One of the biggest misconceptions about channel catfish is that they are attracted to decomposing baits. That is simply not true. Yes, channel cats have remarkably well-developed olfactory senses, allowing them to follow scent trails in the typically muddy waters they inhabit, but they prefer fresh food.
Over the years, I’ve fished with some of the best channel cat guides around, and each one has a secret entree for attracting these whiskered trophies. Some guides prefer strips of sucker, while others opt for tullibee, shrimp and leopard frogs.
If I’m fishing with other anglers, I’ll bait each line with a different offering and let the cats tell us what they prefer. If I’m fishing alone, however, I’ll skewer several different baits to a size 7/0 circle hook, then place it on bottom using a heavy sliding sinker.