Catfish Punch Bait 101 – Everything you ever wanted to know about fishing with punch bait.
I have taken a bunch of the articles I had written on catfish punch bait and consolidated them into one place to make it easier to read, and easier to follow step by step to learn everything you ever wanted to know about fishing with these types of prepared baits. I have also added a significant amount of additional information as well. This article covers everything from tackle, locations, techniques, brands and quite possibly everything else you could ever want to know. If there is something here that I have not covered just comment below and I will either reply below and will add to the article.
The Care and Feeding – Keeping Bait The Right Consistency
So far I have posted articles on What is Catfish Punch Bait, Video about What is Catfish Punch Bait, and How To Bait a Hook With Catfish Punch Bait Article and Video
I talk to a lot of anglers on an almost daily basis that bring up punch bait and start talking about it being too thick or too thin and what they do to change the consistency of their it. In doing so there is typically a common theme among all of these people, THEY RUIN THE BAIT.
I am going to let you in on some tips and tricks that I have learned along the way and how to make your bait it work for you.
As I mentioned in my “What is catfish punch bait” article, the primary ingredients in most catfish punch baits is cheese.
Here is some basic science for you:
When cheese gets hot, IT MELTS or gets thinner.
When cheese gets cols, it THICKENS or sets up.
If you don’t believe me, go to your refrigerator, get a big block of cheese, microwave it for about four minutes and let the whole darn thing melt to a big gooey nasty cholesterol ridden give you a heart attack and clog your arteries mess. When you get done revel in the fact that you just turned your cheese into a big gooey mess.
Now, take your big gooey mess of cheese and put it in the refrigerator for thirty minutes and go back and check on it. Unless something has changed I think you will find that you now have a big solid gooey mess of cheese and probably a wife or girlfriend that is tearing into you about ruining her cheese and leaving her a dirty plate that is going to take an hour and probably a pressure washer to clean up.
This is catfish punch bait care and feeding 101, you have just learned a very valuable lesson and haven’t even left your kitchen.
I have fished with just about every brand of bait on the market and have even made a bucket or two on my own. Back in the very beginning I had issues with it being too thick or too thin and listened to all these people telling me to add eggs or cooking oil or a number of items to thin it and to add cat tails or dryer lint or other items to thicken it. I too listened to these people and ended up with a big mess that was no longer good for catching catfish.
What I am about to tell you is probably no great revelation if you really think about it but it amazes me at how much time and effort is spent actually messing with these products.
Let’s face it, if you are buying a reputable product, don’t you think that the people that made it are going to send it to you in the state that it is meant to be fished in?
Catfish Punch Bait Is Too Thin
This is the most common problem I hear of. Now, go back and nuke that cheese in your microwave and think about it again. These tips are especially important if you live somewhere where it gets extremely hot (like here in Texas where it gets 130 degrees in the shade by 10 AM in July).
Store your bait where it is going to stay cool. If you keep it in the hot garage or in the boat and let it sit for three weeks before you decide to go catfishing it will turn into a nasty melted unfishable mess. At the very least store it in the shade. Personally I keep mine in a freezer or refrigerator on the garage.
Refrigerate – If you have the luxury of refrigerating it, just take it from the refrigerator and go. It is ready to fish as is.
If you are fishing with punch bait during hot weather you need to do one of two things
Keep it in a cooler - Keep the bucket in a cooler on ice while fishing, and keep the cooler closed when not in use. Simply keeping it cool will keep it the right texture and consistency.
Rotate buckets – Get two buckets, keep one cool and on and ice and keep one out for use. When one bucket starts getting soft from the heat, put it on ice and get the bucket from the cooler and start using it. Rotate your buckets of as needed.
Personally, I have seen very few buckets of catfish punch bait that is too thick. But I hear this one a lot also. This is typically a Fall or Winter complaint.
If it is too thick, you can usually stir it up really well and it will thin up enough for it be easy to bait a treble hook.
If that does not work for you can always warm it up but I have seen very few buckets of it that couldn’t be loosened up by just giving it a good stirring up.
As a last resort I would add a VERY small amount of cooking oil or egg to the mixture. I have heard of others doing this with some success but this is a short term fix and usually when the weather warms up they are they complaining about it being too thin again.
Move forward with caution and remember that just keeping your baits at the right temperature will keep the right consistency!
Punch Bait and Dip Bait - Choosing a Rod and Reel
I have been writing a lot of posts about catfish punch bait the same general principles apply to fishing with dip baits for catfish also. (I have not ventured into dip baits much but will be doing so in the future).
