Catfishing Tips: The Ultimate List Of Catfishing Tips

Video river catfishing tips

181 Catfishing Tips (The Ultimate List Of Catfishing Tips)

Looking for catfishing tips? You’re in the right place!

I’m constantly getting questions from people about fishing for catfish and them looking for catfishing tips so I’ve put together this ultimate guide of quick and actionable tips to help you catch more catfish.

People find out I’m a catfish guide and the questions start pouring in (as well as the stories about their uncle Joe, see tip number 1).

Then I get hit with “the question”…..

“Do you have any catfishing tips?”

I usually answer the question with a question and reply, Sure, what species of catfish?”

Each different species of catfish is very different in many ways, so without a little basic background information, it’s impossible to offer information and know what you’re delivering is of value.

Often, when hit with the question by email and through social media, I simply refer people to the website, it’s “full of tips“.

After some thought, I decided to put together this page.

These are all short, sweet and to the point (and highly actionable) covering everything from myths and misunderstandings, bait, tackle and gear, catfishing techniques, and how, when, and where to catch catfish.

The Ultimate List Of Catfishing Tips

Click on any of the quick jump links to take you to that section.

Quick Jump Links

Catfishing Myths and Catfish Species Catfish Tackle and Gear Catfish Bait Catfish Rigs Catfishing Technique Tips and Info Location (How, When, Where To Catch Catfish)

1. Catfishing Myths and Catfish Species Tips

Catfish fishing “myth busters” addressing common misunderstandings, tall tales, folklore, and some species habits, and more on types of catfish. These catfishing tips help with species specifics, common myths, misunderstandings, and old wives tales.

Catfishing Myths and Species Tips

Catfish “The Size Of A Volkswagen Bug”: There’s a catfish the size of a Volkswagen Bug near the dam at Lake _____________ (insert lake or river name here). My _________ (insert relatives name here) friend was a scuba diver. He saw it and got out of the water and never went in again. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard this story over the years and it’s been about every lake and river in the United States. Either your uncle’s buddy knows every single living person in the United States or you’ve fallen victim to urban legend. You decide!

Catfish Are “Bottom Dwellers”: They’re not strictly “bottom dwellers”. Sure, they do spend time on the bottom but they’re complex fish that feed through the entire water column including on the top or surface of the water, the bottom, and everything in between. If you’re focusing solely on the bottom your not getting in front of all the fish!

Catfishing Is Better At Night? You have to fish at night, right? Wrong! Cats are not nocturnal fish and fishing at night is not required. You can catch just as many fish during the day as you can at night. In fact, many savvy anglers prefer fishing in the day over fishing at night.

You Need Stinky Baits?: You have to use some sort of stinky stuff, right? Wrong again! They don’t just feed on stinky stuff and scavenge around for meals. All three species of catfish are highly skilled predators that will feed on a variety of foods. Channel cats (and even blues at times) love some good old stinky bait but it’s certainly not required. If you’re fishing for blues or flatheads or even larger channel cats the stinky baits might even work against you!

Do Catfish Sting? They Don’t Sting. Their whiskers do not sting and their fins don’t either. Smaller fish do however have very sharp fins that will penetrate the skin if not handled with caution. The fins will cause a burning sensation if they puncture the skin but it’s not a “sting”.

If You Get “Finned” By Catfish: If you break the skin or get punctured by a fin, there’s a simple way to stop it. Turn the fish over and rub the wound on the belly of the fish for a brief period. The slime from the fish will stop the burning sensation and you’ll feel no pain at all almost instantly!

The “Big Three” Species: There are three species of catfish that are most sought after by anglers in the United States, blues, channels and flatheads. They are similar in many ways but are also very different. To be successful you need to understand the differences of these fish and tailor your approach to the one you want to catch!

channel catfish illustrationChannel Catfish: Channel cats are abundant and most widely distributed in the United States. They provide an excellent opportunity for anglers and are among the easiest to learn to catch consistently. If you want fast paced action and lots of fish channels are an excellent option. They also appeal to many because they don’t require any specialized gear.

Blue Catfish: Blues are present in many parts of the United States and are the most sought-after species of catfish among hardcore catfish anglers. They grow big, they fight hard and can be caught in excellent numbers. Blue catfish are the preferred species of catfish for many because they grow to trophy sizes and generally are present in high numbers as well. This means you can catch lots of smaller blues or monster trophy cats!

High Fin Blue Catfish: “High Fin Blues” are like unicorns. There is only one species of blue catfish and that’s it so “high fins” or “high fin blues” are no different than the everyday run-of-the-mill blue cats.

Mississippi White Catfish: Also like unicorns. These fish are nothing other than blues with lighter coloring. It doesn’t matter what you call it or what your friend’s cousin told you a “Mississippi White Catfish” is a blue cat.

flathead catfish illustrationFlathead Catfish: Flatheads are big and tough and put up a heck of a fight! Catching flatheads is often considered by many to be “slower” fishing though they can be caught in good numbers at times. Flathead hunters focus their fishing efforts on catching a few very large fish over trying to fill a day with a lot of activity (size over numbers).

Catfish Change Colors The pigment in the skin will change colors and it’s possible for two fish of the same species to look very different. This is especially true of blues. When blue cats are in clear shallow water and exposed to sunlight they’ll be dark. If they’re in deeper muddy water they’ll be lighter colored. In cold stained or muddy water they’ll be almost white at times.

Male and Female Catfish: Males usually have larger heads and smaller bodies and it’s more pronounced around spawning season. The head and back of the male fish are often much more muscular.

Supercharged Senses: Often perceived as “bottom dwellers”, being an unsophisticated fish that lurks around eating leftovers and trash off the bottom. This might be true in some situations but they are actually very sophisticated fish with advanced senses of smell, taste, and sound. They’re able to detect sounds, vibrations, and smells far better than many other species of fish and their senses are far better than many other species of fish.

Catfish Sense Of “Taste”: Their entire bodies and are covered with “taste buds” and are highly concentrated in the barbels or “whiskers” surrounding the mouth. It’s estimated that a channel cats six inches in length has approximately 250,000 tastes buds on its body. They’re the equivalent of a swimming tongue.

Catfish Sense Of “Smell”: Folds in tissue inside the nostrils are what’s believed to give fish their sense of smell. Researchers believe the number of folds is what gives some fish more sense than others. The average cat has 140 folds compared to bass at 13 creating a supercharged sense of smell. It’s believed that there are some compounds they can detect at one part in one ten billion parts of water.

Unique Sense Of “Hearing”: Catfish bodies are equal to water density, so it doesn’t need external ears. Most fish have an inner ear that’s independent of the swim bladder but the otolith of the catfish is connected to the swim bladder with a series of small bones.

Sensing Vibrations: Sound waves traveling through the water go right through a cat by creating vibration in their swim bladder which transmits to the otolith in an inner ear. These vibrations then transmit to the brain giving catfish a heightened ability to detect high frequencies.

