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Chumming and Baiting A Hole For Catfish

Chumming For Catfish

I have been adding a number of articles about chumming for catfish and baiting a hole for catfish recently. A lot of this has been different articles about specific types of catfish chum. I am now going to tie all of these articles together with all the information you need to know about making chum, chumming and baiting a hole.

Chumming for Catfish Vs Baiting A Hole For Catfish

I often times hear people talking about chumming and baiting a hole and they use the two terms as interchanging terms and in all actuality they are really two quite different processes and techniques.


I started explaining this in chumming – what is it? Check that article out as well. Chumming is the practice of throwing out some grain or range cubes to draw fish in and get them moving around and feeding. Let’s say you go out the the lake, you find a few spots that you want to try for and you throw out some chum and start fishing. This is the process of chumming.

Baiting A Hole

Baiting a hole is considered to be different than chumming. Baiting a a hole is the process of repeatedly over long periods of time throwing out chum (regardless of what type) and training the fish to stay in that area (or near that area) and even training them to start feeding based on certain actions, like the chum hitting the water. The truth is that they can be trained, and repeatedly throwing out wheat, milo or range cubes in an area over long periods of time will help hold them in that area and keep them in that area.

Just as an example, I have an uncle that has a boat dock and it has a fish feeder hidden in the dock. The dock is full of floating and sinking catfish food and the feeder is set to go off twice a day. When the feeder goes off they swarm to the feeder and start feeding. They are trained to hold in that area. In fact they are trained  so well that you can hit the timer on the feeder, with no food in the feeder, and when the feeder spins they all come to the surface prepared to feed.

I know another guide that fishes for channels exclusively and he only fishes baited holes. When he pulls up and ties his boat up to his permanent buoy, he hits the water several times with a fishing rod (also a common technique among striper fishermen) and then throws out some range cubes and soured wheat. One day I was with him and he pulled up the spot, dropped baits in the water, and we sat for several minutes, without the range cubes and soured wheat and there were no bites. He started whacking the rod against the water and within seconds we were getting bites.

Many lakes have areas like bridges or even bouys that have been set by fishermen where everyone throws out chum and keeps these areas baited, greatly increasing the populations that hold in these areas. When someone arrives to fish they throw out a small amount of chum to get the fish feeding and start catching almost immediately.

Both chumming and baiting a hole are techniques primarily used to catch channel catfish, while you may catch an occasional blue catfish you will primarily catch channels.

Whether chumming or baiting a hole, they have a time and place. Again, these techniques are primarily geared towards channel cats and will typically produce 1-2 lb fish with an occasional bigger fish. Your not going to produce a bunch of trophy blues like you see on my guide website using these techniques but if you want to catch a nice mess of 1-2 lb fish then this is a good technique. There are times of the year and different seasons and patterns where you can catch more fish with other techniques rather than chumming or baiting a hole but this is an excellent process for beginners to use who want to start catching fish, and to help with putting numbers in the boat.

Types Of Chum

Whether you are chumming or baiting a hole the chum you use is generally the same. Here are some details on chum and my preferences. I am just going to hit the highlights in this article and if you want more details on each one you can go to those individual articles.

Soured Wheat – Soured wheat is in my opinion the best chum available. It is cheap and very effective. It will work whether chumming or baiting a hole. Make sure you read soured wheat, and how to make chum.

Soured Milo – Soured milo is my second choice after soured wheat.  Milo is also known as grain sorghum. You can read more about mile here.

Cottonseed CakeCottonseed cake is effective for baiting a hole it seems to work better when left in the water and given a while to work. Cottonseed cake can be tough to find. You can read more about cottonseed cake.

Range Cubes Probably me third choice for chumming but I do like to use range cubes (also commonly called cottonseed cubes). When I am baiting a hole , especially during the summer I will often use these.  I will often keep multiple holes baited and will go out every day or every other day and throw out wheat and range cubes together. You can read more about them here.

Corn and Hen Scratch – Corn and hen scratch would be my LAST choice and honestly if that was the only thing I had available I am not sure if I would use it. You can read more here about using corn and why I don’t like it and also why I don’t like using hen scratch.

Where To Chum

Choosing where to chum is one of those questions I get all the time and one of those “loaded questions” because it is difficult to answer. This can vary greatly during different times of the year but I am going to give you two pieces of advice.

One is that it is possible to catch catfish in shallow water all year long, whether it is burning hot in the middle of the Summer or freezing cold in the late Fall or Winter you can catch them in shallow water. By shallow water I mean water that is anywhere from 1 to 10 feet deep. I do a LOT of shallow water fishing and really enjoy shallow fishing.  Don’t be afraid to fish shallow water and don’t be afraid to fish REALLY shallow water, you might be surprised with what you find.