I think one of the biggest mistakes that anglers make with choosing a rod and reel for catfishing with punch baits and dip baits is that they use equipment that is too heavy. This is across the board just a general problem, I have tendency to go with MUCH lighet gear than most people use, even for trophy blue cats.
I attribute most of this due to most rods that are geared towards catfishing being these big heavy fishing rods with the name catfish plastered on them somewhere. I call these “broom stick rods”.
“Broom stick rods” are not only heavy to hold but as a general rule they lack sensitive and feeling.
It amazes me how many people I see in tackle shops that walk up and grab a fishing rod and shake it so they can see the tip wiggle and then but it. As if somehow seeing the tip wiggle is going to give them some sort of valid information on how the rod is going to fish or whether or not it is a good rod for their application. It drives me nuts, I mean really nuts. I want to go give them an entire lesson on fishing rods but I abstain.
When fishing for catfish it is possible to get good general purpose rods that will work for all types of fish and again I will go more into that when I write a about choosing a rod and reel for fishing for catfish.
Specifically for punch bait fishing or fishing with dip baits I look for the following in rod:
Rod length related directly to casting distance and accuracy of casts at long distances. For punch baits and dip baits I want a rod that is around 7 foot or 7’6 in length. Reason being is with this length I can still cast relatively accurately at long distances when needed, but I can also manage the rods. I often rely on salmon/steelhead fishing rods that are 8′ or 8’6″ in length for and when you are pulling the rods in and out of the boat and to one end of the boat they are just too long for fishing with punch bait and they get in the way. Stick with a fishing rod that is about 7′ or 7’6 in length.
Fishing Rod Action
“Catfish” rods (like the broom stick rods) have tendency to be Medium Heavy (MH) or Heavy (H) action rods. These rods with these actions are great for fish like trophy blues or any other type of fish that is going to come along and bite so hard it almost rips the rod from your hands, but if you are finesse fishing and need to be able to feel the bite, they are too heavy to hold and they lack feeling. Again I will go more into the reasons behind this in some future articles and when I finish with catfish punch bait fishing 101 but I feel this is a critical factor when using manufactured baits.
OK, in all the years that I have been fishing I have NEVER once, not one time, ever paid attention to the weight ratings on a fishing rod. I am sure there may be good reason behind it and it may be critical for some people and their applications, especially bass and crappie anglers but for my style of fishing and techniques it has never made a difference to me. I can honestly say that in all the years I have been fishing and have been a guide that not paying attention to weight on a rod has ever affected me or my fishing. I suspect if you are bank fishing and using huge sinkers to attempt ultra long casts this would be an issue but for my applications fishing for from a boat, not so much..
I want something that is light and easy to hold. I want the rods to be comfortable to hold for extended periods of time.
I want rods that are going to be durable and that can handle being stepped on and banged around without having to worry about it much. Preferably it will have SS304 guides and not ceramic inserts but that is not an absolute.
Specifically for punch bait fishing or dip bait fishing I like foam handles instead of cork handles. I like foam handles because they are easier to keep clean and the punch bait does not get imbedded into the foam as easily as it does in cork (as a side note, I use Rod Wrap on all my fishing rods but especially “stink bait” rods, again more on that in another article).
Now, all this being said I have used a LOT of fishing rods for catfishing with punch bait and the best one I have ever used hands down is a 7’6 Shakespeare Ugly Stik medium light action rod, model number CAL1100. Here is a link to the Shakespeare Ugly Stik Casting Rods at Bass Pro.
I have been using these rods for years and have had tremendous success with them and they are the fishing rods I have ever found for this application. I am not saying there is not anything better out there, I am just saying these are by far the best I have used.
Another alternative to the Ugly Stik is the Cabela’s Whuppin Stik . I have not personally used their comparable model to the Ugly Stik that I use but I have heard good things about these Whuppin Stik rods and especially their warranties. Here is a link to Cabela’s Whuppin Stick Fishing Rods
When choosing a fishing reel for catfish fishing with punch bait or dip bait, I use the Abu Garcia 6500 C3. I use these Abu Garcia round baitcasters (6000, 6500C3, 6600) because they are very versatile reels.
I am not going to rehash all the reasons I use the Abu Garcia 6500C3 reels in this article because I already hit a lot of the high points in this article, and am going to do a while lengthy article on fishing reels as well.
Do you have to have an Abu Garcia round baitcaster? NO absolutely not. I think you can use a smaller lighter weight reels if you are using them exclusively for fishing with manufactured baits.
