By Brad Durick
We all know that the best live bait is fresh and lively. This is true no matter what we’re fishing for. Contrary to popular belief, this statement even holds true for catfish anglers. We all see 27 different varieties of stink bait concoctions when we pass through our local retailer – so, it is no surprise that someone not in the know would believe the old adage that the worse the bait smells the better it will work for catfish.
Catfish anglers know that, in most cases, the freshest baits are the best baits. And, the livelier the better. In fact, bait collecting for catfishing is sort of an art. An award-winning tournament angler once said, “Often times the best bait collectors are the best catfish anglers.” It is true that finding, catching and maintaining the freshest baits is the key to success.
Fishing for Bait
In a perfect world, you would simply go the local bait shop and buy what you need. Many catfish anglers across the United States are not that lucky and go to great lengths to secure bait. Where cast nets are legal, they start the day by casting the net into schools of shad. In areas where cast nets are not legal, anglers catch bait with legal traps or by hook and line. For those who can use frogs as bait, get your minnow nets out and head to a grassy area near water!
In today’s world, we must also be aware of the aquatic invasive species laws. Can we transport bait from one body of water to another? Can we even use bait from this area?
All of these considerations make keeping the bait you have fresh and lively that much more important.
Once bait has been acquired, it must be kept fresh and lively. Every morning when I am packing up for a day on the water, I fill my AquaLife Bait Station (14691) with the suckers I will need for the day. Suckers are very sensitive to water temperature changes and lack of oxygen. I fill the Bait Station with 50-degree water from the bait tank if possible so that the suckers are already acclimated. I then put the bait in the boat and plug in the aerator. I can easily keep these suckers alive for an entire day on the water, even on the hottest days.
Here’s a tip: The best bait net to get suckers and minnows from the Bait Station is the 3051 Baitwell Net.
Some days, I need to keep larger quantities of suckers alive and healthy. Maybe it’s because of a great bite or an extra-long guiding day. For these situations, I keep a Plano Waterproof Trunk rigged with a Frabill Spray Bar Pump System (1438) installed.
For those years when we have a fairly wet spring and there is a good frog hatch, leopard frogs can be one of the best catfish baits. These frogs migrate through the grass to the water at night and in the morning becoming the forage of choice for channel cats.
Keeping frogs for bait can obviously be difficult since they like to hop away. The Frabill Fish-N-Fun (4600) Bucket is an easy solution to this problem. This bucket is small and simple, reasonably priced, and very effective for keeping frogs. It holds up to two dozen frogs easily and fits into a 12-pack sized cooler. The hinged flip lid allows you to get in and get out with your bait and not have to deal with your other frogs hopping away from you.
Some catfish anglers like to marinate or use scent sprays to enhance their baits and create a scent trail. This can be a very messy ordeal without Plano’s Liqua-Bait Locker solutions. Using the LBL Bottle and LBL Wallet as a spray station and marinating chamber is a much cleaner way to deal with this. While I don’t marinate my bait often, my personal preference is the LBL Wallet; I can lock down the latches while the bait is marinating and find it easier to get the bait back out to put on the hook.
Managing bait is just as important for catfish anglers as it is for any other angler. A bit of extra care using these bait management products will make this a simple task. Fresh bait equals monster catfish!
Learn more at frabill.com.