The second piece of advice I will give you is to try different areas. if you are not sure where they are or where you should be fishing take some chum and throw some out in a number of different areas. For example, some shallow water on a mud flat, some shallow water around heavy cover, some deeper water on a point, around some boat docks, some deep water on a point etc.

Experiment with different depths and see what produces, fish each one for about twenty minutes and see which one produces fish. If you catch a few in 3 feet of water and a few in 8 feet of water but stop catching them in ten feet of water, then you know you need to be looking for water 8 feet or less.

Look at the areas you are fishing and determine why you think you are catching them there. If you are in 5 feet of water in heavy cover full of timber or in 10 feet of water on the edge of an old creekbed but 5 feet of water on a point and 10 feet of water on a mud flat does not produce then start looking for other areas like the areas you are catching fish tin, then try those areas. if you catch fish in them also it gives you a good idea of the areas you need to be looking for.

That pattern may last for days, or it may last for weeks but at some point the fish will move and you will have to start the process of finding them again.

Keep records in a fishing log of what you catch, where you catch them, water temps etc when things work and you will start to learn patterns for different times of the year so when conditions get like that again you will now have a better idea where to go. When you learn this, the same general rules will apply to all the lekes or rivers in your area. This is tru whether fishing for blue or channel catfish and whether you are chumming or not.

One thing you need to remember is this works best in warm water. It will work in cool water but scent carries farther in warmer water is it is much more effective in the Summer months. I generally will use this during the summer after they have finished spawning and will use it through September when the blue cat bite starts to fire up again.

How To Chum

The general process for chumming and baiting a hole is the same but if I am baiting a hole and I don’t plan on fishing that day I will use more soured grain and more range cubes. If I am fishing that day, I will throw some grain and range cubes out when I get there to fire them up and get them feeding and then when I am done in that area I will throw some more out to keep them there for the next day.

When chumming the idea is to draw the fish in or concentrate them and to get them moving around looking for food. The idea is NOT to feed them. The biggest mistake I see people make when doing this is using way to much wheat, soured grain or range cubes. You only want enough to get them moving around. Some folks will tell you a large coffee can about three fourths of the way full, I usually will throw out about 3-4 cups worth just eyeballing it. Just take it easy and don’t over do it, you can always throw out more but you cannot take it away and if you stuff them you are done and they will not bite in that area.

If you are using range cubes, just throw out a few large handfuls.

The second biggest mistake I see people make is to take the chum and dump it over the side of the boat. Like I said, you want to get the fish moving around and looking for feed not feed them. When you get your chum whether it be soured grain or range cubes you want to cover a large area with it. Really throw it out there and scatter it in the largest area you can cover. I will typically throw out smaller amounts and throw it in different directions so I can make sure I really cover a lot of water.

How To Fishing Using These Techniques

So now you have thrown out your small amount of chum in a large area and drawn them into that area and you want to start catching so let’s talk about this part.

The first and biggest piece of advice I can give you is that you need to remember that you will primarily catch channel catfish. You may catch an occasional blues but the vast majority will be channels. So use the right equipment. I wrote about choosing a rod and reel for catfishing with punch bait or dip bait and choosing a rod so read those if you have not already and take my advice and put those big heavy rods you bought away and use a lighter weight rod like the CAL1100 Shakespeare Ugly Stik Casting Rods or the Shakespeare Ugly Stik Lite Salmon/Steelhead Trigger Rods. Better yet, read our pages about rodsreels and tackle pages and get the full information on why we suggest the gear that we do.

When fishing in baited holes or areas where I am chumming I like to fish with slip bobbers or slip floats like I outlined in the article about slip bobber rigs, especially in shallow water.

I really prefer fishing shallow water and when using these techniques so I have tendency to stick to bobber fishing. I will use slip bobbers very often like Bass Pro Shops Premium Pencil Slip Float and other slip bobbers we talk about on our tackle page

If you are in deeper water then slip bobbers can be somewhat difficult to fish so you will want to change to a slip sinker rig.

I actually have a homemade bobber that I use very often. These things are so sensitive that if a fish points a whisker within three inches of one I can tell. The closest thing to these is a Thill Gold Medal Series – TG Waggler and these work well. They are not as good as my homemade floats but they do work well. You don’t rig the Thill Gold Medal Series – TG Waggler the way the manufacturer suggest but I will go more into that when I talk about my homemade floats.