I know a guy that fishes with punch bait almost every day and does really well and used Bass Pro Shops MegaCast Metal Round Baitcast Reel that cost around $25 and does just fine and is more than happy with them. I also know people that use Zebco 33′s and know people that use bass fishing reels as well.
My personal feeling on reels is that if I get the one that I need and that will work for multiple techniques and applications that I can make an investment that will last for a very long time. It’s not like a rod that I am likely to break in half at some point. Reels last me for years and years with some maintenance and upkeep will last most people a lifetime.
At the end of the day, fishing rods and reels for catfishing are a matter of personal preference so you need to do some investigating on your own and make a good informed decision from there. Hopefully the information I have provided will help you in your process of choosing a rod and reel for fishing with punch bait.
If you are interested in purchasing these products you can view Ugly Stik fishing rods, Whuppin Stick fishing rods, and the Abu Garcia Ambassadeur 6500C3 through these links at Cabela’s. Also make sure you check out our suggested tackle page for more information also.
Hooks are funny things and there are lots of different opinions, so I can tell you what works for me and has been putting catfish in my boat with punch bait for many years.
I want to preface this by saying as well that I consider punch bait to be primarily a bait for channel catfish. Yes you can catch blues with it, and yes some people catch some big fish with it from time to time. For me, if I am targeting blues, I am going to use shad or fresh cut bait and punch bait for channels. I am probably going to catch a mixed bag of blues and channels with most being channels but that is just what works best for me and my style of fishing. I find manufactured baits to be highly effective for catching channel cats. Now, that being said nothing is an absolute, and there are certain times of the year where manufactured baits can be incredibly effective for catching blues also but for the most part as a general rule it is going to be channel cat bait.
I know people that are highly successful catching blue catfish with punch bait, I know how they fish with it, when they fish with and where they fish with and could go out and duplicate that with punch bait any day of the week. My preference is to fish with shad in these situations because it has been more effective for me day in and day out.
Channels have tendency to mealy mouth the baits more and check it out, blues have tendency to hit like a freight train with no hesitation. This isn’t an absolute, again just a general rule.
I think this is important to keep in mind when considering the type and size of hook to use and what species you intend to target.
Punch baits are meant to be used with a plain treble hooks and work best that way. Don’t try to use dip worms, sponges or any other similar type of hooks, just a plain old treble works best. Don’t over think it don’t try to get too fancy with it. Personally, I prefer bronze trebles. They are good and sharp right out of the box and they are cheap I use Eagle Claw Lazer Treble Hooks. I want hooks that are relatively inexpensive but also good and sharp.
Size Of Hooks
Yet again you will get vastly different opinions on hook size. I know people that use anything from a #2 to a #8 treble hook and all do so with success, they just have different styles of catfishing and different techniques that vary greatly from one to another.
Personally, I prefer to go small on the hooks, and I use #6 Eagle Claw Lazer Trebles most often. A #6is my “go to” hook. I almost always start with a #6 size.
I carry a sampling of #4 and #8 Eagle Claw Lazer Trebles as well and I will downsize or up size based on what the fish are doing.
One of the biggest mistakes I think people make is listening too much to what other people say to use or do (which is often bad advice) and not learning on their own and reading the fish to determine what needs to be done to increase their success.
A number of years ago I was at the boat ramp cleaning fish for some clients and we had limits for 4 people on the ground (that’s 100 in Texas) and had thrown back probably several dozen others. A man approached me at the ramp and he and his grandson had been out fishing all day and had one fish to show for it.
Through conversation I found out he was fishing with punch bait, he was fishing in the right areas and areas that were very similar to where I was fishing. These areas held fish and he was getting bites but he was just not putting any in the boat. He booked a trip with me and came back two days later.
Within minutes we were putting cats in the boat and had caught a limit for him and his grandson within a couple of hours.
One thing this man walked away from this guided trip with was that he was using hooks that were way too big. He had been fishing with #2 trebles because that is what the man at the bait shop told him to use. On our trip we were fishing with #8 trebles because I had known from previous days that they were biting really short and a smaller hook was necessary.
The bite can vary from day to day and week to week and sometimes they are more aggressive than others. People make a lot of mistakes in this area and fail to read the fish and what they are doing.
If I am using punch bait and we are missing fish but I know they are biting I usually relate this to one of two things, either the clients have not figured out the timing on the hookset yet, or the hook is too big.
