Shad, chicken liver and dip baits are some good baits to use for catfishing. Some species, as well as different size catfish within a species, prefer different types of bait; however, these baits typically work for all types of catfish.
Shad are a natural baitfish typically found in waterways that are also inhabited by catfish. They can be used live or cut into pieces. Live shad are most often used to catch larger catfish, especially flatheads over 10 pounds, while shad cut into pieces is effective for all species and in most types of water.
Catfish hunt for food by sense of smell, which is why dip bait is another effective bait. It can be purchased at tackle shops or made at home with a personal recipe, but the one thing all dip baits have in common is that they smell bad. It must have a cheese or other protein base and a soft consistency to allow it to slowly break down and distribute the aroma. Dip bait works best in bodies of water with a current to distribute the fragrance. It is usually placed in some type of bait sack instead of directly on the hook to keep it from dissolving away too quickly.
Chicken livers are almost always a productive catfish bait. It is best used for channel catfish under 10 pounds and it is a very effective producer in bodies of still waters such as lakes, ponds and reservoirs.