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Anglers Turn to Kooky Bait Concoctions to Land the Big Ones

Photo for: Anglers Turn to Kooky Bait Concoctions to Land the Big Ones

Anxious anglers who are always looking to boost their fish catch totals have been known to turn to the refrigerator, pantry and even the medicine chest to come up with some kooky bait concoctions.

One of the strangest recipes features a salve better known for shrinking and soothing than luring and catching.

“They use a dab of Preparation H on plastic bait since the cream contains shark liver oil ingredients and is water-repellent,” said Mark Loekle, facility concessions manager at Monee Reservoir.

But that’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to interesting bait choices.

“Garlic and salt are common scents used in fishing,” Loekle added. “Moldy cheese is used in addition to Corn Flakes cereal soaked in water packed into dough balls. Chicken livers also are used to catch catfish.”

It’s all about creating bait with an interesting scent, color, size and shape because that is what fish key in on to feed, he explained.

“The spring and fall are the times of the year that fish feed the most: spring prior to spawning and fall to fatten up for the winter,” he said. “Someone is always trying to find the next new bait to attract fish into biting.”

Soaking night crawlers in garlic seems to work for John Keslin, of Grant Park, who recently caught a large catfish with this stinky mixture at Monee Reservoir. It’s a tip his friend in Greenville, Miss., passed along to him.

“I buy minced garlic in the squeeze bottle,” he said via email. “I squeeze about one ounce into a plastic Baggie, and place the worms in there for about 30 minutes before I use them. It really attracts big catfish. Sometimes I use raw bacon, also.”

Bob Bryerton, an interpretive naturalist for the Forest Preserve, said a lot of fishermen use liver variations to catch catfish.

"Many guys swear by chicken or beef liver for catfish or make their own concoctions using chicken livers as a  base," he said. "I have seen folks use whole shrimp, which I would rather eat myself then use as bait. People use all kinds of fish including canned sardines and smelt. I have seen someone fishing with bologna and cheese as well. If an ingredient is out there, I think it has been tried."

Some of the bait recipes are made up during fishing slumps, Bryerton said.  

"When the fish are not biting and people get bored, they try whatever food they have with them," he explained. "If it works, people will try and use it again to see if they can repeat the success."

Anglers have been concocting these "secret recipes" for years, said Rob Miller, regional fisheries administrator for the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. “This is especially true for those who fish for catfish and carp. As a kid, we used to have pretty fair success using dough balls manufactured from Wheaties breakfast cereal. White bread kneaded into dough balls with a bit of cinnamon also did the trick for us.”

Miller said he’s heard some anglers even use anise in their mixtures.

“I can't vouch for the success of these potions, but you can bet if an angler catches fish using it, that's all it will take,” he added.


According to an article on, there are many other unusual bait options fishermen try including: chicken strips and nuggets, marshmallows, cat food, cut up hot dogs, ivory soap cut into half-inch cubes, Tootsie Rolls and spoiled shrimp.

And there is one more suggestion that only fishermen with strong stomachs should attempt:

“A classic ice fishing trick is to pop out fish eyes from your dead bait fish and store it in a jar with salt," the article stated. "Not only will you catch a wide variety of bass, perch, and trout, but you’ll get to creep out whoever discovers your jar of eyes, too!”

Keep in mind, of course, that ice fishing isn't allowed on Forest Preserve waters.


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