If I am getting a lot of these short bites like channels often do, where they will just mouth it and check it out a bit, and we are missing a lot of bites, then the first thing I do is go down on the hook size. When they do this mealy mouth bite checking out the bait, that is your one opportunity to set the hook, if you miss it you have missed the fish. They most often are not going to sit around and give you several more opportunities at it.
By downsizing the hook, you are allowing them to get more of it in their mouth and increase the opportunity for a hookset. Sometimes this means going from a #4, to a #6 and then to a #8 to get it right.
Likewise, if they are very aggressive and are inhaling the hooks, then I know that I probably need to increase the size.
When they are aggressive and inhaling the hooks this results in two things, being hooked very deep so there is no chance of a live release should you choose to do so, or being hooked so deep that you tear the hooks up trying to pull them out (in which case I usually cut the leader, retie and move on).
Bottom line, if you are missing bites, downsize your hooks and work on your timing of your hook sets. If you are deep hooking repeatedly then increase the size and try it that way.
Obviously this is a simplistic view and there are a number of other factors that go into missing bites, but I will go into those at a later time.
Now, as previously stated most of the above I would say applies to fishing for channel catfish with punch bait. If I am catfishing for blue catfish with punch bait, I am going to go bigger overall on hook size starting out.
Fishing Line and Leaders
The other mistake I see people make that is an across the board problem is WRONG LINE SIZE. I see people using line that is way to heavy like I mentioned in fishing line. Choose the correct line size and don’t go to heavy, it will make you much more productive.
I suggest monofilament fishing line in 20 lb test as a good all around line but if you are fishing exclusively for channels or with punch bait I would downsize the line to a ten pound test line. I like to use Offshore Angler Tight Line but any clear monofilament that you have had good experiences with will work.
When choosing a leader line I prefer a line that many people have never heard of called Mason Big Cat Catfish Line. This is a very thick but flexible braided fishing line that has a very large diameter. I prefer this because it is very easy to tie, it is resistant to repeated abrasion from the mouths of the fish, and it is very easy to handle and grip when baiting the hooks, making it easier to pull the hook and leader from your bucket of punch bait when baiting a hook.
Monofilament will certainly work and in those instances I will use 40 lb clear leader, you can read my article on fishing line or look at the tackle page for more information. Also make sure you read effects of leader length.
I suggest using a slip float rig (also commonly called a slip bobber rig) most often because as previously stated often times the bite can be very very light. Using a slip bobber rig enables you to visualize the bite and often times recognize much more of what is happening under the water that you would by relying on feel. The slip bobber rig is absolutely my favorite rig for fishing for channel catfish with punch bait.
After the slip bobber rig would be the slip sinker rig. This is also highly effective but often times requires you to be very much in tune with the bite and you most often have to rely on feel to sense a bite.
As a general rule, start off with a slip bobber rig and if that doesn’t work then go to a slip sinker rig.
Where To Fish and Techniques For Finding Catfish
I covered much of this in chumming and baiting a hole so I have to say that if you are not sure on where to go or what to do to find the fish using catfish punch baits I would start by making some soured wheat or milo chum and using the techniques that I outlined in chumming and baiting a hole. These are going to be the fastest sure fire ways to find them and start catching them quickly most of the time.
Outside of this, I could literally write volumes about the different times of the year and different tecniques and tips and tricks to use for finding and locating the fish when using these type baits, so keep checking back here often and watch for more information on additional techniques.
The biggest piece of advice I can give you on technique when fishing with punch baits is to HOLD YOUR ROD. I fished with a guy one time that was very experienced. I had seen him at the boat ramp on and off for several years and had some him with some impressive catches on the water. One day he had approached me after having a bad day fishing and I had just finished cleaning close to one hundred catfish. I turned him on to punch bait and described my basic tactic.
A couple of days later we met again at the boat ramp and he had brought in about 7 or 8 and I again had two clients and two limits of fish. After a number of questions I hopped in his boat with him and we headed out. He immediately baited three rods, casted and placed them in his rod holders, and I baited one and cast out and held it. We were both fishing with slip sinker rigs.
By the time he had put three fish in the boat I had caught close to ten, then he finally realized that I was holding the rod and he was fishing multiple rods and was missing bites. He cut back to one rod, started holding it and paying attention and immediately starting matching my catches one to one.
I truly believe that with a channel catfish bite fishing with prepared baits that most anglers are much more effective fishing with one rod and paying attention to the bite.
Now, I have a friend that is one heck of a catfisherman, and he will fish with punch bait and fish with 6 or 8 fishing rods a time and put them in the boat one right after another, but he is the one and only person I have ever seen do this. He uses a fishing rod that is light as a whip and has an interesting technique, but my sloth like reflexes are just not fast enough.
