Unbelievable (but True) Bait Secrets

Fish and Cut Bait with These Strange Lures

By Gita M. Smith
May 10, 2021
Unbelievable but true bait secrets-fishing lures-Thinkstock

Finding the best fishing lures and bait is an art. 

Photo by Thinkstock

For eons, we humans have raided our gardens, pantries, and tackle boxes in quest of foolproof fish bait. Read on to hear some true unbelievable bait stories from the Deep South…

The Man Who Put His Heart Into Fishing

Find them a stack of Bibles and some Alabama fishermen will swear that Toad Smith once used a piece of his own heart to catch a blue catfish. “When he had heart bypass surgery, Ol’ Toad asked the doctor to save a piece heart that had been removed, ” recalls John Phillips of Fairfield, Alabama, author of Masters’ Secrets of Catfishing. “Well, Toad put it into a jar with some Berkley’s Strike, a real strong-smellin’ catfish lure. Soon as he was well enough, he baited up a couple of hooks with pieces of his heart, and before you know it, snap, a blue cat takes the bait. Toad bragged for years he was the only man in America to catch a fish with his own heart.”

Fish Tales from the Road

Have you ever run out of your usual fare while the fish were still biting? Take a hint from Danny Fields of Oak Grove, Alabama. Dejected but not defeated, he scooped up a dead ‘possum from the side of the road near his cabin, cut the freshly killed marsupial into bite-size chunks, and baited his lines. “Don’t you just know the ‘possum meat caught more and bigger catfish than any of his regular baits?” Phillips says.

Like Fields, highly rated fishing guide Lomax Dunham found himself without bait one day on Alabama’s Lake Martin. “We ran out of minnows and crickets, but I had a bag of marshmallows on the boat,” Dunham recalls. “We baited our lines with marshmallows and caught lots of fish.” Dunham has been known to catch boatloads of catfish on unusual baits.

The Cleanest Way to Fish

Dunham is also a believer in Ivory Soap as bait. He says he  “cut it up in small cubes and left it in the water on our weighted lines overnight.” But Mike Bolton, outdoors editor of The Birmingham News, says that Ivory Soap pales in comparison to Palmolive Gold when it comes to catching fish. Bolton went fishing with Jimmy Bedwell, a barber from Livingston, Alabama, who melts down whole cases of the fragrant golden soap in black, cast-iron pots in his backyard. “You have to get the soap soft enough to sink your hooks into it. Put out your lines, and when you come back the next day, they’ll be full of catfish,” promises Bolton.

You must remember that there’s plenty of salt in the sea to take with the tales your fellow fishermen tell.
–John Hersey, American author (1914–93)

What is your most unusual bait or fishing technique? Tell us below.

See the Fishing Calendar for best days to fish by the Moon.


The 1998 Old Farmer's Almanac: This article was originally published in 2009 and has been updated.


Reader Comments

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bullhead or catfish

We use liver that has been in a mason jar for a couple of days. It kind of firms up and begins to turn a little green and stink but the fish love it.

fish bait

Back in the 60/70's my Grandfather would come from Missouri to hunt and fish in Wyoming and we would take marshmallows and die them with red food coloring and even put garlic on them to catch trout and if he ran out of sinkers or bobbers he would just tie a rock to the line and use a cigarette butt tied on the line for the bobber. Years later when the lake was drained we found some of his lines still tied to rocks.

Unusual Bait

I had a good friend, he's gone to be with the Lord, but he had told me several times of incidents when he used Bar-S Hot Dogs as bait. Mike was an amazing man of God. He was diabetic, almost blind, wheelchair bound, suffering from frequent heart attacks but the Lord, "delivered him from them all."
Here is one story, my favorite story, he often shared: One particular day he got all his tackle and gear together and was ready to leave when a little voice told him to take some hot dogs along. He thanked the Lord for this, for he would need a snack to keep his sugar levels right.
With everything right, he headed down the road on his motorized wheelchair, to a spot to fish off a bridge. As the story goes, no matter what bait he used and normally had good success with, wasn't working that day. Well, he decided to take a break, have a snack, and talk with Jesus about fishing (which he figured He was an authority on the subject). As he was snacking on a couple of cold (previously cooked) hot dogs, he heard that little voice again, saying, "Use some of those hot dogs for bait." Delighted at the thought, he eagerly cut the pieces of hot dogs into wheels, then into quarters, and baited his hook with one quarter piece. From that day on, previously cooked hot dogs became his preferred bait. His catch of fish that day was far beyond his normal take home! And he praised the Lord, singing His praises loudly, all the way home! Praise the Lord for His inestimable gifts. I can't wait to hear the fish stories of him and Jesus!

