Some folks make their own dips from well-guarded secret recipes that have been passed from generation to generation. Others have favored commercially manufactured blends that they buy by the case. Whether home brewed or store bought, dip baits are gooey concoctions that usually smell horrible, but catfish absolutely cannot resist them.
While all dip baits smell bad, a foul odor is not enough to make a tub of bait attractive to cats. A dip must have a cheese base or some kind of protein content. Dough balls, no matter how sour or smelly they are, do not offer much appeal to most cats.
A bait's consistency also is critical. A good dip is soft enough that it breaks up gradually, but solid enough that it does not wash away quickly. In current, where dip baits are really at their best, that can be a delicate balance.
Dip baits work best when fished in the current, because the moving water carries bait particles downstream as the dip breaks up creating a chum line of sorts that leads directly to the hook. Dips often out-produce other baits in rivers or in sections of reservoirs that have plenty of current running through them. However, reservoir fisheries can turn on and off as if someone was flipping a light switch based on power-generation schedules.
Anglers should consider how cats are likely to relate to a river hole or other structure and set up with their baits on the up-current side of where they expect the cats to hold. It is also wise to make repeated casts to the same general area, because doing so strengthens the line of scent to the area where the bait settles.
Dips generally do not stay on hooks -- even treble hooks -- on their own. There is nothing solid to put a hook through. Instead, anglers buy "catfish worms," most of which are tubes with holes in them or ringworm-style rubber worms. All are designed to hold the bait initially, but release it gradually. Most come pre-rigged with treble hooks on leaders, and sometimes a worm or two is included with a can of dip. An alternative is to string a piece of sponge onto the shank of the treble hook.
Dip baits are generally best kept in the shade during mid-summer days. Most get thinner in the heat, and keeping the bait on the hook can become challenging. Some manufacturers sell additives that help thicken dip baits that get too thin on toasty afternoons.
A final important accessory, similar to the liver fisherman's hand towel, is some sort of a dipstick to push the worm or sponge down into the bait without actually touching the goop.