I posted on a fishing forum one time being in tune with the bite. In this post I mentioned that often times I would fish at night, with no lights, holding a rod rigged with a slip sinker rig, and I would close my eyes, put my finger on the line just above the fishing reel, and in turn completely focus on what was happening with the line. I then took all kinds of crap about catfishing zen and being the catfishing yoda but then when folks started trying it they started talking about how this worked for them.
Get in tune with your bite and what you can do to modify your technique, and you will start putting more cats in the boat. Experiment with rigs, experiment with holding the rod, using rod holder, and everything else and learn what works best for you, and you to can become a redneck yoda with fishing zen!
The other piece of advise I offer is to RUN AND GUN. I am very impatient and am a “run and gun” angler. I don’t wait fish out, If I am not catching I am moving, and usually in a short time frame. Give it a set time frame and if you are not catching them MOVE. They more often than not are not going to come to you. These are words to fish by.
Seasons – When to use Punch Baits
I know people that fish with punch bait year round and do very well with it and the truth is I carry a bucket with me in my boat year round. Often times it goes months and full seasons without it being touched. There are many anglers that will use this all year long and catch fish day in and day out be very happy with that.
I have tendency to fish for blues more than channels because of personal preference and because many of clients want to catch blues, that being said, there is nothing wrong with catching channel cats. The reason I say this is simply because this is the reason I have extended periods of time where I often will not use prepared baits. My tendency is to fish with them in the warmer months from about mid May through September (and during the fall and winter if I am fishing cormorant roosts). I still fish with shad during these times and will use a number of other baits as well but punch baits can really knock it out of the park during this time.
At the end of the day, there is no “season” for using these and the best time to use it is when you want to catch channel cats. It can be highly effective all year long.
On location, I have a lot of opinions on this. I have fished shallow, fished deep and everywhere in between and done well in a number of depths but I really have tendency to fish shallow with prepared baits and by shallow I mean water that is anywhere from one to ten or fifteen feet in depth.
Anyone that knows me knows that I love to fish shallow water, really shallow water. It has been and probably will always be a favorite of mine. I fished one time for close to a year without ever getting out of the shallow water. Don’t be afraid to fish shallow.
When choosing locations for fishing with punch bait, experiment and learn. I could write for days on locations, seasonal movements and more and could fill up pages upon pages, and will ultimately do so.
To be an effective and really be successful there is no substitute for time on the water. Either hire a guide and learn from them, fishing with them 4 or 5 times at different times of the year, or be prepared to put the time in on the water and learn through trial and error. To really be successful you have to spend the time and invest so you can learn at what general depths the catfish will be at during different times of the year, what will cause them to move and so on, learning patterns and being able to identify when and what causes these movements will have dramatic impacts on your success. Don’t be afraid to experiment!
One thing I tell people when they are learning is that fishing with punch bait is a very good way to start. Mix up some chum and get on the water. When you do so, if you don’t have any idea what depth to start fishing then go and chum some areas in different depths. Use your graph and start working your way out shallow to deep in 5 foot increments and fish your way from shallow to deep until you start catching.
If you catch fish at 5 foot, and not at 10 then go find you 4 or 5 more places with 5 foot water and throw out some chum and fish them, if you continue to catch fish you know that you need to be fishing around 5 feet.
I know I am probably missing some things but if you read all of my articles on this subject it should give you more than enough information to be dangerous and start immediately putting fish in the boat.
Brands Of Catfish Punch Bait
The next and probably most obvious question is that I have told you all of this about punch baits and but have yet to mention one single brand. Let me just say that there are a number of really good catfish baits on the market, and there some not so good ones on the market as well.
Do some research on what other people are using in your area and what they are having success with and give that a try.
Ultimately I am going to do a bunch of reviews of different brands, and some manufacturer profiles etc so I am going to defer any brand recommendations etc until that time, but I will give you some names of the more popular names at the time of this article.
For years I have read debates on this being better than that, and side by side comparisons of I used this and caught this but didn’t catch any on that bait etc. There is no scientific evidence involved in these comparisons. At the end of the day, the best bait to use is the bait that you have confidence in and that puts fish in YOUR boat.
Some of the more popular punch baits are:
- Sure Shot
- Lewis Kings
- Mr. Whiskers
- Big Marv’s
I am keeping a copy of this printed out so I can keep pouring through it because I know there will be some more to add to it as it comes to me.
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