Using Ivory Soap as Fish Bait


Anglers use all sorts of tools and tricks to fool fish. The bait at the end of your line can be as simple or complex as you want it to be, but the intended goal is always the same: to trick the fish into biting. Manufactured by Proctor and Gamble since 1879, Ivory soap is perhaps an unusual choice to adorn the hook at the end of your fishing line, but it's also a surprisingly effective one.

What You Can Catch

  • Ivory soap is used primarily as a catfish bait, though it can conceivably work for other species of bottom-feeding fish that hunt by taste and scent rather than by sight. The soap generally works best for channel catfish, but you can also use smaller pieces of soap for bullhead. Blue catfish and flathead catfish are more predatory and less inclined to scavenge than channel catfish, making them less likely to be fooled by using soap as bait.

Preparing the Bait

  • You can cut a bar of Ivory soap into chunks and put them straight onto a hook, but the soap tends to be crumbly and difficult to work with. To solve this problem, use a grater -- the same kind you would use to grate cheese -- to reduce the soap into shavings. Pour 1/4-cup of water into a small pot and warm it on the stove over medium heat, and add the shavings to the water. Stir the shavings until they melt and reach a butter-like consistency. Pour the mixture into ice cube trays to mold it into bait-size pieces. Let the mixture cool and harden.

Fishing With Soap

  • Once the soap has hardened in the ice cube trays, it is ready to be used as bait. If you want to use smaller pieces, remove the soap from the ice cube trays before it completely hardens, and use a knife to cut the pieces into halves. The soap should work on any rig that you would ordinarily use for catfish. A common bait rig involves a size 5/0 to 8/0 hook at the end of the line, with a barrel swivel and slip sinker 12 to 18 inches above the hook. Impale the hook into a piece of soap and cast it out carefully so that the bait doesn't fly off.

Why It Works

  • Ivory soap works as catfish bait because it is made using animal fat, and lacks the additional scents and chemicals added to most soaps. Once in the water, Ivory soap slowly dissolves, leaving a scent trail that leads catfish directly to the bait. Other pure soaps like Octagon and Zote can also work as bait, but soaps with added chemicals will not attract catfish, and may even repel them. Soap baits work best when fished close to the bottom in lakes, ponds and slow-moving rivers where the current is not to heavy. You can also experiment with adding other catfish-attracting ingredients to the soap mixture, including blood, sugar or garlic.

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