The benefit of using a float like the Thill Gold Medal Series – TG Waggler over a float like the Pencil Slip Float is you get even more sensitivity. if you plan on fishing with these techniques I would keep some of both of these type floats around as well as some Reusable Split Shot Weights and some Treble Hooks in size #6 and #8, and maybe even some #4 hooks you can find all of this stuff on our tackle suggestions page while you are at it you might want to read about what’s in my tackle box. Catfish Tackle   The Best Catfish Tackle

Channel cats have tendency to have a really light bite so recognizing the bite is essential. I am deadly with a slip sinker rig but most of my clients on my guided trips are not that experienced and I find that the vast majority of people out there do better with a slip float than they do with a slip sinker rig.

There are times that a slip sinker rig will out fish a slip bobber, there are times that you might need to change from a slip sinker rig to a santee rig, that is just part of learning on the water and recognizing what to do when one rig or technique is not producing. If you think they are there then change rings or fish several different rigs at once and see what works best.

When fishing with a slip sinker rig I like to use a leader that is about ten inches long, with a treble hook. I typically will start with a #6 Treble Hook and will increase or decrease my hook size as needed, like I mentioned in choosing a hook. I like to use a 1 ounce No Roll Sinker. I was always told to use as little weight as possible and and see people using small Egg Sinkers all the time but using a 1 ounce weight has never stopped me from catching them when fishing this way. I like my bait to stay where I put it and I like to be able to keep the line good and tight so the one ounce No Roll Sinker is essential.

If you switch to a santee rig then use the same one ounce no roll sinker, but use a little bit longer leader, I typically will start around 14″ to 16″. You also need to use a smaller peg float than what I mentioned in the santee rig page (like a 1″ peg float). I only mention the santee rig because it is good to know but I rarely use the santee rig for fishing with punch bait or dip bait.

Now let me say this. One of the biggest mistakes I see people make when they start using these techniques is they go out and bait multiple rods with punch, dip bait or sponge bait and start casting them out, often times fishing with way too many rods. Fishing with these techniques regardless of what type of chum you use and regardless of how you have your lines rigged you will always catch more if you hold the rod. Most often they thing they can fish multiple rods and keep up with it but most often the bite is a shy bite and they “hit and quit” if you don’t set the hook on the first chance you most often will not get a second. Channel catfish are not like blue catfish who will often hammer a bite and almost rip the fishing rod from your hand. Hold your rod, pay attention to what you are doing and get in tune with what the fish are telling you.

How Long Does It Take For Chum To Work

I hear this question all the time and it doesn’t take long. Often times you throw some out and within minutes start catching them and they will be full of it when you land them. I have had them so full within minutes that they have thrown up wheat or milo in the boat within minutes.

How Long Should I Wait To Move

I would say as a general rule if you are not getting bites are catching them within twenty minutes, move. I often times will not wait this long and will move within five more ten minutes if I am not catching fish, but I have been doing this for a long time and can usually tell pretty quickly if I am in the right spot of not.

Catfish Baits

The number one choice hands down for this type of technique is prepared bait like punch or dip bait. You can get full details on these different types of baits on our bait page and will find links from those pages to some of our other articles about bait.

Personally I prefer punch bait but have used dip baits and sponge baits in the past and have done very well with them also. My preference for using punch baits is because of my comfort level with them, as well as the fact that although they are still mess they are most often not near as messy as dip baits or sponge baits, plus you can fish them with a plain treble hook.

I hope you have a ton of success catfish fishing with these techniques. if you find this information helpful, let us know and if you still have questions after reading this contact us through our ask a question page.

There is a lot to learn and cover when you are trying to learn and I wish it was as simple as just writing an article so you could learn it all. This article should give you a good solid foundation for catching channel cats.

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About Chad

Chad Ferguson is a professional catfish guide and founder of Learn To Catch Catfish. Click here to subscribe for more exclusive catfish fishing tips by email and then follow on Twitter or Google


  1. shirley bell says:

    if a person were to use rough fish intrals to bait a hole for cat fishing , would that be considered chumming .i’m asking in regard to a catfish tournment where it was agreed there would be no chumming. but one of the entrants is planniing to do just that , what do you think? sb

  2. C.A. Douglas says:

    I disagree on chumming a little. I feed 5 to 10 gallons of soured cooked rice every day or two. My guide trips produce multiple limits daily ( 30 to 60 channel catfish with occasional Blue) on a public lake. But have to locate underwater spot (cover ) with gps to keep 1/2 way hidden. You are correct on light bite at times but we use light tackle and only a #1 hook with bait (no lead ).


  1. […] throughout using many common catfishing techniques. Fishing with prepared catfish baits in areas chummed with soured grain is a popular technique for channel catfish. Jug fishing and fishing with trotlines is a popular […]

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