Name of bait

My dad used to take me fresh water fishing in the creek that ran behind the family farm in Petersburg, West Virginia and we would find our own bait by turning over the creek rocks. The bait looked like a black cyanided, lots of legs and a set of pinchers that could give you a nasty bite. It was great bait but for the life of me I can't remember the name of the critters. Can you help?

Rock Worms

I too learned from a Dad that rock worms are excellent bait. I later learned that a rock worm is the larvae of a fly, and the larvae is officially named a "hellgrammite". You can find more information here at Wikipedia under the article Dobsonfly.

Your bugs name

The insect you were getting out of the creek was hellgrammite. It's the nymph form of the caddisfly. Both are great bait but I prefer the nymph form. I use to catch them out of new river and creeks close to home. Great for trout, bass, catfish and I guess every other fish.



Unusual fish bait

Fishing on a golf course pond in Virginia as a kid. Catching a bass with my last worm,I hooked the eye out and used it for bait. I proceeded to catch seven bass on the same eyeball. No joke.

Best time to fish!

The old folks here in NC tell me the best time to hit the pond, Lake or Ocean is when the Wife or Girlfriends are fusing and arguing no matter the time of day or night catching a fish is 50/50 but one thing you are sure to catch is a peice of mind.

The boy scouts at Camp Horne

The boy scouts at Camp Horne in Cottondale, Alabama catch fish all day long on slim Jim's!

Unbelievable but tru bait secrets

Lomax Dunham was my uncle. He would bait a hook with anything and catch more fish than anyone I knew. No live bait, just wash off those old plastic worms and put them in the dirt from last nights live worms for a while. Fish'll bite like they were real worms. And catfish like Marlbro butts. Oh the stories I could tell.

I was standing at the end of

I was standing at the end of the dock over the 4th weekend and we were hitting crappies and sunnys all morning,around noon the fish stopped biting and were were getting ready to head in. I remembered the day before spitting my camel snus pouch in the lake and seeing sunnys destroy it. So I threw the one I had in my lip on the hook and pulled a nice fat crappie first cast.

I have fished with worms,

I have fished with worms, minnows, crickets, liver, doughballs, rooster tails, etc. but the strangest catch I ever made was when my hook was tangled on the other side of a spillway. I jerked it loose and the bait was lost. As I swung the line back across the spillway pond a large mouth bass jumped up and impaled himself on my dry hook. He weighed about 4 lbs.

Speaking of dough balls and

Speaking of dough balls and liver... My grandfather taught me a trick to keep your liver from being stolen all the time... I just used the technique yesterday at Powderhorn pond, and caught 21 channel cats, with 7 of them being keepers (2-5lbs.). PANTYHOSE!!! A 3"x3" cut square of the lady garment, wrapped from the bottom up, around your treble hook (dough balls dipped in chicken liver blood.. Or just liver)... A little cable/zip tie secures the tightened hose below the hook eye, and cast, catch, dip and repeat!!!

Do any of you actually fish?

Do any of you actually fish? i mean one guy is talking about catching brown trout in the same body of water as tautog. one lives in fresh water and one in salt. seriously? backwoods fuck heads. shut up and stop pretending to fish .

i just got done reporting all

i just got done reporting all of you for being off topic. because you are simply stupid. you are retarded and stupid .you are driving me bat shit

First of all brown trout do

First of all brown trout do live in salt water its not false so do some fact checking before you try sounding well more intelligible then you actually are. Brown trout spend there likes in fresh brackish and SALT water. There happens to be plenty of these fish in salt water. Its a dagum shame that people don't investigate before they spue loads of shit out of there Mount. Tautog that are caught near some brown trout makes perfect since due to the fact tog are caught in ROCS that are laid all around small pairs in inner bay tributaries that are rifle salt water zones in which eventually spread out to BRACKISH water zones this happens to be the areas that brown trout returned year after year to spawning areas to make lil babies. Get an eduction before you talk about things you don't have a bit of knowledge. Oh yeah grow the fruck up moron.

