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Mudwater River - Grinding Catfish (Don't use Medium Cutbait) - Level 21+


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I spent some time yesterday farming Mudwater River in Missouri. While it's a low level lake, it can be fun pulling out catfish after catfish, particularly if you can catch a lot of trophies. There are several good Youtube videos on the subject of catching trophy catfish at Mudwater. The typical advice is to use a #3/0 hook and medium cutbait (a level 20 bait). This is good advice, but I wondered if their might have been a better, more cost effective bait?

One thing videos don't always show is how long it takes to fill a keep net. For this experiment I felt time was an important factor. One of the great things about the medium cutbait advice is that you can catch some pretty big catfish in a relatively small amount of game time. I imposed some rules on this test:

  • I could set up my stand and put baits on my 3 rods before 11am, but fishing didn't start until I fast forwarded time to 11am
  • I could throw back up to 3 fish. (in almost all instances I had 3 fish on the 3 rods when I was close to weight limit)
  • No changing line length/depth/hook size
  • Leave once the keep net was full and up to 3 fish replaced (pay the travel cost for each bait used)

In my early learning foolishness I bought an unlimited advanced license for Mudwater, so this river will cost more if you don't have a license to fish there. I conducted this experiment at Level 38 with mostly over-powered gear, but you should be able to do it reasonably with level 21 (or less) gear. My lightest rod, the level 19 Nero 14'10 was equipped with 12lb Flurocarbon .011"/0.28mm. Several 11lb fish were caught using that rod. Here are the exact setups I used:

  • DuetStand Rod Stand (red and black rod stand for 2 rods)
  • Setup #1 - Ardix 12'2" rod, Hornet Swarm 6000 reel, 20lb Braid .009"/0.23mm, chubby, Hook #3/0 set to 65 inches.
  • Setup #2 - Nero 14'10" rod, Big River 5000 reel, 12lb Flurocarbon .011"/0.28mm, chubby, Hook #3/0 set to 65 inches.
  • Setup #3 - Bottom Sniper 9' 10" rod, Mega Tank 6000, 30lb Braid .011"/0.28mm, Sinker 4 1/4 Oz., Titanium Leader .008, Simple Bell, Hook #3/0.

Just a note about the third setup, while I caught a number of normal-sized catfish on this crazy OP (for this lake) bottom-feeding rod, almost every trophy catfish was caught on Setup #1 or Setup #2. For the experiment I used duck mussel meat, medium cutbait, mole cricket larva, and peas:

Start Time End Time Total Game Time Total Time (Float) Bait Used Reward Travel Cost License Cost Bait Cost Total Costs Total Profit Profit / Time
11:00 13:30 02:30 2.5 Duck Mussel Meat 5387 1200 0 2220 3420 1967 787
11:00 13:15 02:15 2.25 Medium Cutbait 5700 1200 0 3060 4260 1440 640
11:00 13:20 02:20 2.333333333 Mole Cricket Larva 5472 1200 0 1600 2800 2672 1145
11:00 16:00 05:00 5 Peas 5222 1200 0 400 1600 3622 724


I want to highlight "Bait Cost" for a moment.  In the case of the duck mussel meat and medium cutbait I bought 90 bait (since they're available in quantities of 10 and 15). Mole cricket larva is sold in quantities of 25, so 100 bait was the closest number to 90. Peas are sold in quantities of 50, so again 100 purchased.

Peas (level 36) are by far the lowest costing bait here, but it took twice the amount of time to fill my keep net as the next longest time. The reason for why it takes so long to fill the keep net probably has to do with the fact that using peas resulted in the highest number of young catfish, non-trophy brown bullhead, and just plain bullhead (all smaller fish). I caught almost no trophy catfish using peas, and this was the one case where Setup #3, the bottom fishing setup, actually generally caught the largest fish (normal 5/6lb channel catfish). In terms of profit over time it came out 3/4. If you're a fan of torturing yourself, or have nothing else, peas will work, but expect to be at Mudwater a lot longer than someone with the other baits listed here. In terms of reward this was the least rewarding bait, but it was also the least expensive. Given the amount of time it took to fill the keep net, the fact that this bait resulted in the highest number of smaller fish, and it ranked 3rd in terms of profit over time I don't really recommend it unless you're really stuck for bait.

Medium cutbait (level 20) is everyone's favourite bait for catching channel catfish at Mudwater and it ranked #1 in terms of the fastest way to fill my 198 lb keep net. However it's not necessarily the most cost efficient over time, especially since the other 2 baits ahead of it were really close in terms of "in-game" time. If you love pulling out catfish after catfish, with a number of trophies, and the odd trophy brown bullhead, this is your bait. While fishing with medium cutbait I didn't catch a single young channel catfish (all regular or trophy). In terms of reward I made the most money with medium cutbait, but the cost of the bait was also the highest among the baits tested.

Duck mussel meat (level 20) might actually be my favourite bait to use for catfish, primarily because I caught my record Channel Catfish (13.168lbs) on Setup #1 with this bait. DMM did let in a few more trophy brown bullhead, but there were quite a few trophy channel catfish, so the keep net filled relatively fast, 1/2 hour of in-game time longer than medium cutbait. Another great reason to love duck mussel meat is that it's also useful for sturgeon at the San Joaquin Delta (later on). Duck mussel meat was actually 3/4 in terms of overall reward, but because of the speed of catching large fish it's actually 2nd in my list of best baits to use, and might rank higher given more trials.

While peas might be the least expensive, comparing value over time the best bait by far (of these 4) was mole cricket larva (level 21). Mole cricket larva costs 1600 bucks for 100 larva, and only took 5 minutes more to fill the keep net (despite the fact that I also caught 3 young channel catfish, several trophy brown bullheads, and oddly enough a single largemouth bass). It might actually be the fastest fish catching bait even though it came 2/4 in terms of time. I caught a number of larger (10-12lb) trophy channel catfish using mole cricket larva. Mole cricket larva was second in terms of reward, but it was less than 100 more than duck mussel meat, which could be the difference between a couple of extra large/smaller fish,. but because the cost is significantly lower when compared to duck mussel meat or medium cutbait, mole cricket larva comes in first in terms of "Profit over Time."

This totally wasn't a scientific experiment and data could be skewed wildly, but it might be interesting for some of you out there looking to grind Mudwater at Level 21+.

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17 hours ago, PH_Carpman99 said:

Interesting, as there are some comps and events held there. Catfish are not known to be timid but wonder if the Titanium leader on setup #3 might deter them (not required for catfishing).

You could be correct. Do catfish have good eyes, I thought they relied on other senses, but I could be completely wrong. The titanium leader was left on from Sturgeon fishing at San Joaquin. It might be interesting to see if this improves the bottom fishing at Mudwater. It wasn't like I didn't catch anything, but it was less frequent than the float rods... with the exception of peas as bait. For some reason the bottom fishing rod seemed just as active as the float rods at Mudwater when I used peas. You'd think this would indicate it's mostly the smaller fish that go for it, but in that instance quite a few normal catfish went for it (but I might have been imagining since I caught a lot more smaller fish on peas on the float rods).

I figured the Duck Mussel would do well, but I was surprised at the Larva. It's still not quite as fun as the other 2 because you catch more small fish, but not nearly what peas resulted in, and it was pretty quick.

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On 6/8/2020 at 11:15 AM, Tonto said:

Did you measure the cost effectiveness of leeches?

I didn't, but if you're at Emerald lake fishing for Walleye they are over $2000 savings versus minnows for 200 bait. I found leeches extremely effective at Emerald for Walleye.

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