When it comes to catfish fishing, many anglers have some very intense opinions about bait. More than any other kind of fishing, catfish fishing will bring out arguments from everyone. Arguments about what’s best for catching the most or the biggest catfish. While many kinds of baits are effective, some anglers swear by homemade bait. There are a lot of benefits that premade bait or live bait can’t match. You have full control over ingredients. You can also tailor your bait to the spot you’re fishing. Plus you can tweak the formula until you nail it.

The internet is full of homemade catfish bait recipes. They use diverse ingredients from cheese to chicken livers. They may also include scents and flavorings. If you want to take greater control of your catfishing, try making your own bait. It’s a trial and error process, but these recipes are some of the best. Just remember that these can be time-consuming. They may also end up being expensive as well. But if you want to be 100% sure of what it’s made of, this is the best option.

The most common homemade catfish baits are stink baits and punch baits. These are thick and often smelly as the name implies. They work best with a treble hook. You simply push the hook into the bait and pull it out. If it’s made properly the bait will stick to the hook.


Nearly every homemade bait recipe you’ll find online uses cheese as the base. It’s edible, it’s thick, and it has a scent that fish like. It’s also very easy to find. Not every cheese is good for catfish bait, though.

You need to pay for a decent quality cheese if you’re making catfish bait out of it. Cheese products are not a good idea. That includes things like canned cheese, cheese slices, or nacho cheese. Those have many additives and don’t offer the same consistency as a real brick of cheese. Nacho cheese isn’t even a real thing. A company could call any cheese product nacho cheese. There are no legal requirements for ingredients.

Thicker cheeses like cheddar and Parmesan are commonly used. They have a good consistency. They also have a distinct odor.

If you want to try a more processed product, give Velveeta a try. It’s not the best, but the thickness isn’t bad, either.


Cheese is the base of your bait. But you need something to attract the fish. This is where stink bait gets the stink from. Catfish have exceptional senses of smell. They have over 100 sensory cells that help them to text odor underwater. The more intense the smell, the more it will attract them. These are some common scents added to catfish baits:

  • Garlic
  • Blood
  • Anise
  • Onion


Depending on the kind of bait you’re making, you’ll need different thickeners. A dip bait is thinner than a punch bait, for instance. When you’re making a dip bait a thickener like cornstarch or flour might do the trick. For punch baits, you need fiber thickeners. Fiber thickeners act like threads and cling to your treble hook. You can harvest your own from cattails for a natural fiber. Or just buy synthetic fibers of some kind.


It’s best to have an actual catfish bait that catfish want to eat in your homemade bait. This could be shad, shrimp, crayfish, or anything like that. Even blood. Mixed in with everything else it creates a complete punch bait or dip bait.


There are a wide array of recipes both simple and complex for catfish bait. Their effectiveness can depend on many factors. Try whatever seems best and adapt recipes as you see fit.

Simple Garlic Livers Catfish Bait


  • 1 container garlic salt
  • 2 lbs chicken livers


  • Line a cookie sheet with tin foil
  • Cover with a layer of chicken livers
  • Sprinkle liberally with garlic
  • Repeat layers until livers are used up and about half of the garlic is gone.
  • Allow to sit for 3-4 hours, ideally outside. DO NOT PLACE IN DIRECT SUNLIGHT.
  • Place mixture in a container like a bucket
  • Stir in half of the remaining garlic
  • Allow the mixture to sit covered for several days. This is best left away from the house as it will smell.
  • Mix in the remaining garlic before you’re ready to go fishing.

The garlic adds the scent to this mix. The liver works as bait and will hold onto the hook. The salt will have dried the liver and toughened it up as well.

Minnow Jelly Catfish Bait


  • 1 lb of minnows that have been allowed to rot for about a day
  • ¼ cup of water
  • 1 box of Jell-O. Most anglers recommend cherry
  • ¼ cup molasses
  • ½ cup Parmesan cheese or other hard cheese
  • 3 tbsp garlic salt
  • 3 tbsp onion salt
  • 3 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 cup bread or cracker crumbs
  • Flour as needed


  • Add all of these ingredients to a food processor and mix
  • Dump into a bowl and add flour as necessary to create a dough
  • Roll into small dough balls suitable for a treble hook. Extras can be stored in bags in the fridge
  • NOTE: This bait may not work with other fish species

Beer Meal Catfish Bait


  • 1 can of beer. Ideally a stout or something strong with big flavor
  • 1 lb of oily fish. Tuna, shad or even rotten minnows
  • 3 cups of cornmeal
  • 3 cups of flour
  • 2 cups of oatmeal
  • 8 ounces corn syrup
  • Chicken livers, shrimp, or other meat


  • Chop up fish and livers or shrimp into small chunks
  • Add all ingredients to a large bowl
  • Mix thoroughly. You want to create a thick batter, like peanut butter
  • Add more beer to thin if necessary. Use milk if the beer is gone
  • Cover and allow it to sit outside for 2 weeks. Check the consistency every few days and add liquid if necessary

The Lunch Special Catfish Bait


  • 6 slices of white bread
  • 4 tbsp of peanut butter’
  • 3 beef bouillon cubes
  • 3 slices of lunch meat
  • A sleeve of saltine crackers
  • 3 tbsp each of garlic salt and onion salt


  • Melt the peanut butter in the microwave until it is a liquid
  • Dissolve bouillon cubes in ¼ cup boiling water
  • Add ingredients to a food processor
  • Mix until smooth
  • Seal and allow to cool
  • Roll the mix into balls and set on treble hooks

Cheese Liver Catfish Bait


  • 8 oz of chicken liver
  • 1 lb of cheese
  • 1 tbsp garlic powder
  • 2 whole, small catfish bait fish such as bluegill or shad
  • One can of dog food


  • Chop the chicken livers
  • Melt the cheese in the microwave
  • Mix the chopped liver and cheese together
  • Add to a food processor
  • Toss in the garlic powder, dog food, and bait fish
  • Add flour as needed to thicken
  • Blend until thoroughly pureed. Add more flour if necessary to create a doughy consistency

This mixture is fairly straightforward. Once you have attained a proper dough-like consistency you’re done. Simply place it on the end of a hook and you’re ready to fish. Store any extra in the fridge. If you don’t have any chicken liver handy, don’t worry. Any meat could potentially work in this recipe.

