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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I've used a number of weird

I've used a number of weird stuff to catch fish' me personally when I want to go fishing I go to the local grocery store and buy canned yellow sweet corn, a pack of hotdogs. I think its crazy I can go to the grocery store with two or three dollars and buy bait instead of going to the local bait a tackle shop and have to spend close to twenty dollars there but catch more fish with the stuff that I bought at the grocery store!!!!!. Who would of thought.......

Yes, I have caught more fish

Yes, I have caught more fish with canned corn and Wheatie balls than with worms!

In the cold winter months the

In the cold winter months the realy big catfish over fifty pounds will eat whole mussles and you can see when you catch one it's bottom lip will be sanded off. I have tried many times to catch the big ones with mussles but failed often not to mention it's cold water your hunting for mussles in to begin with. New solution on the shelf in walmart I purched some oyster sause (in the chineese food isle) and marinated some cut bait in it for 24 hours before fishing. Wow! It is the best thing that I have ever used on the big ones, and it is great on steak as well.

near night fall at local lake

near night fall at local lake eaten up with insects and ready to leave gave it 15 more minutes and went home with 3 big mouth bass never before probably never again but i wouldnt complain bro beleved in the night too big to be any but carp in the light of day we saw otherwise

we were fishing for hybreads

we were fishing for hybreads on a lake near home using chicken livers. When we ran out I took a paper towel and tore it into small squares and diped them in the blood which was left over. It worked just as good as the chicken liver.

Out of the Mouths of Babes

Out of the Mouths of Babes
One Spring day I was crappie fishing with my two daughters. The spoons we were using were not working at all. One daughter suggested we try the glitter off their backpacks, pink & blue. Just to go along with them, no other reason, I decided to try their suggestion. We then enjoyed a very productive day of fishing !

Proud Dad

My father always laughed at

My father always laughed at me when i was a little kid cause i would try the strangest baits to go fishing with. One time when i was about 10 or so i took my sister down to the salt water tributary behind our house at the time and we were fishing for croaker, tautog, speckled, and brown trout, basically what ever would bite. we didnt have enough money to buy a box of worms after i'd bought her lunch with my allowance, so we went over to the produce depatment of our grocery store and bought a bunch of celery. the lady checking us out laughed when she heard that we were gonna use it as bait, but when we showed back up about three hours later with about half a dozen croaker in a wheeled cooler filled with river water to get my sisters picture taken and posted on the community catch board she couldn't believe her eyes. my dad still insists it was the smell of the chicken nuggets on the celery that attracted those fish, and me and my sister still swear up and down that it was all the celery, so try it some time. you never know what you'll catch if you don't try, just like attracting deer by rubbing your hands and face with orange oil to keep off the cold ;)

I was fishing with my

I was fishing with my youngest son a few years ago. He was eating gummy worms, but he doesnt like the orange ones. I suggested as a joke that he put one on his hook and use it for bait. We caught 18 large bluegill and redear before we ran out of gummies. We had behemoths and redworms but the orange gummies were what the fish wanted. We still save all the orange gummies throughout the year for bait when fishing time rolls around.

I claim to be the best...I

I claim to be the best...I thought I was just talking. Ran out of bubble gum trick worms in Tallessee, Al. After losing the last one on my first catch, I rigged up a Hardee's straw with two hooks. The first at the end of my line ,tied a second hook to the first and hooked the straw near the rear 30 min later I caught a large mouth bass of about 2 lbs. I knew I was good!!!

A great and readily available

A great and readily available bait for Catfish and or Sunfish and Bluegill. BACON!! Yes, a strip of bacon attached to your catfish hook will be as good a cut bait as you can get for Channel Catfish. Small pieces of the white bacon rind cut into small 3/4 inch strips on your bluegill hook work really well and many time you'll catch two or three fish before you need to re-bait. Fresh bacon works as well as stale or slightly rancid bacon.

I use Tomato hornworms they

I use Tomato hornworms they are so tough skined that the fish have a hard time getting them off the hook...I have caught as many as 30 to 50 blue gills on one worm

I like to use red wasp larvae

I like to use red wasp larvae just before the wasps are ready to hatch. The problem is, the nest is covered in adult wasps at this time. So you need to knock the nest down quickly and leave the area quickly. Return when the bees have settled and get your nest full of larvae. Great smallmouth bass bait.

I like natural bait when

I like natural bait when available, crickets, night clrawlers, minnows =, mussels, grubs, grass shrimp, chiken parts, beef melt, brem heads or parts and even cut bait like carp or gaspar goo, the largest catfish I caught on a rod and reel was almost 70lbs using bream parts. Now go get um and if u can tell an old girl some tips on artificial bait...I might try something different, but chicken liver and such is so much cheaper on the pocket book for and old country girl.. Good luck and good fishing

I am a fisher woman! My

I am a fisher woman! My father in law always depended upon the "farmers almanac" for the right day to fish. I have cat fish ponds and every time I try to fish, they are not biting. So I decided to check out the almanac. I hope it works out for me like it did for him!

I'd be interested in know if

I'd be interested in know if this worked for you Mary. While notable dates of fish activity could be useful there are so many factors that come into play when fishing. The effects that air temperature, water temperature, wind speed/directions and sun exposure can have on fish activity might make the almanac not as effective for this as you might think.

However, I could be completely wrong and sound like a goof right now! In any case if the you need help catching fish you might want to check out some of the fishing tips I've gathered and archived on the web.

Has anyone else found that using specific dates via the almanac for fishing to be useful?

Yes! First year I used it and

Yes! First year I used it and this is the best season I've had yet! 96% today y'all. Heading out soon myself, happy fishing!!!

yes the old farmers almanac

yes the old farmers almanac is accurate about 76% of the time. Learned from my father his mother( my grandmother)