Detecting High Frequencies: Bass detect high frequencies from 20-1000 cycles per second but catfish can detect high frequencies at 13,000 cycles per second. Low frequencies not detectible because of only having an inner ear are detected through a series of small pores containing cells with hairlike projections down the side of the fish. These projections move with water displacement which stimulates nerves and send a signal to the brain. Everything that moves in and around water creates these low-frequency vibrations that catfish can detect.

Detecting Earthquakes: Catfish have such a supercharged ability to sense high frequencies they are used for earthquake detection because they have the ability to sense vibrations that nothing else can.

Can Catfish See Well? – It’s often thought they cannot see because they’ll bite lures, baits on heavy trotline twine, and don’t stray from high visibility fishing line. They actually have very good eyesight though, especially channels.

How To Hold Catfish: Again, they don’t “sting” but with smaller fish you do need to avoid their dorsal and pectoral fins to keep them from penetrating the skin. Just hold the fish with a firm grip and place your hand behind and firmly against the back of the dorsal and pectoral fins.

How To Identify Blue Catfish: Blues and channels are often confused by anglers. Blue cats are slate blue to grey in color and have a flat (straight) anal fin. If all else fails count the rays in the anal fin because blues will have between 30 and 36 rays.

How To Identify Channel Catfish: Channel cats have an olive-brown to grey coloring and often have dark spots (especially in smaller fish). The anal fin of a channel curves out but if all else fails count the rays in the anal fin because channels will have 24 to 29 rays.

How To Identify Flathead Catfish: Smaller flathead and channel cats are often confused by anglers. Flatheads have a flat tail and channels have a forked tail. Flatheads also have an underbite so the bottom lip will extend well beyond the upper lip in most fish.

2. Catfishing Tips: Tackle and Gear Tips

These catfishing tips cover catfishing tackle and gear. This covers rods, reels, hooks, sinkers, and other terminal tackle and other random gear.

Catfish Tackle and Gear TipsGear Doesn’t Catch Catfish: Many beginning anglers put way too much focus on gear and worrying about what kind of rods, reels, and tackle they have. There are a few essentials that are “must-haves” like good hooks, line,s and some basics for catfish rigs. Beyond these essentials, don’t be a gear head, all of the latest and greatest gear available won’t help you catch fish if you’re not putting the right bait in the right place at the right time. When you reach a point that you’re losing fish because your gear is not good enough that’s when you should become obsessive about gear.

Good Catfish Rods: Rods are a different breed from most freshwater fishing rods. As a general rule, you’ll want a fishing rod that is 7’ or longer in length with a good strong backbone but plenty of flex in the tip for circle hooks to work effectively. Check out my Chad Ferguson Signature Series Catfish Rod, it’s perfect for all species of catfish and techniques.

Handle Length Matters: Pay close attention to the length of the handle when purchasing catfish rods especially if there’s a chance you’ll target big catfish. Longer handles make large catfish much more manageable and give you more control over fish. If you ever hook a monster cat on a short rod with a short handle you’ll quickly learn the difference.

You Don’t Need “Heavy Catfish Rods”: There’s a myth that “catfish” rods need to be super heavy with no bend or flex in them, this is what we call “broomstick” rods. You can land monster trophy class catfish with lightweight fishing rods just as easily as you can these big heavy “broomstick” rods. If you’re going to fish for smaller catfish you’ll be really disappointed in these heavy fishing rods.

Fishing Rod Action: Rod action is determined from the position at which the fishing rod starts to bend when a load is applied to it. A fast action rod will bend mostly in the area around and nearest to the tip. A slow-action rod will bend throughout most of the blank or everything from the end of the handle to the tip of the rod.

Fishing Rod Power For Catfishing: Rod power is the strength of the rod and ranges from ultra-light to heavy. Different species of catfish call for different applications and in most situations, a medium (M) or medium light (ML) action will be best for smaller channel catfish, in finesse fishing situations. For blue catfish or flathead catfish, a medium-heavy (MH) action is most often preferred as a good middle-of-the-road fishing rod power. An angler who is targeting trophy class blue or flathead catfish may even prefer a heavy action fishing rod.

Don’t Shake Fishing Rods: Most people take a fishing rod in a store, hold it out in front of them and shake the rod to see what happens, which tells you absolutely nothing at all. Look at the action and power that tell you everything you need to know. If you feel the need to test the rod then grab the tip and pull down to get a feel for the action and power.

Get The Right Line, It’s The Critical Link: Don’t “cheap out” on fishing line, make sure you have a good fishing line on your reels and replace it as needed. Monofilament line in 20-30 lb test will work great for anglers who target blue catfish and flathead catfish. If you’re fishing exclusively for channel catfish or smaller catfish then a 12 lb test fishing line is plenty. The current world record catfish that weighed in at 143 lbs was caught on a 30 lb test fishing line.

Hi-Vis Fishing Line Helps You Catch Catfish: Hi-visibility fishing line in green, yellow, or orange is a favorite among catfish anglers. The bright colors allow you to monitor the line for bites and see when the line suddenly goes slack or fish swim sideways. If you’ll spool your fishing line with a hi-vis line and use the color to your advantage you’ll catch more fish.

Braided Fishing Line Is Overhyped and Overused: This is the most overhyped and overused piece of fishing tackle there is among catfish anglers. A braided fishing line is expensive, hard on your gear, and is more difficult to cast with. If you’re fishing in heavy timber or in the heavy current then by all means use a braided fishing line but think long and hard about whether you really need to use a braided fishing line.

Change Fishing Line Often: The fishing line breaks down with age, use, and exposure to the elements and over time becomes brittle and more difficult to cast. Be sure to change your fishing line on a regular basis to make sure it’s in good condition and won’t snap when you hook the big catfish of a lifetime.

UV Rays + Fishing Line = Problems: The fishing line breaks down with exposure to UV rays and will weaken and become brittle. Never store fishing reels in direct sun for extended periods of time when you’re not using them.

Reel Magic Is Real Magic: Keep a bottle of Reel Magic on hand in your boat or tackle box and spray it on your fishing line regularly (and liberally). It will help keep your line limp, pliable and maintain its ability to cast!

Spend Your Money On Good Catfish Reels: Good fishing reels will last a lifetime, won’t let you down, and retain value. You can buy cheap fishing reels but understand what you’re buying is a short-term product and when they break you’ll have to throw them away and start over. Cheap reels cost more to use in the long term.

Look For The Right Catfish Reel Features: When buying catfish reels you want a fishing reel that has a good smooth drag system, ball bearings for smooth casting and has a larger line capacity so it will hold plenty of fishing line for using a variety of techniques. You might also want a reel with a “bait clicker” or line alarm as well. Pay close attention to gear ratios, as you’ll need a “winch” for big cats!

