What To Do When The Catfish Won’t Bite

Catfish are coming to my bait, but just sitting on it! How do I get them to bite?

There are a couple things that might be wrong… – Maybe your hook is too big. Try going with a smaller size. Lots of anglers think a bigger hook means you’ll catch more fish, and that’s not always the case. Experiment with a couple of different hook sizes and see what works best. – You might be scaring them away, especially if you are wading in the water. Catfish are sensitive, and they’ll split quick if they sense danger. Make sure you are still and quiet, and don’t let your shadow get in the way. They’ll sense that as well. – Your bait’s not stinky enough. Remember they go after stinky bait, and especially live bait. Old favorites are chicken livers, hot dogs, cheese, fish and nightcrawlers. Even if you have a good, stinky bait, catfish in certain lakes and ponds just simply prefer different kinds of bait. It’s always a good idea to switch up your bait and see if that makes a difference. – Your hook stinks! Because of that extra sensitive sense of smell, they might be picking up less-appetizing odors from your lure. If you smoke, or might have gasoline smell on your fingers and you don’t wash your hand, that smell will carry onto your line. Other things to watch out for are suntan lotion, insect repellent and anything else that smells like chemicals and not food. – They may not like the color of your lure. Experiment with a different color lure and see if they stick around and bite that. If all of that doesn’t work, just throw in the towel and try fishing a different spot.


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

3 Responses to “What To Do When The Catfish Won’t Bite”

  1. Steven Dooley says:

    I have a favorite fishing spot and been catching several nice catfish there lately and about 5 days ago I caught 4 really big and nice ones but ever since that day I havent gotten a single bite there. What could be wrong, are they getting wise to me now ?

  2. hi there is a catfish in my pond that is 18 plus pounds it eats dogfood but it wont bite what do i do

  3. Riverman_56 says:

    I use the left-over cooking grease from bacon, sausage, ham – anything you have that your wife didn’t use to make gravy – the nastier the better. Just dip your shad, nightcrawler, liver or whatever into it before setting it. The scent drifts and seems to attract them well. I use a #3 hook on rod-n-reel and trot/juglines, and have caught some REALLY big fish – smaller could be better for you, as it allows the fish to really take the bait deeper before the hook sets. If you have a 30 to 60 pounder on a trotline you want that hook set deep (swallowed is best). Good luck!

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