Put down your spades—when it comes to finding fishing bait, you don’t need to dig in your backyard for worms. You can plunder your pantry instead. From sweets to garbage, veteran fishermen swear these 15 out-there baits get results.
Believe it or not, chunks of soap are considered “traditional” bait for reeling in catfish, and fishermen have been using them for centuries. Brands of “pure” soap, with no added scents or chemicals, work best, as do homemade lye soaps.
2. Canned Meat
Everyone’s favorite World War II-era canned meats not only taste delicious with pineapple (just ask Hawaiians), but make an excellent catfish bait. In 2001, an Arkansas fisherman set the record for the largest catfish ever caught by rod and reel (at the time) by snagging a 116-pound, 12-ounce blue catfish with the stuff. The man claimed he didn’t realize his bait was unusual—it’s what his father and grandfather had used all their lives.
3. Dog Food
Fido’s chow of choice is also popular with fish. Anglers debate whether wet or dry is the way to go, but many agree that dog food (sometimes wrapped in cheesecloth or mixed with corn starch, water, and flour to create a doughy consistency) is great for catching carp, catfish, and certain species of panfish.
4. Chicken Liver
Not only a staple on trendy farm-to-table menus (in mousse form, served with dainty crostini), chicken liver is also at home in a tackle box. Thanks largely to their smell, livers are alluring to catfish as well as hybrid and freshwater striped bass.
Fruit baits, such as persimmons and mulberries, are great for catching fish. Carp especially are known to congregate in water near low-hanging mulberry bushes, waiting for the fruit to fall. One expert fisherman from Alabama swears by golden raisins as bait. Particularly during the summer months, he says, the raisins swell on the hooks and begin to ferment. The smell and the bright color make them irresistible to catfish, especially when fishing at night.
6. Chewing Gum
Preferably of the bubble variety. The key, anglers swear, is chewing the gum for a few minutes before sticking it to the hook. But don’t chew for too long! Fish, especially catfish and trout, are drawn to the gum’s sweet flavor.
Fish seem to have a weakness for sweets. Fishermen have reported success with nearly everything found in the candy aisle, from chocolate bars to gummy fish (the latter helped one fisherman land a non-gummy 4-foot sand shark).
Sour worms are known to be particularly appealing to fish because of their bright colors and shape (which, of course, mimics that of a real nightcrawler).
8. Mini Marshmallows
Miniature marshmallows, the kind you add to your hot cocoa, are tried and true baits for catching trout, particularly stocked rainbow trout. Bluegill and some species of sunfish are also reported to have a taste for the confection.
9. Hot Dogs
Anglers who run out of worms have been known to turn to frankfurters in their time of need. Similar in shape to surface plug lures, ripped up bits of hot dogs attract bluegills brilliantly. A fishing guide from South Carolina claims that chicken or turkey hot dogs, as opposed to ones made from all beef, are most enticing to catfish.
One inventive fisherman hooked a sizable carp in North Carolina’s Lake Norman using a pumpkin-flavored doughnut as bait.
Another breakfast favorite popular with the fishes is bacon. While one successful Massachusetts catfisher claims hickory smoked is the only way to go, most anglers agree that the raw stuff gets the best results. Not only is the meat’s pungent smell attractive to fish, but the bacon fat is full of oils known to attract varieties such as bluegills, crappies, and catfish.
Be it sharp (like cheddar), stinky (like Limburger), or processed, cheese (broken up into small pieces or balls) has a great track record of landing trout and catfish.
13. Cigarette Butts
One man’s trash is another man’s—or fish’s, as the case may be—lunch. Some anglers claim to have had great success fishing with the cigarette butts they’ve picked up off the bank, saying they’ve used them to hook as many as 100 fish in a single afternoon.
14. Peanut Butter Sandwiches
When you pack your lunch for a day on the lake, be sure to make an extra sandwich for your fishy friends. Experienced anglers say that peanut butter sandwiches, made with stale bread and sometimes gussied up with birdseed or garlic, are great for catching codfish, catfish, carp, and bluegill.
Canned corn particularly is known to be a great bait for reeling in trout, carp, bluegill, and perch. Some fishermen recommend throwing a handful of whole kernels into an area where fish are spawning before lowering their hook—laden with three or four kernels—into the water to incite a “carp attack.” Rainbow trout raised in hatcheries are especially susceptible to corn bait.