I have plenty of experience catching channel catfish with dough bait, chicken livers and night crawlers. Those are probably some of the most reliable baits you can use for hauling in your share of channel cats. Now let me tell you about using bars of soft soap as bait. I know it sounds funny, but it works.
Of course, I’m not talking about baiting hooks with bars of soap, rather I’m referring to cutting up bars of soft soap into small chunks, perhaps the size of a jelly bean, and then slipping the chunks onto your hooks. My experience suggests that Zote laundry soap is a good bait, but I’ve also heard that Ivory, Jergens and other soft bar soaps make good catfish bait.
There are a number of advantages to using the large bars of Zote soap as a bait for catching channel catfish. Let me explain my perspective on using this odd approach to luring in fish.
First, a large bar of Zote laundry soap costs a little less than $1 and can be cut into more than 100 pieces that are just the right size for baiting a good size hook on a trot line. Therefore, it’s less than one penny to bait a hook. A 120 foot trot line with 20 stations can be baited for about 15 cents. Try that with dough bait, chicken livers or night crawlers.
Second, a bar of soap has an exceedingly long shelf life. I’m not certain what the shelf life of dough bait might be, but chicken livers and night crawlers most certainly have a limited shelf life and must be under constant refrigeration. If you’re lucky, night crawlers can live for several weeks, whereas chicken livers have a refrigerated shelf life that can be counted in days. My bars of soap sit in the cabinet under the bathroom sink for months at a time.
Third, soap is easy to handle and doesn’t make a mess on your hands after you’re done baiting a hook. With dough bait, worms and other baits made from animal parts, a wet rag is in order to get yourself cleaned up after you’re done attaching the bait.
Fourth, the scent of soap is pleasant, yet rotten worms or chicken livers going bad can be enough to turn the stomach of even the most hardened fisherman. The pleasant smell of soap and lack of mess allows the fisherman to prepare his bait just about anywhere, even in the kitchen on a good cutting board—with his wife watching!
Fifth, the size of catfish bait made from a bar of soap is quite small. Enough pieces of soap to bait several 20 station trot lines doesn’t take up much room. It will easily fit into a small re-sealable plastic snack bag that can fit in a vest pocket or small area inside a tackle box. Any other bait would need about five times as much storage space and require a special container.
Last but not least, the advantage of catching channel catfish using soap for bait includes the look one gets from incredulous people who think you’ve flipped your lid. The only thing more unbelievable is catching channel catfish on trot lines that sport only bare hooks—and I’ve done that as well.
If only I could find a way to get those chunks of soap to clean the fish that I haul in, now that would really be a tremendous advantage, and quite a fish story as well. At least some folks would anticipate a punch line like that from a story about catching channel catfish using bars of soap.
About the author: Clair Schwan enjoys the ease and productivity of trot line fishing, and the simplicity of using bar soap as bait. Once you get yourself a mess of fish, he suggests this simple catfish recipe made from cornmeal. It’s so straight forward that he’s confident that even a beginner cook can produce fine results the first time out.