Clean Catfish Bait


  • ½ cup of sugar
  • ½ cup of water
  • 3 bars of Ivory Soap


  • Dissolving sugar in a pot of water on the stove at medium heat
  • Continue to heat over low to medium heat
  • Use a cheese grater to grate the soap into the sugar water
  • Mix the soap until it’s dissolved and continue to add more until it’s all melted
  • Add mixture to ice cube trays
  • All to set until firm but still malleable enough to come out of the trays without breaking
  • Remove cubes and cut into bait-sized chunks
  • Store in an air-tight container

As weird as it sounds, Ivory soap is an effective bait for catfish. You have to use Ivory as not only is it free from most additives, it’s the one that catfish respond to. Make sure you don’t allow the mix to set firmly in the ice cube trays. Firmly set soap will break when you try to get it out. This works best with silicon ice cube trays so you can pop the cubes right out.

Shad Dough Catfish Bait


  • Leftover shad. Ideally 20 or 30 small ones
  • 1 tbsp garlic powder
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • ½ cup cornmeal


  • Add mix to a food processor and blend thoroughly
  • Pour into a sealed container and let sit for about a week
  • Mix daily
  • Use with sponges as sponge bait

Stank Catfish Bait

Note: This stink bait is especially pungent. Be careful when mixing to avoid spills.


  • 2 lb of chicken livers
  • 2 lb of shad
  • 2 cups of bacon fat
  • 6 cups of oatmeal
  • 1 cup of brown sugar
  • 2 cups of cornmeal
  • 1 package of Limburger cheese or other smelly cheese


  • Fill a bucket with chicken liver, shad, and the bacon fat
  • Cover loosely and place in the sun for at least 1 week or until the fish has dissolved
  • Add the remaining ingredients and stir thoroughly
  • Return to the sun for another week
  • Stir in cattail fuzz to thicken and make punch bait

This is an effective stink bait but it needs to be used cautiously. The smell is very hard to get out of fabric if it spills. Use with caution.

Blood Catfish Bait

There are countless recipes for blood-based catfish bait online. This is a simple but effective catfish bait recipe.


  • A gallon or so of blood. Chicken or beef work, turkey is great as well. You can get this from butchers or slaughterhouses


  • Pour the blood into large baking pans
  • Let the blood sit in a fridge for about a week until it is solid and rubbery
  • Remove from fridge and leave out in the sun until it crusts over
  • Cut into cubes and refrigerate

Chicken and turkey blood are thin but coagulate better over time. They both also bleed out well when in the water.

Dogs for Cats Catfish Bait


  • 1 package of hot dogs
  • 1 package of sugar-free cherry Kool-Aid
  • 1 jar of chopped garlic packed in oil


  • Chop the hot dogs into bait-sized pieces
  • Put the hot dog pieces in a large, zipper-sealed freezer bag
  • Dump in the Kool-Aid
  • Add 3 or 4 large spoonfuls of garlic
  • Fill the bag with enough water to cover the hot dogs
  • Allow it to sit in the fridge overnight
  • Use chunks as they are as bait

Things to Keep in Mind

Homemade catfish bait is a passion project. There are many pre-made baits that you can buy more cheaply. The cost of cheese and other ingredients can make homemade catfish bait recipes a very expensive hobby.

As you can see, it can also take a very long time to make catfish bait. Some of these bait recipes require weeks of work. They also present some danger. Many of them are extremely bad-smelling. And they will build up a lot of bacteria. You don’t want to store this stuff in the house. And you definitely don’t want to get it on you. Use your best judgment when making catfish bait recipes. Also, try to be considerate of neighbors and family when dealing with stink bait.

It can be a fun project to make your own catfish baits. It never hurts to compare different bait recipes. Some will of course work better than others. As a long-term, practical option, homemade catfish baits may not be the best. It depends on how much time you have to dedicate to the task. As well as how much money you have to spend on ingredients.

Pre-made, store-bought catfish baits are often just as good. Some formulas are made almost exactly the same as these homemade catfish bait recipes. The choice is always up to you, of course.

Remember that many of these catfish baits are specifically designed to catch catfish. They may not work as well on fish like bass or trout. Because catfish have such a great sense of smell, they require specialized bait.

None of these recipes are set in stone. Consider these guides to help you come up with what works best for you. Play with the ingredients as you see fit. One of the most fun parts about making catfish bait is formulating your own special recipe. Compare and contrast recipes and see which ingredients you can combine to make an effective new bait.

One thing to remember when using fermented catfish baits is that they will attract other animals. A bucket of rotting fish may draw skunks and raccoons to your garage. Try to keep things as safe and secure as you can. Each bait recipe has its pros and cons. Whether it’s a stink bait, one made with dog food, or bait fish, each has merits.

Catfish fishing is supposed to be fun. Remember that as you try your catfish bait recipe.