Some of the baits I have used for used for CATFISHing here on the Ohio River are, chicken liver, minnows, shrimp, Spam, French Fries and more.
Fresh chicken liver works better than frozen liver that has thawed out. It does get bites however, cats peck at it so by the time you pick up the rod they have cleaned the bait off the hook. My experience is the fish swallows the bait more often than getting hooked. The biggest drawback is keeping the bait on the hook when casting from the bank. Trying to get a long cast with chicken liver is very difficult. It seems like half the time the liver will just fly off the hook with any forceful cast. This is no problem if you are fishing from a boat, just flip it out and feed it line so the current can take it away from the boat for you.
Spam does get bites but is even harder to cast from the bank. three out of four cast can see the bait go flying in the air before the line hits the water.
Shrimp works well for it does have a scent to it and stays on the hook when casting from the bank. You normally have to get the shrimp when it is on sale and freeze it. Then get it out the night before you fish to let it thaw out.
Minnows are good for there are so many fish that will feed on them beside catfish. So even if the cats are not biting you could get a perch, largemouth bass, stripper or a white bass.
Yes! I did say French Fries as bait! I have caught channel cats up river and right in the downtown Cincinnati area on FRENCH FRIES. I did read posting from a guy that caught a large Flathead on fries by one of the restaurants on the river in Newport Ky. Any fast food place that sells fries works. If possible pick some up when heading to your spot so they are on the warm side. That allows the grease to get into the water to make a scent trail easier.
I had great success in February 2004 using chunks of steak for bait. I caught 8 bluecats with it, largest being 13 pounds. It did not matter if it was raw or grilled with seasoning. So if you have some scrapes left over from a cookout just put it in a small freezer bag. If you have a friend that works in a restaurant that has steak, ask them to make up doggie bag of scraps for you. It stays on the hook very well when casting and the fish have a hard time just pecking it off the hook. All of those eight fish were hooked, none swallowed it. So I was able to released them to grow bigger for the next season.
This past summer I was able to use a casting net to get some gizzard and thinfin shad for bait. These fish die very quickly. So I just cut them up for bait. Skipjack is a great bait if you can get them. Around Cincinnati they can be caught on a rod and reel in the Fall. Other than that the only place I know for skipjack year round is the power plant at Aberdeen Ohio. I have some frozen cut skipjack from last Fall to start off this season.
July 19 2003 I caught two Channel Cats around 2 1/2 lbs. using the skin from fried chicken. It says on the hook for casting O.K. Had 3 other bites but they stripped off the bait. I’m not sure if large cats bite on it. Just started using it today. So when your family is done eating their chicken dinner put the scraps of skin in a small zip lock bag in the freezer till you go fishing.
ALso learnd in July 2003 from another Catfisherman about Chicken nuggets for bait. He had been telling me about it a couple time this summer. The other week I saw him actually catch a 5 lb. channel cat out of the river using chicken nuggets. He turn to me and said that was the smallest one of the day. He had landed 5 other cats earlier that morning and released them. HE had stopped at McDonalds and picked up a 6 nugget serving that morning. He said he has used other companies nuggets in the past.
I hope you get a chance to try out some of these baits this season. Tight lines and plenty of action to all!