Soap for Catfish Bait [Is this Myth or Truth!?]

Soap for Catfish Bait

Catfish can be caught on basically anything with a strong scent, and some of the baits may seem strange to those who are new to catfishing.

From hotdogs to dog food, catfish are attracted by smells that spread strongly under water, and even smell that are completely unnatural have a great effect. One of those is soap.

Soap for catfish bait can be very effective if you know how to use it. Soap is a great ingredient for DIY baits, and you can’t exactly use it as it is, just mounted on a hook. Soap slowly dissolves under water and the scent is carried by the current to attract catfish.

To be honest, I thought this is a myth until I tried it, and I can confirm that it really works. It may not get you the largest catfish you have ever caught, but it is effective.

One of the best things about soap is that it is not as disgusting to handle as some other baits for catfish, like stink bait.

Here I will tell you more about soap, how to use it, which one to choose, and how to prepare it at home!



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What Does Catfish Eat in the Wild?

Catfish will eat basically anything that can fit into their mouth. When younger, they eat smaller foods like insects, algae, fish eggs, beetles, and other small organisms. As they grow bigger, they start eating small baitfish, crustaceans, worms, and sails. Big ones will eat larger fish, frogs, and even small mammals that end up in the water accidentally.

When usual food sources are not available, catfish will scavenge for foods.

As you probably know, catfish rely on their sense of smell to find prey. Barbels are full of taste buds and olfactory sensors that can sense various smells at a great distance. Their eyesight is not very good, so anglers use all kinds of smelly baits that don’t necessarily look natural.

Can You Use Soap for Catfish Bait? [And Why Do Catfish Like it?]

As I already mentioned catfish love anything with a strong scent. But, scent alone is not enough, because it has to be a part of a bait that has the ability to spread that scent. Some anglers use blood-based recipes as blood can spread easily under water. The same goes for various oils like anise.

Soap will slowly dissolve and carry the smell to attract catfish. This is the reason why soap works, but why do catfish love it?

Soap for catfish bait has a great effect on catfish because you are not using it as it is. You have to add spices like garlic, anis, and similar strong scented attractants. Soap is a dispenser of those scents.

I wouldn’t advise you to use it without these spices because it will not be effective. Besides, the best soaps, which I will mention later on, have a mild and plain scent. Those that smell like vanilla, or strawberry, or any other popular soap smell wont work.

Is it Legal or Illegal to Fish for Catfish With Soap?

Using soap may be easy, cheap, and convenient, but is it even legal to be using soap for catfish bait? And secondly, is it bad for the environment?

When it comes to legality, if it is not strictly forbidden by the local rules and regulations, that means that you can use it. A lot of states and privat fishing venues don’t mention soap as something that is not allowed.

Of course, rules may change even on the waters you fish frequently, and it is your responsibility to check up to date info and obtain a valid fishing license. But, soap is mostly legal.

Is it illegal to fish with soap is one thing, but is it good? Well, not so much, especially in stagnant waters. Soap can influence the smallest living organisms like planktons, bacteria, and algae in a negative way. As they are on the bottom of the food chain, it affects their predators too. Excessive use of soap can also change the pH of the water.

I would advise you not to use it in ponds or very small lakes. If you use it in large lakes and rivers occasionally, there is a low chance that something bad will happen.

Another thing is that soap is not a food at all, and if it gets eaten by the fish, it can influence their digestion in a bad way too.

It is up to you to assess any situation and decide whether fishing with soap is a good or bad idea (if legal, of course).

How to Use Soap for Catfish Bait? [On Hook!?]

Now you know why it works, but how to use soap for catfish bait? Unfortunately, you can’t simply cut off pieces of it and mount them on a hook.

As I already mentioned you have to spice it up first. Ill give you a recipe in the next chapters.

Majority of anglers use it on trotlines. Trotlines are lines that are strung across the water and anchored, like lake or river, and multiple hook hang from them. These hooks can be baited with various baits, including soap bait.

Anglers leave these lines overnight and the next day, you can find your caught fish. Of course, this technique is for those who plan to eat the fish, not release it.

Another option is using jug lines. Jug line is basically a baited hook with a weight on a line that is connected to a large plastic jug that holds it. Jug can be described as a huge float that can’t be sunken by the fish. Both techniques are so-called passive forms of fishing, and soap bait works well for them.

Both of these options are excellent for summer fishing. You can even use it while fishing with a rod, but that will give good results only on small bodies of water like ponds.

Soap for Catfish Bait - How

What is the Best Soap for Catfish Bait? [Ivory, Zote, etc.?]

You need a plain soap without many artificial scents. The best soap for catfish bait is either Ivory or Zote. These two brands are a classic when it comes to baits. Of course, if you are living in an area or a country where those are not available, you can check them out and find something similar that is available in your area.

Zote soap for catfish bait works excellent because it contains animal derived fat. Fat is excellent smell carrier. It is also crumbling less when used. This one is excellent for very simple recipes that include only spices and no additional grease or oil.