Bait Casting, Spinning and Spin Casting Reels, Oh My!: Ultimately if you’re going to get serious about fishing for catfish you’ll want bait cast fishing reels. Spinning reels can be used if you must but you’ll have a harder time finding fishing rods and they’re generally not preferred by most serious catfish anglers. Spin casting reels (like your old Zebco 33) lack the drag systems, line capacity, and gearing needed for catfish and don’t hold enough of the heavy fishing line you’ll need.

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Abu Garcia Fishing Reels: Abu Garcia’s classic series fishing reels are considered the “gold standard” and are without a doubt the most popular fishing reels for catfish. The 5500 C3 and 6500 C3 reels from Abu Garcia are the preferred reels by masses of catfish anglers. The 5500 C3 is great for targeting smaller catfish and the 6500 C3 for small to large catfish just make sure you look for the reels that say “Made In Sweden” on the reel.

Clean and Maintain Your Reels: Take some time now and then to do some basic maintenance and cleaning of your fishing reels now and then and they’ll perform when they need to and last much longer also. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to clean and maintain Abu Garcia Ambassadeur fishing reels.

Save Money On Catfish Reels: Shop eBay, Pawn Shops, Craigslist, and garage sales for used Abu Garcia fishing reels. These fishing reels have been in production since the 1940s and parts are readily available. You can often find a good used Abu Garcia bait cast reel for the same price as a cheap “throw-away” reel.

Stop Making Excuses, You Can Cast: If you’ve never used a baitcasting reel or “open-face reel” before or had trouble with them in the past, just spend a little time practicing, you can learn to throw these with no problems you just need to spend a little time practicing.

Setting The Spool Tension On Your Bait Cast Reel: Setting the spool tension correctly on your bait cast reel will save you a lot of frustration casting and help you learn to cast. Tie your catfish rig on the line, hit the spool release, and let the sinker fall to the ground while holding the rod tip up at a 45-degree angle. When the sinker hits the ground the spool should stop turning. Increase the spool tension until you find the “sweet spot”. Likewise, if the spool tension is too tight you’ll have difficulty casting.

Set The Fishing Reel Drag, Or Else: Properly set fishing reel drag is essential. Drag allows the reel to slip, compensates for the fish pulling, and is what keeps the fishing line from breaking when reeling in a big catfish! Drag is what allows you to catch 100 lb fish on 20 lb test fishing line. There’s a “textbook” way to set fishing reel drag but you really don’t need to know it. Loosen the drag all the way and then tighten in small increments. You should be able to grab the fishing line between the reel and the first line guide on the rod and pull the line out by hand relatively easily.

Too Much Drag, Shame On You: You can always increase (tighten) the fishing reel drag but if you hook a big fish you won’t get a chance to decrease (loosen) it! The line will snap, the fish will be gone and you’ll learn a very valuable lesson.

Bait Clickers (Line Alarms) Done Right: Line alarms (bait clickers) are popular among catfish anglers. If you’re fishing with circle hooks leave the reel engaged and don’t use the bait clicker. If you’re using other hooks and want to allow the fish to “run” turn the bait clicker on, disengage the reel spool (push the button to release it) and keep the line tight. When a fish grabs the bait and runs the spool will turn and you’ll hear a clicking noise. Engage the reel (turn the handle) and set the hook!

The Backlash Or “Professional Over Run”: Backlash occurs on a fishing reel when the spool on the reel moves faster than the fishing line is coming off the spool and through the eyes of the rod. This causes the line to wrap around the spool of the reel in the opposite direction. Learn to stop the spool with your thumb at the right time and you’ll seldom experience backlashes.

To Remove Backlash From Fishing Reels Finding the loop where the fishing line has wrapped in the wrong direction on the reel is the key to removing a backlash. You can do this by gently picking at the fishing line until you find the backward loop. Another trick is to take your thumb and push it firmly down into the center of the spool and turn the handle 2-3 times slowly. Many times this will remove the backlash from the spool.

The Ultimate Guide To Catfish Reels: For an in-depth look at catfish reels check out the Ultimate Guide To Catfish Reels for more information.

Good Sharp Hooks Are Critical: The mouth of a catfish is thick, tough, and packed with cartilage. They’re very different from freshwater fish like crappie and bass with paper than mouths. Using a good sharp hook that can penetrate the tough mouth of a catfish will help you catch more fish.

Circle Hooks Catch Catfish: Circle hooks are popular among catfish anglers for good reason, they catch fish! If you choose the right circle hook and fish with it correctly you’ll catch more fish!

Circle Hook Size Is Critical: For circle hooks to work correctly they need to be large enough to function and most people go wrong by choosing a hook that’s too small. The gap of the hook needs to be large enough to turn and clear the lip or outside of the mouth of a catfish so the hooks used often appear to be too large in some instances. A circle hook that doesn’t have a large enough gap won’t catch fish (even small ones).

Keep The Hook Gap Clear: For a circle hook to work correctly the hook gap needs to remain open. You can accomplish this by “shallow hooking” the catfish bait. This means you only run the hook through a small portion of the bait at the top so the hook gap remains open.

“Foul Hooking” Circle Hooks: When you bait a circle hook either run the hook through the cut bait at an angle or use a target bead with the cut bait. This keeps the bait from flipping around and impaling itself on the hook which not only covers the point of the hook but also fills the hook gap which means you won’t catch fish!

Setting The Hook With Circle Hooks: Despite what you may have been told you actually can set the hook with circle hooks (or at least some of them), you just need to use a modified hook set. There are several other ways also, learn more here.

Leave The Hook Point Exposed: Contrary to what you may have been told you don’t need to cover the hook point to catch catfish, in fact, you shouldn’t cover the hook point. Catfish aren’t shy when it comes to hooks (or lines) and leaving the hook tip clear and exposed will help with hook sets!

Working Tackle Boxes: Organize tackle by catfish species and pair down the tackle you have. Don’t stock everything but the kitchen sink in your tackle boxes you should be able to fit almost everything you need for blue, channel, and flathead catfish in a small Plano tackle storage box for each species. This is what we call the “working tackle box”.

Catfish Can Be Ornery: Big catfish can be a bit ornery when you’re handling and releasing them. They’ll tear your hands up and make you think twice about sticking your hand in their mouth again. Use a good pair of lip grips to handle and release catfish. They’ll be easier to handle and you’ll be much happier (and your hands will also).

Rod Holders Are Essential: Rod holders are a catfish angler’s friend whether you fish from a boat or from the shore, they’re essential to catfish fishing. Fishing from boats, rod holders are used for fishing on anchor, drift fishing, and many other techniques. When “bank fishing” or “shore fishing” for catfish they’ll allow you to secure your gear and place your lines in the right locations. They’ll save your gear from going in the drink and help you fish with more rods regardless of whether you fish from a boat or the shore. Our favorites are Bee Ready Fishing Rod Holders and Driftmaster Rod Holders.

