Best Catfish Bait for Rivers 2021/2024 – Buyer’s Guide

Best Catfish Bait for Rivers

The majority of catfish species are top predators, which means they will attack moving live bait. Because a fish’s entire body is covered in scent detectors, excessively stinking artificial lures are extremely effective. 

Many anglers question whether live baits are superior to lures. Although artificial baits can be effective in some situations, live baits offer numerous advantages. We’ll talk about the greatest catfish baits for rivers in this instance. 

1. Our Top Pick: Punch Baits  
2. Best OverallCarp Bait  
3. Best Value: Shad Bait 

The bait is one of the most important factors to consider when fishing for any species, in this case, a catfish. When catching a catfish, the size, texture, style, color, and general presentation of bait are all critical factors to consider.

This is because each fish is unique, and catching bass or trout is not the same as catching a catfish. Certain bait scents, for example, may attract more catfish than other species and vice versa. 

Table of Contents

Chicken Livers Bait 

The most closely connected bait with catfishing is undoubtedly a chicken liver. This is due to the fact that livers attract a large number of catfish. The strong, meaty stench of chicken livers attracts catfish from everywhere. When these fish find the bait, they have a hard time resisting it. 

Big catfish aren’t known to be attracted to livers. Chicken livers, however, work well for channel catfish less than 10 pounds. They’re also inexpensive and readily available in any grocery. 

One drawback of using chicken livers as bait is that they can be difficult to keep on the hook at first. They harden once they’ve been in the water for a few minutes. If you’re not careful, you could wind up tossing this bait far further than your hook would allow. 

One of the most successful ways to keep these parts hooked is to use treble hooks and little amounts of bait. The bait could be hooked in a variety of ways, and the bends of the treble hooks help us keep the bait in place. After that, you’ll just need to do lob casts rather than fast-action snapping throws. 

The initial 20 minutes after hooking up are likewise the best for Livers. Over time, they lose a lot of their fluids as well as a lot of their attractiveness. When traveling to a new location, anglers must re-bait rigs regularly and restart with a fresh piece of chicken liver. 

Chicken livers work well where blue or channel catfish are the main attraction, and the current flow isn’t too powerful. Super-strong currents, such as those found in dam tailraces, often shred livers from hooks before the catfish can find and eat the bait. 

One split shot, or in many cases two of them, is usually all you need to add to the line for lakes, rivers, ponds, or other small-water situations. In bigger rivers or lakes, more weight is normally required. 


  • Because the blood from the livers attracts the fish, it’s a great option in these situations. 
  • They’re great for catching blue and channel catfish. 
  • This product is ideal for novice anglers. 


  • Due to its strong odor, this bait may not be effective on all varieties of catfish. 

Shad Bait 

One of the greatest foods for catfish is shad. Shad are typically included in the diet of adult flathead catfish because they are found along river channels, where these varieties of catfish spend the majority of their time.

Even channel catfish, which consume a modest quantity of almost everything alive or dead, transition to a fish diet once they reach around 10 lb. 

Shad make good bait in most rivers and lakes because they are a prevalent organic feed and are usually readily available to anglers. The same guidelines apply to a variety of minnows and other baitfish kinds in streams where shad aren’t the main attraction. 

In general, shad should be cut into strips or chunks, with the size and type of slices defined by the length and height of the catfish being sought, as well as the size of the bait, in this case, the shad. 

Currently, the most efficient way to chop a shad is to slice off the tail and head and cut sections throughout the body. Cut the pieces in half if they look to be excessively long. It should be noted that some anglers propose filleting large shad and cutting the fillets up or using little shad, cut in half or whole. 

It’s also important not to neglect the guts of a large shad. The entrails have a strong odor that draws in bites almost immediately. Shad guts may not produce as many large fish as fillets, but they definitely get the rod tip twirling and are well worth putting out for the catfish to examine. 

For catfish, particularly flatheads, shad should be alive. Baits must be placed on or near the bottom, in close proximity to dense cover.

Flatheads can be found near river banks or channel confluences, as well as in curves in old streams or reservoir river channels. Some of these, as well as other catfish species, could be found in lakes where this bait is effective as well. 

This product comes with a packet of six of these fish, which can be used as tasty catfish bait. It should be mentioned that this product is suitable for a variety of fish, including catfish, trout, striped bass, and panfish. 


  • Shad could be used as bait for catfish as well as other species of fish. 
  • It’s a portion of a wonderful catfish meal. 
  • There are various baits in the pack, so you can use them multiple times. 


  • Shad is bait that needs to be chopped in specific ways for different varieties of catfish because they aren’t all the same size. 

Punch Baits 

Some anglers make their own punch baits from secret formulas passed down through the years. Others decide to purchase professionally prepared combinations in case quantities. Punch baits, whether homemade or bought, are sticky mixes with an unpleasant odor, but catfish love them. 

While all punch baits have a foul stench, that would not be enough to entice catfish to a bait tub. Punch bait requires a cheese basis or some type of protein component. This bait is made with shad, wild hoppers, minnows, or crawdads in this case. 

The bait’s consistency is essential. Punch bait must be soft enough to break apart gently but hard enough not to fall apart too quickly. When fishing in a stream, which is where this punch bait excels, this gives a plethora of balance. 

Punch baits work best when we’re fishing in the stream because the flowing water carries bait parts downstream as the bait splits, creating a chum line that flows to the hook. They often out-produce other baits in regions with a lot of currents, such as reservoirs or rivers. Similarly, these punch baits are an excellent option for catfish fishing in lakes. 

Punch baits are rarely able to stay on hooks on their own. There’s nothing solid to grasp onto. Instead, fishermen buy “worms,” which are often perforated tubes or ringworm-style rubber worms. They’re all designed to keep the bait for a limited period of time before slowly releasing it. 

