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Papa’s Best Catfish Bait Recipe

by Thursday, May 12, 2016

From My Family To Yours

I recently visited my grandparents and had to help Papa clean out his tool shed.

While I was moving a tool box around, I knocked over and broke a glass bottle and was quickly hit with an absolutely disgusting smell. I couldn’t pinpoint it but I knew it was vaguely familiar.

A few minutes later, Papa came around to see how things were going and saw me gagging from the smell. He just laughed and said, “I see you found my ‘special blend’ catfish bait.” That’s when the memory of the smell hit me.

When I was a kid, my family would take a week long camping trip at the end of October, to Lake Sam Rayburn, deep in the Piney Woods National Forest of East Texas. Every morning around 4:00am, we would take the boat out and run all of our trot lines on the misty black water of the lake.  I remembered the tendrils of mist that would curl around and into the boat and the faint rustling of animals at the water’s edge as they came for a morning drink.

Lake Sam Rayburn in East Texas, where I used to fish with my family. (Image via)

Lake Sam Rayburn in East Texas, where I used to fish with my family. (Image via)

Of all these things I remember the smell the most.  My grandpa would make his special blend of catfish “cheese” in January of each year and would let it sit and get “ripe,” as he called it, until our camping trips.

As a child, I would get as far to the back of the boat as possible, but nothing would escape that smell. And if it were to get on you…you would have that lingering odor on you for days on end.  I could never believe it when we would pull up hundreds of pounds of catfish, a few alligator gar, the occasional snapping turtle, and — even more rare — an actual alligator. Whatever it was that made that smell so rancid, was the same thing that made it irresistible to the fish.


It wasn’t until years later that I finally got a hold of my Papa’s recipe for his famous cheese bait. This recipe has served my family quite well over the last few decades, and I wanted to share them with you.

Papa’s “Special Blend” Cheese Bait

What you need:

  • Mason jar (Papa would use an old mayonnaise jar)
  • 1lb of cheese spread (cheddar is preferred) the cheaper the better
  • 8 oz. of beef blood
  •  1 container of minced garlic
  • Sawdust
  • Sponge
  • Popsicle stick
  • An out of the way place allow it to ripen
papas cheese bait

A fresh batch of Papa’s famous cheese bait.

To make it:

  1. Allow the cheese to warm up either about 20-40 seconds in the microwave or a few minutes in the sun
  2. Mix the cheese, blood, and garlic into the jar and stir until it’s evenly dispersed and there are no big chunks
  3. Take the paste that you have just made and add some of the sawdust to thicken it.
  4. Add a small amount at a time to avoid any big clumps
  5. You want to add enough sawdust to make it tacky, almost the consistency of thick oatmeal.
    *If you add too much your bait will dry out and crumble; too little and it will wash off before you can land a fish
  6. Once you have the right consistency, seal the cap on the jar set it in an out of the way place (preferably one that gets a good amount of sunlight.
  7. You will want to let it set for a minimum of a week, but the longer the better.  Some of Papa’s bait has sat for 3 years before using it.

Using the Bait:

When it’s time to grab your tackle box and the cheese bait, make sure that you don’t forget the popsicle stick and the sponge.

Once you get to your favorite cat fishing hole it’s time to break out the cheese bait.  (You may want to cover your nose with a handkerchief to avoid some of the smell!)

Cut your sponge into long, thin strips and then moisten them to make the sponge more pliable. Wrap the sponge around your hook (a treble hook works best), and make sure that the barbs on the hook catch the sponge so that it will stick to the hook under water.

Use the popsicle stick to avoid getting the bait on your hands. Smear the bait on the sponge until it is saturated.

You want to gently cast and allow the bait to get close to the bottom, but not to where it drags as this will pull the bait off the hook.

If you don’t feel any bites, pull the bait up about every hour or so and check the sponge, if it looks like most of the cheese has washed off of it, reapply and start over.

If you follow the above recipe you should have no trouble pulling in plenty of catfish for a meal.  This recipe has worked for my family for a long time and hopefully it will work for you.

There are a ton of other recipes available online using many different ingredients and I would love to know what you use and what works for you. Share your own bait recipes and fishing tips in the comments below!


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