Cheap and Effective Shore Fishing Rod Holders: Take a three-foot section of rebar and attach an 18“ long piece of 2” diameter PVC pipe with hose clamps (or you can even use duct tape). Attach the PVC to one end of the rebar and leave the end of the PVC just below the rebar so you have something to strike and hammer it into the ground.

Good Anchors: Good anchors are a catfish angler’s friend. You need anchors that will grab and hold in a variety of wind speeds, bottom compositions, and every situation you can encounter. This means you can’t get by with “mushroom” anchors or coffee cans filled with lead. The best option will vary dependent on fishing lakes or rivers, the size of your boat, and the areas you’ll be anchoring in. Check out Digger Anchors and Cat River Anchors for two great options and for a DIY option you can build a box anchor for very little investment.

Two Anchors To Anchor: Not only do you need good anchors but you need two of them to anchor your catfish boat. Don’t think for a second you can drop an anchor off the nose of the boat and let the back of the boat swaying in the breeze. You’ll want to anchor and hold your boat perfectly still which means having a good anchor in the front and back of the boat!

Anchor Nose In: When anchoring the nose of the boat directly into the wind and attach the rope as close as possible to the centerline of the bow of the boat. The close the anchor rope is to the center of the nose the less sway you’ll fight while fishing on anchor. If all else fails attach the rope to the bow eye of the boat.

Skinny Water Anchoring: Catfish love extremely shallow water or “skinny water” at certain times of the year and many anglers spend significant time targeting shallow water catfish. Use anchor pins or poles to secure and position your boat in shallow water. You can buy these or build your own shallow water anchor system. Just like with standard anchors, you’ll want to have two on hand!

Drift Socks Made Simple: Drift fishing for catfish can be a very effective technique for blue catfish and channel catfish. Having two good drift socks will help slow your boat down and help maintain direction. Drift speed is critical so make sure you monitor speed and adjust accordingly. The colder the water the slower you need to drift and the more important speed is.

Humminbird Sonar Fishfinder CatfishSonar, Electronics, and “Fish Finders”: If fishing from a boat buying a good sonar unit, and learning how to read it will do more for your success catching catfish than any other tool. You’ll catch more catfish and catch bigger catfish and time spent fishing will be more productive.

Broadband or 2D Sonar For Catfish: This is the traditional sonar view that shows images below your boat. You get a narrow view of the area below the boat but can learn a lot and find fish with a simple broadband sonar unit.

Down Imaging or Down Scan Sonar For Catfish: Shows a similar area to broadband sonar but provides more detailed images making it easier to identify small details that you wouldn’t be able to see on broadband sonar.

Side Scan or Side Imaging Sonar For Catfish: Side scan or side imaging sonar allows you to see below and on the sides of the boat and covers a much larger area and see amazing details (including individual fish). This makes the time spent searching for fish (and shad) much more productive. Side imaging sonar is hands down one of the top tools of most successful catfish anglers.

More Area, Fewer Details On Side Imaging: It’s possible to view a 600-foot area of water (300 on each side) but you lose details with a large viewing area. To maintain the ability to see details and identify fish plus cover a large area of water maintain the side imaging view at 65 to 70 feet on each side of the boat. You’ll be able to find fish, shad, and scan structure and the cover, as well as cover a much larger area than you can with broadband or down imaging sonar.

360 Sonar: Gives you the ability to see a detailed view 360 degrees surrounding the boat while sitting still. 360 imaging technology is sold as an add on feature to side and down imaging. This is a newer technology that still brings a premium price.

You Have To Do Your Part With Sonar (Fish Finders) Learning to read sonar effectively to find and catch catfish is a craft (part skill, part art) and requires you to spend time learning. Understanding the basic behaviors of catfish will help you narrow down the areas to search with sonar so you can learn to identify catfish and target them.

Tweak The Settings On Your Sonar Fish Finder: Out of the box, your sonar will provide basic information. Tweaking the settings and making adjustments will take things to a whole new level. Experiment with adjustments to sensitivity and other features to get the best results and find more fish.

Cat Scanning Basics: Pay close attention to water temperature and baitfish locations to help narrow down areas to find catfish. These are the two simplest ways to help narrow down the areas to search and start catching fish.

GPS + Sonar = Success: Many modern-day sonar units have GPS technology that allows you to increase your productivity on the water. Use GPS to mark fish locations, mark structure for future reference and even hazard areas and you’ll have a database of catfish “hot spots”. Just as important is marking hazards or dangerous areas so you can avoid them.

Get Details With Navionics and Lakemaster: Mapping cards or “chips” with topographic lake maps are sold by Navionics and Lakemaster. These maps provide a higher resolution more detailed topographic map than those that come with fish finders. This higher level of detail allows you to identify the structure, cover, and other possible catfish hot spots and is well worth the investment!

There’s An App For That: If you don’t have a boat or don’t have a sonar unit with GPS capability then at minimum you should invest in the Navionics App for iPhone and Android. The Navionics app gives you access to GPS and the same detailed topographic maps available for the sonar unit. Studying these maps and identifying areas to target fish from shore will increase your success rather than taking the “fishing blind” approach.

No Roll Sinkers: No-roll sinkers work great for a variety of catfish rigs and are perfectly suited for catfish fishing. Their “slip sinker” design allows you to fish with line alarms and bait clickers plus they’re flat so they don’t roll when you cast onto ledges and drop-offs which are great areas to catch catfish.

Drift Fishing Sinkers: When drift fishing you’ll encounter snags and hangups and lose tackle, that’s part of the technique, it’s a trade-off. You can reduce the number of snags by using Snagless drift fishing sinkers. To build these thread 1/8 or 1/4 ounce egg sinkers on monofilament line and then finish it off with a barrel swivel. Just thread the barrel swivel on the mainline just like you would an egg or no-roll sinker. These aren’t truly “Snagless” but they will reduce the number of snags while drift fishing for catfish. You can buy these style sinkers also.

For more on catfish rods check out the Ultimate Guide To Catfish Rods

3. Catfish Bait Tips For Catfishing Success

Tips on catfish bait for all species of catfish including catfish bait selection, catching bait, prepared baits, and more!

Catfish Bait Tips

Match The Hatch and Catch More Cats!: Match the hatch is a good basic rule to follow for choosing your catfish bait (or bait for any fishing for that matter). Match the hatch means to use bait that the fish are feeding on or something that mimics what the fish are feeding on. Learn and understand this and you’ll catch more fish regardless of which species you’re fishing for!

Learn To Throw a Cast Net: Learn how to throw a cast net (if it’s legal in your home waters) so you can find and catch fresh shad. You’ll save money and always have fresh bait (and with some species of catfish you’ll catch more fish).

Spend Some Time Up Front, Prep Your Cast Net: Spend a little time upfront when you get a cast net and prepare it the right way. It will be easier to throw and you’ll catch more bait!

