Yes. Catfish can be caught on lures. Well, to be more precise, flatheads and channels can be caught on lures; blues will NOT go for them. It is not the most popular method however, and if you asked most fishermen that have caught catfish on lures, they will probably tell you it was by accident.
Bait is preferred because it appeals to the catfish’s primary sense for hunting: its scent. The stronger a bait smells, the more enticing fishermen generally find it is to catfish. (The smells aren’t always necessarily bad; I’ve heard of anglers having success catching catfish with chunks of soap.) Every once in a while though, someone will be tossing a crankbait for bass and WHAM! They’re in a fight for their lure with a big cat.
The truth of the matter is, in spite of having tiny eyes, catfish actually have pretty good vision. While they are most frequently caught in or around fallen trees or in murky, muddy waters of rivers, catfish can be caught in clearer waters on lures because the catfish can finally see them. Another little known fact about catfish is that their hearing is also adept.
The highest number of catfish caught on lures were caught on crankbaits according to the 2002 Nebraska Master Angler’s Program. The reason for this is that crankbaits appeal to two of the catfish’s senses: vision AND hearing. Most crankbaits have rattles, or rattle naturally because of their treble hooks.
How is this information useful? Next time you are feeling adventurous, trying fishing for channels or flatheads in a manner that incorporates ALL of the catfish’s senses. If you’re fishing a familiar lake or river and the water is clearer than usual, try working a flashy jig with a rattle attached to your line and a piece of liver or our special bait on your hook.
Or pitching a spinnerbait with a fat nightcrawler on the hook nice and slow past some of your favorite catfish holes. When given the opportunity, a channel or flathead will use all of its senses when on the hunt for prey. Use this to your advantage and try utilizing a lure presentation that will cover more ground and find more catfish than the traditional, slower method of dragging driftbait rigs.
Using Real Bait Will Work Best
Our not-so-secret catfish bait is a little concoction I read about in a sport fishing magazine when I was a kid. Its assembly is very simple:
- Take a package of cheap hotdogs (catfish aren’t picky). Chop them into bite-sized cubes.
- Fill a Tupperware container up with water. Make sure it is one your wife won’t mind you ruining forever. Once this Tupperware is designated for catfish bait, that is its sole purpose in life.
- Add the Koolaid. Flavor doesn’t matter too much; we generally use strawberry or watermelon.
- Stir in a container of minced garlic. That’s right, the whole thing. Catfish aren’t vampires; quite the opposite, the stinkier the bait the better.
- Add your hotdog cubes.
- Throw the lid on her and let it sit for a week or two.
Take out and enjoy the aromatherapy while you fish! Works like a champ on a circle hook with something like a Santee-cooper Rig. This sort of bait can also be thrown in a blender until a frothy shake is made and then absorbed by a sponge or stuffed into a dead fish you’re using as bait to kind of “chum the water”.