The really good anglers out there develop a system for catfishing. They’ll have rigs ready to go before they even go to the lake, and they already have spots in mind before they get there. When they hit the water, they are serious catfishing machines. So if you want to be like them, and have a mess of catfish already in your head before you go, then you should look at this step-by-step blueprint of the catfishing system.
Step 1: Scout the Local Fishing Holes
Whether you have lakes or river systems in your area, make sure that you get maps of those bodies of water. There are 2 types of maps that should be interest to you in general – fishing hot spot maps and topographical maps. Often, the fishing hot spots will include a topographical survey of the body of water of interest, and may be the best place to start. You’ll very likely find where there are depth and bottom structure changes on the topographical map, you’ll also find fishing hot spots.
Second, when you are scouting areas to fish, check the local fishing reports. A good place to start would be to do a google search for “[your state] fishing reports”. Also, check your parks and wildlife division. They’ll very likely have some material you can use to scout fishing spots close by.
Step 2: Gear Up For Catfishing
This step will have to be broken down in 2 steps as well. There are 2 main styles of fishing here, jug fishing, and rod and reel (or sport) fishing. Jug fishing is probably the more catch producing method, but sport fishing is more fun (in my opinion).
The basic idea of jug fishing is to get a small to medium sized jug (I use quart sized jugs), get some good medium size rope, some heavy twine, a large barrel swivel, and a large circle hook (I’m currently using Eagle Claw 9/0 circle hooks). Tie on about 6 to 8 feet of rope to the jug, and about 2 to 3 feet of twine. Tie on your barrel swivel, then tie on about another foot of twine, then tie on your hook. I know it seems a little “fishy” to fish so shallow, but trust me, it works. When I go out, the average catch is around 20 to 50 pounds a day. It works.
Second is sport fishing. Using a rod and reel is my favorite way to go catfishing, because of the fight you get when you hook a fish. It doesn’t yield the catch results like jug fishing, but it does work. I remember recently catching a nice 7 3/4 pound flathead catfish on a perch.
There isn’t much with regard to gear that you need that is different here. Make sure you have some good strong leader lines, and use similar hooks as you do for jug fishing. I mostly fish the bottom when sport fishing, and when I use a good size piece of bait, I might just free-hook it. But if you are in an area with current, or just want it to stay down, get a good 1 to 3 ounce weight, and tie it on to the end of the line. Then tie your hook on about 2 to 3 feet above the end of the line. This will keep the hook off the bottom, but still close enough to attract those catfish. It will also help prevent snags and hang ups in the line.
One thing I’ll add here, if you are using soft baits or dip baits, you’ll want to invest in some bait savers, catfish tubes, or perhaps some treble hooks in order to keep those baits on your hook.
Step 3: Get the Right Catfish Bait
When it comes to selecting the right catfish bait, think about the size of catfish you are after. Larger catfish tend to have more of a fish diet, and they’ll prefer shad and perch entrées. If you want to catch the bigger catfish, use shad and perch that are larger, perhaps shad that are 5 to 6 inches long, and perch that are 3 to 6 inches long. In general, the bigger the bait, the bigger the fish.
Now, if you are looking to get quick strikes and pull in more fish, consider catfish bait like blood bait and chicken livers. These types of baits put blood and scent in the water, which the catfish can detect from fairly long distances. They’ll create sort of a trail in the water, that leads directly to your hook. I was fishing a little stock tank just a week or two ago, and throwing chicken livers at them caused some quick reactions, and I remember one nice catfish that weighed in at about 3 pounds.
So to sum up the catfish bait, use shad or perch for big catfish, and chicken livers, dip baits, or blood baits for the smaller, quicker striking catfish.
So that’s the step by step overview of catfishing. If you have any comments or want additional information, use the comment form below and drop me a message. I would love to get back with you and answers your questions, comments, or concerns.