Freshwater: Not So Rank and Vile - The Fisherman

Freshwater: Not So Rank and Vile

No matter the bait by all means employ circle hooks to ensure minimal release mortality.
No matter the bait, besides the dip worm, by all means employ circle hooks to ensure minimal release mortality.

Catfish baits need not emit an aroma reminiscent of a landfill to prove successful.

It was a late-in-life angling epiphany. Or, more correctly, a late-night channel catfish effort awakening: prepared, off-the-shelf and/or pegboard baits for catfish can be stringer-fillers.

After striking out at two supermarkets for the ever-reliable containers of slimy biddy organs, we ventured to a tackle shop not far from the venue. When told he was fresh out of shiners, you could hear the jaws slam the tile.

“Try these. A coupla locals tell me they work,” offered the proprietor as he pulled a bag each of Berkley PowerBait catfish chunks, one chicken liver, the other blood & cheese, from the pegboard.

The alarm bells were silenced as per our monumental successes with the Power Trout Bait pastes, nuggets and eggs. No use wasting a 45-mile drive, so it was a quick purchase and a 15-minute ride to the swim. A dozen-plus channels to 3 pounds later, and we were fans.

What followed was a re-energized interest in the prepackaged catfish baits, sans the stink to skin but the olfactory appeal to the whiskers. A few proved effective, most others, not so much. Oddly enough, those catching the most and the biggest kitties caused barely a wrinkle, if that, to the schnozz.

The Science

Explains John Prochnow, the senior director for research and development with the Berkley division of Pure Fishing, “Air volatility (what we smell) and water volatility (what fish smell) are obviously two different things. The most important thing is quickness of scent dispersal to draw catfish to the bait. Our Catfish Powerbaits and Gulp Catfish Baits do so in slightly different ways, and are tailored to the water, be it a pond, lake or river, being fished.”

The Gulp bloody blood, bloody liver and bloody shad chunks leave a trail, or a growing cloud, of Gulp particles in the water, a scent and visual attractant tandem. The Gulp pre-molded chicken livers leach aroma but have a tough skin that allows for longer hang time without dissolving. The six selection-strong PowerBait chunks disperse scent only and dissolve at a quick clip. If you’re in a hot whisker zone, these are the mojo.

For the most rapid scent trail, Prochnow advises either the blood or cheese PowerBait Powerdip and the PowerBait Power Punch, both should be presented on ribbed treble hook-adorned “dip worms” that hold the sticky mass between the plastic rings. The bait dispenses rapidly, and this setup is recommended for rivers, but also spanks stillwater channels. When we use the dip worm rig, we clip a hook and mash the barbs on the remaining pair.

The Slider

Slipping big time into the no muss-no fuss catfish catching game is Carr Specialty Baits, aka Fishbites that has made its name in the highly-competitive saltwater arena. A visit to the Carr booth during an early December regional fishing tackle distributor show a couple of years ago had me ask the question, while fondling a package of bait, “You’re now in the catfish game?” “Yeh, Monn,” bellowed Mike Carr, the company’s VP of Marketing & Advertising, who proceeded to explain the Fishbites “Yeh Monn” 5/8-inch wide catfish bait strips in liver, crawfish and shad flavors.

Said Carr, “Like our bloodworm, clam, sand flea, and shrimp baits, the catfish baits get the scent out quickly once in the water. No cloth mesh like with the other baits, so they totally dissolve.”

The following first week in May could not come early enough. Rods with each of the strip baits were set in the slightly brackish river, and the white cats and channels ate like they were on death row, ignoring the one line affixed with the heretofore never-fail wad of cheese hot dog.

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