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Stink Bait Catches Catfish, Kind Of: There’s a belief that to catch catfish you need to use stinky baits from a package. You’ll certainly catch channel catfish with these prepared baits but they’ll hit a variety of other baits that don’t stink as well. If you target blues or flatheads with stink baits you’ll be disappointed.

Dip In Or Sponge Some Cats: Dip bait and sponge bait are both popular baits for catfish. They’re often cheese-based and “stinky” and fished with a sponge or dip tube to hold the bait. The disadvantage of these baits is they require the use of sponges or tubes to hold them which adds tackle and expense.

The Best Sponge Hooks: Rather than buying expensive sponge hooks for sponge baits and dip baits buy plain treble hooks and a felt hat cleaning sponge. Cut the sponge into small chunks and insert the shank of the treble hook through the sponge. They’ll work better than most sponge hooks you can buy and save you tons of money as well.

Punch It Up: Punch bait is similar to a sponge or dip bait but much thicker and made to be used without worms, sponges, or tubes as they’ll stick to a bare treble hook. They get their name from the process used to bait the hook. These baits are deadly for channel catfish and our favorites for fast action and lots of channel catfish. Popular brands include Sure Shot Catfish Bait, CJ’s Catfish Bait, and Sudden Impact Fiber Bait.

Cut Bait For Channel Cats: Stink bait or prepared bait is hands down best for catching numbers of smaller channel cats. If you want size over quantity then try some form of native baitfish cut into chunks. You’ll catch bigger channel cats over using prepared baits.

Gizzard Shad Catfish TipsBlue Catfish Bait Made Easy: Blue catfish bait is simple. Use some sort of fresh, native baitfish in cut or whole form and you’re going to be more successful. Threadfin shad, gizzard shad, and skipjack herring are favorites among catfish anglers and always produce but other fish like carp, buffalo, drum, or perch are popular as well and will catch fish. Start with shad or skipjack when possible and throw some alternatives in the mix.

Blue Catfish Bait Is Fresh, Not Frozen: Fresh bait is always best for catfish but frozen bait is better than no bait. After 15+ years as a catfish guide, I’ll tell you that fresh bait makes a BIG difference and while there are a few short periods of time during different seasons that frozen bait will work better the majority of the time fresh bait is best. Catch fresh shad each time you fish, you’ll catch more catfish.

Flathead Catfish Bait Made Simple: Flathead catfish are predator fish and feed primarily on live bait. The best choice of catfish bait for flathead catfish is some sort of live baitfish that is good and hearty and will stay “lively” on the hook for extended periods of time. Fish like perch, bluegill, brim, or mudcats are always great bait. Experiment with cut bait in addition to live bait fish where there’s current as it will often produce also.

Chicken Livers, Not So Much: Chicken livers are often a “go-to” bait for many novice catfish anglers but they’re the most overhyped and overused catfish bait ever! They’ll catch some fish but the hassle of fishing with them is not worth the return, they just don’t work that well to justify fooling with them. If you want to fish with livers then use turkey livers, they catch more fish than chicken livers and are much tougher, so they are much less hassle.

Pickled Fish, Pre Formed Chunks, and Baits In Tubes: Every “big box” retail store has some form of mass-produced catfish bait on its shelf. These companies have made millions of dollars selling one package of catfish bait to anglers because once you buy one, you’ll never buy another one. Stay away from any form of pickled or preserved fish, anything in pre-formed chunks or balls, anything in a squeeze tube, or anything that says anything about “magic”. Just save your money, you’ll be glad you did!

Using Shrimp For Catfish Bait: Shrimp can be a good bait for channel catfish. Most people default to buying “bait shrimp” that’s sold in bait stores but it’s a poor choice if you plan to use shrimp for catfish bait. Buy whole “eating shrimp” at the grocery store instead of bait shrimp. You’ll get a better quality bait that will catch more catfish and it’s actually cheaper if you do the math.

Popping Hoppers: Grasshoppers come out in swarms in the summer months and can often be found along shorelines and aquatic vegetation where you’ll often find catfish feeding on them. Try using grasshoppers for catfish bait (match the hatch), a technique catfish anglers often refer to as “popping hoppers”.

Homemade Catfish Bait Recipes: Many novice catfish anglers spend a lot of time looking for homemade catfish bait recipes and experimenting with making different concoctions. If you’ll simply buy a good commercial catfish bait you’ll save money and usually catch more fish. It’s usually more expensive to make your own catfish bait than it is to buy something that’s tried and true, just make sure you go with a well-proven catfish bait that works! If you want to make your own catfish bait then there’s one recipe we suggest, the Bells Of Hell Stink Bait.

Catfish Bait Enhancers and Additives: In recent years more and more companies are marketing products towards catfish anglers sold as bait “enhancers” or additives, what I like to call “cootie juice”. These are most often scented sprays that are meant to be used with some form of cut bait. There’s no magic bullet to catching catfish, including “cootie juices”. If you’re stuck fishing with frozen bait or not catching fish then give them a try but if you put the right bait in the right areas you shouldn’t need bait additives or enhancers in most situations.

4. Catfishing Tips: Catfish Rig Tips and Tricks

How to tie and fish with various catfish rigs and tips for success using these riggings to catch cats!

Catfish Rig Tips

Three-Way Rig, Overhyped and Overused: The “Three Way Rig” is one of the most well-known catfish rigs and also overhyped and overused. It can certainly be used to catch catfish but there are much better catfish rigs to use in many situations.

The One Catfish Rig You Must Know: The Slip Sinker Rig is the catfish angler’s version of a Carolina rig. This is hands down the most popular catfish rig and it catches fish. If you only learn how to tie one catfish rig, the slip sinker rig is the one you need to learn. The Slip Sinker Rig can be used for all species of catfish and almost every catfishing technique.

Step Up With The Santee Rig: The Santee Rig or Santee Cooper Rig is a slight variation of the slip sinker rig involving a small foam peg float. By adding a 2“ to 2.5” foam peg float on the leader line a few inches above the hook you’ll lift the bait off the bottom and often catch more fish. Experiment with leader length to get the right setup and let the fish tell you what they want.

Slip Corking Cats With The Slip Bobber Rig: Slip bobbers or slip floats are very effective for catching catfish, especially smaller 1-10 lb channel catfish. Slip bobbers allow for quick and easy adjustment based on water depth so you can fish deeper or more shallow as needed. With the right slip bobber, you also have a very sensitive catfish rig that provides a visual indicator when a catfish strikes.

Ultra-Light Channel Catfish Bites: Smaller channel catfish often have a very light bite which can be frustrating for some anglers and they’ll often miss a lot of fish. If you’re targeting 1-5 pound channel catfish use the Secret Catfish Rig as it’s more sensitive than any other rig and will increase your catch ratios by as much as 500%.

