish behind water breaks and structures in deep water. Images from BassPro.com (left) and www.berkely-fishing.com (right).
A General Statement About Catfish Lures
For the most part, catfishing is a world where natural baits will consistently produce when artificial lures will not produce strikes. These fish are so highly dependent on their sense of smell and taste from those odd whiskers of theirs that it only makes sense that they will quickly find a smelly chicken liver or cut menhaden. There are artificial lures that will work though, and most of them just stink. Unfortunately though, I don’t think that the avid fly fishermen out there have much of a shot.