Some catfish enthusiasts swear by a specific type of bait, but the truth is that catfish will eat many different things. For your first few catfish expeditions, take a few different types of bait, so you can find out what the catfish in your region like to eat. Try some of these options:
Try cut bait. Shad, herring, goldeye, and other baitfish release oils that attract catfish. Slices of these fish are particularly effective for catching channel catfish, which are the most common type of catfish in North America. You can also use live baitfish that haven't been cut. These won't release oil as readily, but they may be more appealing to catfish since they're alive. Experiment to see which one is better.
Try crawfish. Catfish in southern regions might eat crawfish, which is available at your local bait shop. Try nightcrawlers, which you can also buy at the bait shop. These worms are appealing to many types of fish.. If you don't want to make a run to the bait shop, you can use chicken livers or pieces of corn. Try an artificial bait. There are dozens of artificial catfish baits sold at sporting goods stores, many of which claim to have a magic ingredient for which catfish go wild. However, expert fishermen say that the best fish are caught with real, live bait.