There doesn't seem to be anything all that special about catfish bait. I mean, find something that stinks and put it on a hook, and the catfish will find it.

However, Aaron Langlois brings different bait depending on where he's fishing — sort of a match-the-hatch philosophy.

"If I'm fishing up around Darrow, I stick with cut gizzard shad, skipjack or some cut bream," he said. "But when I go down to Empire, I switch to shrimp or mullet.

"All I'm trying to do is show them something that they're used to smelling and eating."

With that in mind, Capt. Lane Zimmer brought along some Spanish sardines on a recent trip in case we wound up fishing by one of the pogy plants.

"If we pass by the pogy plant and they're throwing some bycatch out in the river, we'll go ahead and use the sardines," he said. "It's just a backup plan, but it will match what those fish are eating."

When preparing cut bait, Langlois scrapes the scales off the bream or shad to release a lot of scent and to make it easier for the hook to work. He also cuts through the fish to the backbone in a couple places to release even more tantalizing smell into the water.