Balloon Rigs For Catfish: Balloon rigs are very effective when you need to cover a lot of water. If you’re fishing from the shore use balloon rigs to float baits because you can cover great distances and get your bait to areas you’d never be able to access casting. If you’re fishing from a boat balloon rigs allow you to cover a larger area of water and also work great for suspending baits.

Noise Matters: Catfish are sophisticated fish and respond to sight, sound, vibration, and smell. After extensive testing, I found that catfish rigs that incorporate sound catch more fish than those that don’t. Use the Versa-Rattle to add sound to any catfish rig and use them for any catfishing technique.

Fishing In Or Around Heavy Cover: If you’re targeting catfish in or around heavy cover, especially if fishing vertical consider using a drop shot rig or zero rigs so you can fish tight against cover and reduce the number of snags and hang-ups.

Leader Line Is Key: The leader line is used in most catfish rigs and is commonly a heavier line than the main line on the fishing reel. This heavier line used as a leader absorbs shock when a fish strikes and provides additional abrasion resistance to reduce line breaks.

Leader Line Length: The longer your leader line is the more your catfish bait will move in the water with current and the more fish can move with it without you knowing. Experiment with the length of the leader on your catfish rigs and find the “sweet spot” based on the catfish bite. You may need to adjust on a regular basis to adapt!

Tangle Free Leader Line Storage: The leader line left loose in a tackle box will quickly become a tangled mess. Use this trick to solve this problem, store 1/4 pound spools of leader line inside a neoprene koozie. It will stay nice and neat and remain tangle-free.

When Choosing Weight Use “Just Enough”: Don’t go overboard on the amount of weight on your catfish rigs, use “just enough”. How much you need will depend on the catfishing technique your using, wind, and current. If two ounces is enough weight don’t use four. You’ll save money and catch more fish!

5. Catfishing Tips On Techniques

Tips on different techniques for catfishing and tips for success using these techniques. Some of the many different ways to catch cats!

Catfishing TechniquesTight Lines and Anchor: Anchoring and fishing with baits cast into your target area and keeping the fishing line tight is a technique often called “tight-lining” and is catfishing in it’s most basic form whether fishing from a boat or from the shore.

Drifting Or Drift Fishing For Catfish: Drift fishing is a common catfishing technique. This involves casting baits out one side of the boat (usually with multiple rods) and dragging baits along the bottom while the wind moves the boat. Drift fishing allows you to cover a lot of water and is one of many ways to catch fish. This is a great technique, to begin with if you’re just getting started as it’s hard to not catch catfish using this technique.

Strolling: This is similar to drift fishing but rods are commonly run off the back of the boat rather than the side and a trolling motor is used to move the boat instead of allowing the wind to push you.

Controlled Drifting: Controlled drifting is similar in many ways to strolling and the technique that it refers to do can vary based on where you are in the United States. This usually means either the same technique as strolling or using the trolling motor and holding the rods while bouncing baits off the bottom.

Doodlesocking: Doodlesocking is a technique commonly used for channel catfish. This involves dropping baits in and around rocks and rip rap shorelines to catch spawning channel catfish. This is an incredibly effective technique to use for catching catfish in the summer months.

Slip Corking: Slip corking for catfish is a term used to describe fishing for catfish with slip bobbers. While you can use these techniques for any species of catfish it’s a popular way to fish for channel catfish using slip bobbers and prepared baits like punch bait or dip bait.

Splat Fishing Cats: Splat Fishing is a technique used for catching blue catfish around bird roosts. There are a number of different species of birds that roost that will hold catfish but cormorants are the most common. Catfish anglers often fish in and around cormorant or “water turkey” roosts for catfish using the splat fishing techniques to catch fish.

Finesse Fishing Catfish: Fishing for catfish is often viewed as a “shotgun” style of fishing where anglers cast bait into an area and wait for fish to come along. This is certainly one way to fish but “finesse fishing” is one of many techniques that involve more active fishing styles casting and placing baits in precise areas to catch catfish (the sniper approach instead of the shotgun approach).

6. Catfishing Tips On Location, How, When, and Where

Locations, techniques, and other various areas. These are the ones that cover how, when, and where to catch catfish.

Catfishing Location Tips How When WhereKeep A Good Fishing Log: There’s a free tool that will have a big impact on your fishing success and it often goes unused by many anglers. Keep a fishing log every single time you go fishing. Pay attention to where you’re fishing, the depth, cover, structure, water temperature, wind direction, and everything else. If you’ll keep accurate records of when and where you’re fishing and the conditions as well as success and failures and use these as a tool for future reference. Done correctly this will unlock a wealth of information for future success catching catfish.

The Best “Spots” For Catfish: I often hear anglers asking about “spots” or making comments about not “taking spots”. Fish of all species (catfish included) often move on a daily or even hourly basis. Just because the fish are there right now doesn’t mean they will be an hour, day, or week later. “Spot” fishermen fish areas because they caught fish there before. Successful catfish anglers fish areas because the fish are there while they’re fishing. Don’t be a “spot fisherman”, you’ll catch more catfish.

Cover Vs’ Structure: The terms cover and structure are often used interchangeably, but they are not the same, in fact, they are very different.

What’s Structure? The structure is the physical changes of the water body, such as points, humps, ledges, river channels, drop-offs, etc. If you drained all of the water from a lake the structure would remain.

What’s Cover? The cover is the “extra” features in a body of water. Items like docks, fallen trees or timber, and vegetation are cover. The cover can be natural or man-made.

What Kind Of Cover Holds Catfish? Depending on the time of year and species of catfish there are a variety of types of cover that you’ll find catfish in or around including but not limited to timber, cattails, lily pads, or brush piles.

What Kind Of Structure Holds Catfish? The short answer is all of it (or at least most of it is based on seasonal movements). Catfish love structure so areas like points, humps, and drop-offs are favorite areas to catch catfish among many catfish anglers.

Dial-In The Channel: Catfish love creek and river channels that run across the bottom. Dial into fishing these areas targeting channels and channel ledges (both at the top and bottom) and you’ll see a dramatic increase in your success.

Underwater Highways: Catfish often follow major tributaries when moving between structures, following them to other areas. Look for smaller tributaries, points humps, and other structures that intersect with or are near these main channels and you’ll find fish.

When Searching For Catfish, Look For Irregularities: When searching for fish and scanning new waters look for irregularities in the area. For example, if scanning a river channel look for another second tributary, change in the structure, or isolated cover in the area.

Flathead Catfish Like Combinations: Flatheads like combinations of cover and structure with a variety of depths in the same general area. The biggest flathead catfish often prefer the thickest and most complex locations.

Water Temperature: Water temperature plays a major role in fishing for all species of fish catfish included. Fish don’t have calendars or clocks so they base their movements and activity on water temperature and food. Pay close attention to water temperature and how it relates to catching fish and you’ll find that water temperature often plays a major factor in your catfishing success.