Ivory soap for catfish bait is the next best thing. Both can catch channels of various sizes, and even a complete beginner can use these baits successfully. Recipes used for soap bait can include any of these soaps, however I prefer using Ivory when other fat or animal grease are added because it lacks its own animal fat.

Other good options are Octagon and Dial soaps.

What is the Best Soap [DIY] Recipe for Catfish Bait? [Homemade]

Soap is a great main ingredient as it is widely available and cheap. You can safely use it in your kitchen without worrying that you will spill the smelliest bait ever. To spice it up, you need a stove and a cooking pot.

Here is one simple soap catfish bait recipe that is the one I always return to.


• Ivory soap (or similar soap with no animal fat) – 5 pounds
• Bacon fat – 0,75 pounds
• Flavoring powder (garlic/cheese…) – 0.4 pounds
• A few cups of water (depending on how dense your bacon fat is)
• Anise or fish oil – 0.1 pounds


STEP #1: Cut the soap into smaller pieces.

STEP #2:
Put it in a pot and melt slowly on a stove while stirring continuously.

STEP #3: Add grease, powder, and around 3 cups of water.

STEP #4: Stir continuously until you get an even mixture like pudding (add more water if necessary).

STEP #5: Add anis oil when you remove the pot from the heat and stir.

STEP #6: Pour it into a large and shallow container like a baking pan.

STEP #7: Leave it for 24 hours.

STEP #8: Cut into cubes and it is ready!

As you can see the process is simple. And if you are wondering how to attach it to a hook, here is the easiest way ...

Take the tiniest drill bit you have and heat it. And use your hands to gently pierce it to make a hole similar to those you would make in home-made boilies for carp. And that’s it!

Some anglers add so much bacon grease that they get a soap bait consistency that allows them to mold it around the hook with their fingers, however, I can’t confirm that it works. Those are mostly made with home-made soaps too.

Soap for Catfish Bait - Recipe

5 Reasons Why Using Soap for Catfish Bait is Good

I’m not sure that anyone can completely explain why catfish like soap, but the fact is they do, and it is a good bait! Here is why:

#1. It is cheap and widely available

Some baits can cost a fortune, even if you make them yourself. Luckily, soap is not one of theme. You can buy it in any supermarket anywhere and it is reasonably priced.

#2. It is easy and pleasant to use

Baits like stink baits or chicken liver (meat) can be disgusting and if you accidentally spill them on you or in your car, you will face a nightmare. Soap baits can be made in your kitchen and your family will not hate you when you do it.

#3. It works excellent for passive fishing

Passive fishing methods may seem easy, but they are not. You need long lasting baits that won’t get stolen by small fish. Those baits have to continuously release smell to attract catfish, and soap is perfect for it!

#4. It works with various attractants

To increase its effectiveness, you can add anything you can find, and ingredients in recipes are easily replaceable. That includes oils like fish oil, anis oil, animal grease, butter, garlic powder, cheese powder, shrimp powder, fish powder of fish meal, and even blood if you miss the horrible smell.

#5. It works!

You can like a bait for various reasons but if the fish don’t like it there is no point to use it. Soap bait works excellent, and it attracts catfish while dispersing scent under water. That is the most important thing!

Other Secret Catfish Baits [Good Alternatives to Soap]

Soap is not the only effective catfish bait, especially if you prefer forms of fishing that are not passive. You have many baits to choose from, depending on a technique, body of water, time of year, and catfish species. You can either buy these baits or make DIY versions at home. That is one of the best things about catfishing!

If you are thinking about using something new to catch more fish, these are your options:

Live baitfish
• Cut bait
Shrimp (dead or alive)
Chicken liver
• Chicken gizzards or meat
• Dough bait
Cheese (Limburger)
• Stink bait
Punch Bait

As you can see, there are a lot of baits. Of course, baits like hot dogs or chicken breasts have to be spiced up to make them effective. Liver can be used alone.

Channels can be caught on anything, at least those that are small to medium sized. Flatheads prefer live baits.

It all depends on your whishes and knowledge about local fish population. I would always advise you to have more than one bait so that you can change them on the spot!

Soap for Catfish Bait - Ivory or Zote


Using soap for catfish bait may seem strange, but it actually works very well! It is the best for passive fishing, when using jug lines or trotlines.

Soap will slowly and continuously release scent and attract catfish. Of course, you have to check is it legal to use it before you head out to the water.

This bait works mostly for channel catfish, but if you are lucky, you may end up with species like blue catfish on your hook too!

Spice it up with garlic or cheese powder, add a bit of grease, and you are good to go!

About Me

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I am Siniša Pintar (friends call me Sina), the guy behind and eBook writer. This site is base camp for fishing enthusiasts from all over the world. I love fishing and want to share all my stories, knowledge and my experience with any and all potential anglers. Read more ...

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