One of the most important things when catching catfish is bait selection. After many experiments, I found a double-bait trick that has worked for catching more fish: I use a chunk of fresh cut bait — with the addition of a small pogy on the hook’s tip.
I set noodle lines a few times a year to make a meat haul, but often catch and release, too. I prefer to go by kayak or pirogue to get a good workout — there’s just a great feeling about doing it the hard way and bringing my dog along to enjoy an adventure together.
One catfishing trip this year, I began the morning turtling in my pirogue and caught a large alligator snapping turtle, then released her later at a safe location away from hoop net areas. I also had a big alligator on one of my lines that came up angrily just inches from my leg in the pirogue.
My friend raised 50 of my catfish noodles he set the previous evening, but only caught two blue cats using only single-baits on the hooks. Fortunately, I had set the other half of my noodles further down in the same bayou applying the double-baited tactic.
My buddy and his kids joined in the action, with each of us in a paddleboard, pirogue or kayak. Sure enoug,h the cut bait tipped with pogies had nearly half the noodles bouncing around with a catfish on the other end. Before long, the entire bottom of the pirogue was filled up.
The following weekend I went back. My small pogies, which I had worked hard to catch in the cast net, had flown out of the back of my truck on the way to set lines, so I only used chunks of cut mullet and bream. Sadly, the next morning we only caught five catfish, and most of the baits weren’t even touched.
To make matters worse, my buddy who was using a small flat boat with a trolling motor, had the battery go dead. I had to tie a noodle line from his boat to my pirogue and paddle him back against the current nearly a mile — that was one grueling ordeal.
Afterwards, I reset the same lines in the same spot. But this time, I made sure to put the pogy bucket where it couldn’t fly out of my truck. Using the same cut perch and cut mullet —but tipped with pogies this time — we caught 18 catfish the next day.
I paddled nine total hours running noodle lines over those two days and filling up the pirogue for the second weekend in a row. And we made sure to fully charge my friend’s trolling motor battery this time for his small 10-foot aluminum boat.
One highlight of the weekend was catching a big softshell turtle. I’ve caught dozens of snapping turtles and never gotten bit. However, this time I used my leg to hold down the big softy in the pirogue when its jaws latched hold of my calf. Needless to say, I was bleeding all over the place.
I never knew they could bite so hard, and was actually laughing at this feisty turtle. No worries, though — after smoking the meat then putting into a soup, I got the last bite.
On the best line of the day, the noodle disappeared under the water and I lost its location for about 20 minutes. Finally, I spotted it again and chased it down, thinking for sure it was a big gator because of the force and speed it used to rip the noodle from my hand three times. Finally, I was able to lift it — and saw a big tail fin.
I don’t bring a net because I enjoy the duel of grabbing the fish. So it was time to jump in the water and wrangle the beast to avoid flipping the boat. Here’s a video showing the baiting tactic, and me wrestling that big catfish using the hug technique.
Through the years, I’ve done many experiments with various baits and the double-bait trick usually wins out. I have many different color noodles, so oftentimes I’ll set one color with a different type or size of bait versus another noodle color to see what the fish preferred best, and gave the best hook-up ratios or size of fish.
When catching the bait, it must be kept ice cold to stay as fresh as possible. As expected, the best bait is always fresh bait. Frozen or mushy, half-rotted bait never works as well.
Pogies, also known as menhaden, seem to catch the most fish because they’re very oily and have a lot of smell. However, the pogy also is very fragile, and can gets nibbled off the hooks easily. If only a pogy is used, most lines will only have only baitless hooks the next day.
Pogies work great on a rod and reel, but for leaving lines for a lengthy period of time, having tougher bait with durable fish skin to go through will allow hooks to remain baited longer.
Sometimes I use live crawfish or live bream when targeting flatheads and other species besides catfish, but for channels and blues, fresh cut bait is my go-to choice for the additional bait.
The small pogies take shape around the circle hook, allowing the gap to show, which allows for a proper hook set. This also hides the sharp tip and much of the metal feel of the hook, which is important when trying to fool Mr. Whiskers.
I toss my cast net and catch a bunch of 2 to 5-inch pogies in practically any bayou, whether fresh or saltwater. I use the whole pogy with a 2- to 3-inch fish, but cut the 4- to 5-inch ones in half. (The larger pogies do not shape as easily around the hook, and tend to fall off quicker.)
Using large heads of cut bait never seems to catch as many fish, but on pogies, the head helps keep the fish on the hook and works well.
My favorite noodle line setup for normal bayou catfishing is using 4- to 6-foot-deep Santee rigs with a 7/0 or 9/0 circle hook, and a strong barrel swivel with a small bit of pool float to suspend my bait in the strike zone. The article and video on how to create these Santee noodle rigs can be found here.
As the summer heat warms up, having the bait lower in the water column helps it stay in cooler water and keeps the bait from rotting as quickly. However, if the line is too long, the fish will have more chance of getting tangled down deep in the brush.
This “cut bait plus pogy tactic” also works well for rod and reel fishing, or when setting any type of line. Two baits just seem to work better than one. Test the tactic out yourself, and enjoy catching more catfish.