Wind Is The Catfish Anglers Friend: Many people get on my boat with beautiful weather and no wind and comment about the “great day for fishing” but catfish anglers know better. The wind is your friend and the old cat fisherman’s saying is “no wind, no fish”. You can certainly catch catfish when there’s no wind but fishing with the wind blowing is usually better. Wind oxygenates the water, concentrates plankton and baitfish and in turn, helps you find fish!

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Wind Direction: Pay close attention to the wind direction. The wind moves plankton which is the primary food source for Threadfin and Gizzard shad. When the wind blows in a consistent direction you can use this as a tool to find and catch shad as well as catfish.

Wind Patterns and The Catfish Bite: Wind from the West, fish bite the best. Wind from the East, fish bite the least. Wind from the North, do not go forth. Wind from the South puts bait in their mouth. Maybe you’ve heard this? The question I’m often asked is if it is true or not. The quick answer is that there’s some truth to wind direction and fishing but it’s more about the other weather patterns behind wind direction and not the actual direction of the wind. Ultimately you cannot predict catfishing success (or lack of) by anything other than being on the water and fishing so don’t discount spending a day fishing because of wind direction!

When Can You Catch Catfish, What Time Of Year? If you live in an area that doesn’t ice out you can catch catfish all year long. There’s no “season” where you cannot catch catfish in most areas of the country. Fall and Winter are seasons where many anglers don’t think of fishing but these seasons are a favorite for many hardcore catfish anglers! Winter catfishing is one of our favorites, winter catfish action is excellent!

What’s The Best Time Of Year For Catching Blue Catfish? There are many great times of the year for fishing for blue catfish. My personal favorite is late Fall and Winter as well as the Spring. The cooler months are great for catching numbers of blue cats and trophy blues as well. Spring will produce some trophy blue catfish as well but the numbers of fish are amazing. Spring is literally one of those times were catching numbers of blue catfish from 1-10 lbs is like “shooting fish in a barrel”.

What’s The Best Time Of Year For Catching Channel Catfish? Again, you can catch channel catfish all year and the best time to catch them may vary based on whether you want to catch size or numbers. My personal favorite for catching channel catfish has always been late Spring and through the Summer (from pre-spawn to early fall when the water begins to cool). If you want to catch tons of channel cats and fast-paced action that catching channel catfish in the summer is tough to beat!

What’s The Best Time Of Year For Catching Flathead Catfish? Flathead catfish are generally best from the first sign of warming water until the cold water period sets in with the exception of a short window during the spawn. My personal favorite time of the year and what I’d call the best time of year for catching flathead catfish is early to late fall when the flathead catfish are feeding heavily putting on weight for the cold-water period.

Fish Year-Round: Catfish can be caught all year long, Winter, Spring, Summer, and Fall so don’t put your gear away because of the weather. Savvy catfish anglers know that some of the best catfishing comes during some of the worst weather conditions.

Catfish Don’t Feed 24/7: Catfish don’t feed 24 hours a day 7 days a week 365 days a year (not just catfish, no fish do) and they don’t all stop feeding (or start) at once. Sometimes not catching fish can be due to weather factors but keep looking because there are fish feeding somewhere.

Rapidly Changing Weather Conditions: Major changes in weather can have significant impacts on fish and the way they feed. Fish may “shut down” or change patterns a day or two before fronts and then “go crazy” right before a front, they respond differently all the time, good fishermen figure that out and respond.

Go Skinny, The Shallow Water Catfish Secret: Many anglers associate fishing for catfish with fishing the deepest water available and they’re overlooking some of the best fishing available during much of the year. Catfish of all sizes (including monster trophy class catfish) can be caught in inches of water during much of the year and these shallow or “skinny” water areas often provide the best fishing! Shallow water fishing is excellent in the spring for blue catfish as is fall and winter.

Bait Presentation Matters: Catfish feed in different ways at different times so always pay attention to your approach and don’t assume that plopping a bait in the water and waiting is the best approach. Pay attention to what the fish are feeding on and how they’re feeding and you’ll catch more fish. This often means adjusting your presentation and putting the bait in front of the cats in a radically different manner than you’re used to. This will also help you learn how to find fish.

Fish Where The Catfish Are, Verify If Possible! Use sonar to locate catfish (and baitfish) and verify they’re in the area and only fish in these areas. The most productive approach to catching fish and what all of the best anglers do is locate fish and target them. If you only cast your baits where you see fish then you’ll catch more fish!

Flathead Catfish Require Patience: Flathead catfish don’t constantly move and feed. They’re deliberate in their movements and patient as well. The best flathead catfish anglers know that having patience is key. The fishing can be slow but when you’re successful the payoff is huge!

How Long Should You Sit In One Spot Before Moving? In comes the fifteen-minute rule. If you’re fishing for blue and channel catfish and after numbers of fish then follow the fifteen-minute rule. If you fish an area for fifteen minutes with no bites or activity, move and repeat the process. Never wait for fish to come to you, go to the fish. If you’re targeting trophy class blue catfish and can see them on your sonar fish finder then you might want to give them a bit more time than fifteen minutes but usually no more than thirty.

Not Hanging Up, Not Catching Fish: There’s one old fishing saying “if you’re not hanging up, you’re not catching fish”. Don’t be so worried about getting in and around timber or cover that you’ll lose tackle because often times this is where you’ll find fish. Just tie a new catfish rig and move on!

Break Fishing Line, Not Gear: When you do get hung up don’t fight the rod and drag on the fishing reel while trying to break your fishing line. Grab the line a few inches above the reel and pull some slack and then wrap it around the fishing reel back to the front three to four times. Once the line is wrapped around the reel pull straight back with the tip of the rod pointing at the snag. The line will break close to the snag (if it doesn’t come loose), you’ll lose less fishing tackle and won’t tear up your rod or reel.

Selective Harvest: “Limit Your Catch – Don’t Catch Your Limit!” Keep only the fish you intend to use for food and release the rest of your catch unharmed, especially larger catfish, be a steward of the environment. Selective harvest means being knowledgeable of what you’re taking from the waters, how it impacts them, and how long it takes to replace what you’re taking. Be cautious of keeping larger catfish (brood fish) and pulling too many fish from a given body of water. There’s nothing wrong with keeping a few catfish now and then for a meal, just be responsible about it and keep the smaller ones and only what you need!

Trophy Catfish Sizes May Vary: Trophy is a relative term when it comes to each species of catfish and what makes a “trophy” fish will vary based on where you are in the United States. For example in my home waters in Texas a channel catfish that’s 10 pounds is a huge channel catfish, I’d say anything over eight pounds is a trophy class channel catfish in Texas. Look in another water like the Red River of the North to Captain Brad Durick where he consistently catches channel catfish that exceed 25 pounds and the Texas channel cats fail in comparison.

It Takes Decades To Grow Trophy Catfish: Regardless of which species of catfish you fish for it takes a long time for catfish to reach trophy sizes. How long depends on a variety of factors and will vary on different bodies of water. Most studies I’ve read show that on average a blue catfish that weighs fifty pounds averages about twenty-five years in age. If you senselessly kill one of these big catfish it won’t be immediately replaced.