It’s better to keep these punch baits in the shade throughout the middle of the summer. In hot temperatures, it is harder to keep them on the hook because most of them thin out. Synthetic thickeners are sold by some companies to help thicken these baits and prevent them from getting too thin on hot days. 


  • Catfish will go crazy for this punch bait. 
  • It can be created from a variety of species, including shad, crawdads, minnows, and others. 
  • When it comes to getting a catfish in a short period of time, this form of bait is really effective. 


  • Because of its powerful stench, this bait should be used with caution. It’s possible that not every fisherman has a strong enough nose to endure it. 

Carp Bait  

Carp is a species considered invasive in the waterways of the United States. They were first discovered in aquaculture ponds and have since grown to alarming proportions. Because of their collection and widespread use, numerous states prohibit them. 

However, many anglers use them as catfish baits. That’s because catfish find the taste of carp pleasant. It is normal to find these species in rivers. 

Although many fishermen take this to their advantage, it is important to note that the use of carp as bait in certain rivers may be illegal.

Therefore, if you want to hunt a carp to use as bait, you will need to make sure that it is legal in the area where you are. Carp are naturally oily, emitting a strong odor that attracts big channel and blue catfish. 

Although this product is not a real piece of carp, it is made with the necessary components of this species. That way, when you put it on your hook and cast it into the water, the catfish in your river will not be able to resist its smell. 

This package can bring up to 24 pieces of carp bait, so you will have enough to catch several catfish. 


  • It comes with up to 24 pieces of carp baits. 
  • These baits are very effective for catfish catch. In fact, they could be used to attract other types of fish. 
  • The colors of these baits are excellent for attracting catfish. 


  • They are more effective for hunting in rivers than elsewhere. 

Nightcrawlers Bait 

The most basic type of fishing is putting a worm on a hook. Nightcrawlers remain one of the most effective baits for attracting catfish to bite. Catfish seem to appreciate them since they have a natural odor.

This product consists of a box of 13 units, each measuring 6 inches. These nightcrawlers have the same appearance, feel, and odor as live nightcrawlers. 

When it comes to nightcrawlers and catfish, the larger they are, the better. Large, juicy worms are enjoyed by even the tiniest catfish. If you really can only find little and medium worms, it’s usually best to put two or three on a hook.

Unlike other fish, catfish are largely indifferent about how nightcrawlers are hooked. Because they consume mostly by taste and smell instead of sight, the more nightcrawlers you wrap around and tie onto the hook, the more likely you are to catch a catfish that strikes. 

Suspending a nightcrawler beneath a float, just off the bottom, is a very effective and sometimes overlooked catfishing approach.

When catfish are gathered around stumps, downed tree roots, or downed trees along riverbanks, this method is especially efficient. The float allows you to precisely provide bait and move it around to locate catfish hiding in the shadows. 

As they don’t have to be chopped up and aren’t as nasty as livers or punch bait, nightcrawlers are good catfish bait for family vacations. Children quickly learn how to attach this bait on hooks and keep the worms from falling off. 


  • They come as a 13-piece package. 
  • They’re fantastic for fishing with spinner setups. 
  • Because it is easier to use, this sort of bait is ideal for children. 
  • It has a unique aroma and flavor composition. 
  • These nightcrawlers have a lively odor and appearance. 


  • Catfish prefer to eat live nightcrawlers; therefore, the appearance of dead nightcrawlers might not be the most appetizing. 
  • If left in the daylight, these nightcrawlers might become tough.  

Best Catfish Bait for Rivers 

When It Comes to Catfish Bait for Rivers, How Long Must It Be Left Out? 

The first step is to set up the rig, and then you must let it sit for a while. It’s preferable to avoid moving the bait too often. Even in the deepest rivers, it’s a good idea to leave the food in one spot for just 1 hour or longer until a hungry, larger catfish discovers it. 

What Food Does Catfish Consume in a River? 

Catfish are known for their insatiable appetites. While they will eat fish and even turtles, they prefer food that is not hostile. Dead fish or other species that have drowned in the water provide excellent catfish food. Mollusks, aquatic plants and seeds, crustaceans, and insects and their larvae are other options. 

Catfish are sedentary by nature, spending most of their time seeking food on the bottom or back into cracks in the bank in search of a tasty meal. 

Where Can I Buy Catfish Bait for Rivers? 

It varies entirely on the type of catfishing bait you intend to purchase. Punch baits and stink baits can be purchased locally or online. If you’re interested in other baits, you can find them at your local grocery store. 

What is the Average Life Expectancy of Catfish Baits? 

Most bait can be frozen for a long time, which is a wonderful way to keep them fresh for a long period. Baits that come in containers also have a longer life span. 

Where to Use Your Catfish Bait in Rivers? 

Perhaps you already have all your fishing equipment as well as the bait for catfish that you have bought specifically to fish in a river. However, it is necessary that you know the places where the catfish are hidden in these waters so that you know where to throw the bait and not waste it. 

Look for catfish in muddy water locations during the day, such as a tributary and its outflow. They can also be found in deep formations such as river bends, humps, deep pits, and drop-off bases. Catfish will also congregate near covers, such as weedy edges and standing timber. During the nights you can attract and catch them more easily. 

Is River Bait Enough to Capture a Catfish? 

No! Catfish bait is a fantastic and efficient method to entice these fish. Nevertheless, suppose you want the bait’s efficiency to be maximized. In that case, you’ll need to consider various options, such as having a strong rig, an ideal hook, and being in the correct position at the right moment.

Also, because catfish come in a variety of sizes, you need to consider the size of your bait if you’re targeting both large and little catfish.