How do I keep live bait for catfish fishing alive?

The best bait I’ve found for Catfish is live bait but I don’t have a bait well on my boat – and I have trouble keeping the bait alive. Any ideas on how to solve this problem?

The key to keeping bait alive is your ability to keep the water that you’re holding them in oxygenated. While a bait well is preferred, they can be rather expensive. For an inexpensive substitute, you can make your own. I used a 50 quart insulated cooler and attached a battery operated air pump to the top of it. You’ll need to drill a hole into the face of the cooler at each end and insert a piece of plastic tubing to route to the pump outlets. Looping the tubing above the cooler and then over and into it while keep the water from getting into the pump when it’s not running. You can secure the tubing with screws and plastic cable anchors. When you slip the airstones in place, a stainless steel nut placed over the tubing will keep it on the bottom of the cooler. You’ll also want to cover the drain to keep it from opening unexpectedly. Duct tape works well. Change the water often, I’d suggest about 6 hours after adding the bait and then every twelve hours after that to avoid the accumulation of waste that will also kill the bait quickly. The cooler should keep your bait alive and active for a few days.


Dan Eggertsen is a fellow catfish fishing enthusiast to the point of obsession. :) He's been providing solid advice on catfish fishing since 2004.

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