Catfish Spawn Based On Water Temperature, Not Calendars: Again, fish don’t have calendars so seasonal movements and spawning are based on water temperature. This means they’ll follow patterns at different times in different parts of the United States all based on water temperature. Catfish are also often one of the last species of freshwater fish to spawn.

When Do Channel Catfish Spawn? Channel catfish spawn when water temperatures are between 75 and 85 degrees with 80 degrees being optimal water temperature. Channel catfish are cavity spawners and only spawn in dark, secluded, and protected areas such as cavities in rocks, logs or undercut banks. This is a great time to catch big numbers of channel catfish using some unique techniques.

When Do Flathead Catfish Spawn? Flathead catfish generally spawn when water temperatures are between 75 and 80 degrees. Nest sites will include hollow logs, undercut banks, and other cavernous areas that offer protection. Male fish will often move in these sites and “prepare” the nest by making shallow depressions for the female to lay eggs.

When Do Blue Catfish Spawn? Blue catfish spawn when water temperatures are between 70 and 84 degrees which usually occurs in late Spring and early summer. Catching blue catfish in a pre-spawn or spawning pattern can be very difficult.

CPR = Catch, Photograph, Release: Trophy catfish conservation increases in popularity every year, and for good reason. It takes decades for trophy-class catfish to grow and they can’t be easily replaced. Conservation-minded anglers release catfish that are larger than five to ten pounds as these fish are capable of spawning and will keep the waters populated with catfish as well as provide a trophy fishing opportunity for another angler in the future when released. If you catch a big catfish then take a quick photograph and release it alive to help protect the sport!

Solunar Calendars and Catfish: Solunar calendars are always a topic of debate amongst anglers and sportsmen. There’s some theory behind moon phase and fish activity but don’t waste your time trying to pattern when to fish based on the “best fishing times” or “fishing prime times” in a solunar calendar or app. There’s no app or calendar that can tell you when fishing will be best, the only way to tell is by putting baits in the water and finding out yourself!

Do Moon Phases Matter When Catfish Fishing? Again, just like all the other weather patterns, can there be changes to fishing on a full moon or other moon phases? Sure there can! Should you ever decide whether to fish for catfish because of the moon? No, never, just go fishing.

Barometric Pressure: Barometric pressure and the impact it has on fishing is always a topic of great debate. This is a complex subject that could be discussed (and debated) for days but the bottom line on barometric pressure and its effects on fishing is very simple. Does barometric pressure affect fishing for catfish, absolutely! Should you make decisions on whether or not you should go catfish fishing based on barometric pressure, absolutely not. I’ve had amazing days under the “worst” barometric pressure conditions and awful days under the “best”. Just go fishing.

Fish Don’t Bite When The Cows Are Laying Down: Many outdoorsmen and anglers use cows as an indicator for fish and game activity. The theory is if cows are active, moving, and feeding then other fish and game are also. Again, a topic that could be debated for days but here’s the quick version. Cows laying down are a good indicator or barometer but unfortunately, cows also lay down for other reasons as well. You can’t predict fishing success based on anything other than going fishing!

The Bird Is The Word: Birds are a tattletale used by many anglers in both fresh and saltwater fishing. They’re one of many resources you can use to help identify the location and activity of baitfish and catfish. Always pay attention to your surroundings, mother nature will tell you a lot if you pay attention!

Chumming and Baiting a Hole For Catfish: Chumming is the act of throwing small amounts of food in the water to attract catfish and fishing soon after you throw the chum in the water. Baiting a hole for catfish is similar but done repeatedly in the same area over an extended period of time.

Chumming: Chumming is a great way to catch channel catfish if you’re after fast action and numbers of channel cats. There’s a wide variety of chum that you can use for channel catfish including soured wheat, milo, or chicken scratch. Range cubes are also an alternative for catfish chums if you’re looking for a “ready to use” option.

Baiting a Hole For Catfish: Consider putting chum in burlap sacks or other containers to allow small amounts of chum to enter the water over an extended period of time. You can bait a hole by throwing chum or food in the water by hand also and even train catfish to respond to sounds or the process of feeding them.

Keep Count Of Catfish: If you’re fishing for numbers of fish and keeping them use a tally counter to keep count of fish you keep. This makes for an easy way to keep track of the number of fish kept and will keep you out of trouble!

Give Them Food and They Will Come: Catfish will flock to areas with good food sources, and that doesn’t always mean baitfish. Keep your eyes open and watch for signs of food that catfish might hone in on. This can be anything from natural food sources that fall in the water to areas where people regularly throw food, keep an open mind and you might surprise yourself!

Post Cold Front Catfishing: Regardless of the time of year massive cold fronts can make for tough fishing but making a few changes to your approach and technique can increase your success and put more catfish on your line. Two things to consider when fishing in post front conditions are to reduce the size of your baits and slow down your fishing. These two simple changes can result in big returns.

Light Up For Night Fishing With Light Sticks: Night fishing is often a favorite of catfish anglers, especially in the Summer months. Chemical light sticks 2″ in length are inexpensive and great for night fishing. Add them to slip bobbers to see activity in the water or tape the light sticks to the tip of your fishing rod to see your rod tip moving at night.

Black Lights and Fishing Line: If you prefer more visibility for night fishing consider using battery-powered black lights and high visibility fishing line. The line will light up brightly under the black lights and make it easy to see the activity.

Fish Vertical: You can fish directly beneath your boat and keep the line perpendicular to your fishing rod tip. Fishing vertical increases your ability to feel strikes. Experiment with suspending baits or even moving them up and down off the bottom.

Vary Depth and Presentation: Experiment with where (and how you’re presenting baits). Often times moving up or down in the water column or casting further into flats or structures will mean big results.

Thermocline Matters: Fish need oxygen to survive. When lakes and reservoirs warm up in the heat of the summer a thermocline develops and the lower layer of water is void of oxygen so fish can not survive therefore you need to fish above the thermocline.

Catch More and Bigger Catfish

If you’re looking for more in-depth information on locating and catching catfish check out the Catfish Edge products. These in-depth resources walk you step by step through exactly how I locate and catch catfish during different seasons and using different techniques based on my fifteen years of experience as a professional catfish guide.


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Ethan Smith is a seasoned marine veteran, professional blogger, witty and edgy writer, and an avid hunter. He spent a great deal of his childhood years around the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest in Arizona. Watching active hunters practise their craft initiated him into the world of hunting and rubrics of outdoor life. He also honed his writing skills by sharing his outdoor experiences with fellow schoolmates through their high school’s magazine. Further along the way, the US Marine Corps got wind of his excellent combination of skills and sought to put them into good use by employing him as a combat correspondent. He now shares his income from this prestigious job with his wife and one kid. Read more >>