Catfish Bait
Most Catfishermen agree that if you are after BIG fish, you ought to be using 1 of 2 baits.  Preferably have both with you.  The two baits are Skipjack Herring and Shad.  Nothing builds my confidence in catching quality fish higher than to have fresh shad or skipjack on hand.

Like many things in life, the easy way is not the best.  It would be so much easier to just buy some nightcrawlers or stink bait.  Yes, some big fish have been caught on worms BUT hands down Skipjack and Shad have consistently produced LARGE fish much more often, in my opinion.

The serious catfisherman usually spends either the first part of his/her day gathering precious bait to go after those Big catfish.  Or, they have taken the time to catch/net their necessary on a previous outing.

SkipJack

Skipjack is my bait of choice.  We usually catch them using a Sabiki Rig. This is basically 4-6 little flies attached to a leader.  They are pretty cheap and are a great aid in our quest for skipjack. 

I also carry a pole with a few crappie jigs tied 12-18 inches apart.  Sometimes they show a preference for one or the other. 

We catch our skipjack in the fast water below Barkley or KY dam.  Skipjack can be caught Spring through Fall, although there is a huge variation on when they are "jumping in the cooler" versus having to really grind it out to catch them.

With time and persistance, we are often succesful!

Shad

Shad really used to be about all I used when I lived in SE Missouri.  Since moving to Kentucky, I rarely use it.  We fish a lot on the Ohio River and I've struggled to find shad consistently.  I see guys netting shad below the dams and I admit, I need to figure this out better than I previously have.

There is a great feeling of accomplishment when you get a good throw with a nice wide round splash with a cast net.  It's even better when you've hit it just right and there's actually shad in the net!  It is true that the greatest of throws will not yield any shad, if you aren't throwing over the shad.  I know, very deep thinking!

Side imaging is a real blessing when trying to locate shad.  Sometimes they are very scattered, other times they will be grouped together in a tight cluster.  If one can hit it right, the number of times necessary to throw the cast net will be minimal.

I have seen guys using a dip net to catch shad below the dams.  I need to experiment more with this.

Those 2 shad on the top are 14-15 inchers!!

Alternative Plans

Let's face it, sometimes bait is REALLY hard to come by.  What is one to do?  Well, the answer lies in a greatly hated and despised fish... The Asian Carp!

Ugly, mean, nasty, and did I mention ugly.  That hated Asian carp is also smelly, bloody and tough.  Oh wait, those are good qualities for bait!

Using Asian Carp for bait has saved me numerous times when bait is hard to come by.  The thing is, I've caught many good and large catfish on it.  Another great thing is, there are usually people below the dams shooting them with their bows or snagging them (either on purpose or accidently).

Don't worry about being neat, we are catfishermen after all.  Fillet one of those guys up and you will be set for bait.  Once you get it on your hook, you just about have to cut it off to remove it.  Another positive is you don't have to worry about a small fish pecking your bait off.  It is there to stay!

I'm afraid the Asian Carp are here to stay.  We might as well utilize them to OUR benefit!