I'vebeen using prawns in the

I'vebeen using prawns in the uk on freshwater ponds and I swear I catch carp tench bream rudd and roach nearly every cast.

One Friday lazy evening.. we

One Friday lazy evening.. we friends were fishing with the bait we bought from the shop.. nothing was working.. then my gf was so bored and tied her orange hairclip and thrown into the water.. we all laugh loud and then next thing we saw is a large fish around 20kg caught.. we had tough time get it from the water..

I think there is no limit when its about the fish baits..

the best bait is patience

the best bait is patience

I like to use strawberry

I like to use strawberry chicken breast for catfish. I put the night crawler on first then a piece of chicken, then I spit on the bait, I know its not lady like to spit, but it works for me. I have caught over 50 catfish this year,mostly channels. I am an avid believer of the farmers almanac. I have used it for years and will continue to do so =)

My two daughters and I were

My two daughters and I were fishing in our boat with red worms and could not get anything on the hook, although the bait was being eaten. We had just eaten some pizza and my younger daughter had thrown her crust out in the lake (she said it was biodegradeable, so OK). After about 2 minutes, a large catfish was attacking the crust. I quickly ate another slice and placed the crust on a treble hook. 2 hours later, we were eating catfish filets at the house from catfish caught on pizza crust (a catfish feeding frenzy)!

2 of my grandsons wanted to

2 of my grandsons wanted to fish for trout, but not wanting to let them in the swift moving river I took them to the pond popular for perch. I had heard of marshmallows and hotdogs being an acceptable bait. We baited up both. The marshmallow was good for 1 channel cat and the whiners worked great. They both caught several channel cats with the youngest catching a 2-3 lb and the older one caught one close to 5LBs,it was the biggest fish they had ever caught, and made great pics with grins a Papa was ecstatic to get pics of.

#1 tip on catching grouper in

#1 tip on catching grouper in the winter when the water is cold and the fish have 'lock jaw' go to your nearest grocery store and buy chicken wings put your grouper hook on the little part of the wing and hold on grouper love then its easy for them to get when they are 'lazy'

I have never heard of that!

I have never heard of that! That's awesome though! I'm going fishing in like 30 mins and I think I might stop by the grocery store and pick some up. Thanks for the info!

I love to saltwater fish and

I love to saltwater fish and I learned the hard way that if you just scent your bait dead are alive fishing becomes easy. If you are reading this Kick-N-Bass have some of the best scents in a bottle. If you want to really get some big ones Fishbites are top of the line. I have a catch all bait that I only tell my favorite friends because I can win a lot of fishing tournaments if use properlly.

When my son was 4 he loved to

When my son was 4 he loved to fish but couldn't stand to touch worms,,so he used his bubble gum,, wasn't 4 minutes later he caught a turtle. Now @ 42 he still loves to fish and yes he uses worms. Just wanted to share this with all of you oh yea I am his mom..

I tried an idea that I read

I tried an idea that I read on another forum: I used bacon, mixed with garlic powder & cherry koolaid powder (for color). I was fishing on a dock and I threw my line in. 2 seconds later, my pole was flying thru the air, into the water!!! I'm assuming that it was a big catfish! I will never know because that big fish has my pole with my koolaid bacon bait.

Periwinkles off the river

Periwinkles off the river bottom do the trick. Pull them out of thier little sand shell and pop 'em on a hook. You'll have supper shortly!

I grew up fishing, like most

I grew up fishing, like most Southern girls.
Grandma would get us up before daylight to work in the garden and right after we would race to the creek. One day when the other girls was using salamanders(I have never had the heart to kill them) I used the little square caramels I had in my pockets... I caught more than anyone that day!