How to improve your trotline fishing

Video trotlining tips

Trotline fishing is one of the best ways to fill a freezer. Trotline fishing is one of the most effective methods for catching large numbers of catfish if, they are set is the right place on a body of water. Line position and placement is probably one of the biggest keys to consistently catching large numbers of fish.

What are the keys to improving your catch results

  • Understanding where catfish like to feed
  • Know the type of locations to look for on a body of water
  • Know how to position a trotline in the water

Make no mistake, trotline fishing can be a lot of work. However, all that hard work can really pay off if the lines are fished in the right place. In this post, we will primarily focus on placing trotlines in the right area on a body of water. Sure the type of bait you use can influence your results, however, I feel line placement is the biggest key for catching catfish. In my past experiences, I have found a catfish will eat just about anything you put on a hook if you place the bait where catfish like to feed. So, understanding where a catfish searches for food, can really help you eliminate water and give you a good idea of where to place lines in quality locations. Also, knowing where catfish like to feed, will help you produce good results regardless of the body of water you trotline fish.

Where Catfish like to feed

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Corny Creek located in North Louisiana

Like many fish species, catfish utilize current to search out food. Catfish will often approach food or bait from the downstream side. So, by setting trotlines in current, you can have the scent of your bait reach fish from long distances downstream. Catfish also will often, swim miles upstream during heavy current flows throughout the year. Catfish will often be found in large numbers feeding where fresh water enters a body of water. Creeks roaring into a lake after a heavy rain create a buffet for catfish as well.

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What locations to look for: Find Current

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Intersection of two creeks

Current in water is like a magnet to catfish. Now please understand when I mention current in this post, I’m referring to current in lakes, creeks, and rivers in the southern part of the United States. I don’t want to confuse you with current found in mountain streams or cold water rivers like the Snake River found in Wyoming.

  • Current found in Lakes

If you trotline fish on lakes, current can be difficult to find at times. The most subtle current movement found in a lake can be an excellent place to set a trot line. Typically, current in lakes can be found on feeder creeks spilling into lakes. I like to set lines in near the upper end of creeks feeding into lakes.

  • Current in large creeks

Of course large creeks typically have current throughout the fall, winter, and spring. This also happens to be the best time of year to set trotlines on large creeks. However, creeks tend to not flow as much during the dry part of the year being summer when there is less rain.

I have found, the best place to set trotlines in large creeks are where other small creeks are spilling into the main creek. Often, where two different sources of water meet, create disruption in the predominant flow of a creek. This is a dynamite setup for a trot line.

Choke points found where a large creek narrows and current speeds up are also great places to set trotlines.

  • Current in large rivers

Large rivers constantly have current. However, the key to trotline fishing large rivers is, finding the anomaly in the natural flow of the river. Finding the right current in large rivers is key for having the best results for trot line fishing.

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Finding an anomaly in the predominant current of a large river is simple. Find current that runs in the opposite direction of the prevailing current. Based on my experience of trotline fishing the Mississippi River, you can find these hot spots by looking for whirlpools near the river banks and where jetties extended into the river.

Trotline positioning

Trotline position in the water can influence results. Years ago when I first started trotline fishing, I would almost always try to set my lines across the current at a 90degree angle. After a few years of setting my lines across current and as deep as I could set them, I went trotlining with an older gentleman on the Mississippi River. There were two tricks he taught me that completely changed the way is set trotlines.

  • Set trotlines at a 45 degree angle to the current

My experienced friend would always try set his lines at a 45 degree angle to the current near the entrances of creeks feeding into the river. By setting lines at a 45 degree angle, you can keep the majority of your hooks in the current on a long line. At times, creek channels where current is present are not very wide. Instead of using short lines, by setting the line 45 degrees you can utilize long lines with more hooks.

  • Set at various depths

My experienced friend did not use traditional trotline setups when fishing the Mississippi River. He would tie one end of the line to the bank and the other end of the line to a heavy weight. This allowed us to have our hooks follow the contour of the bank as it slopped down under the water. Keep in mind catfish are bottom feeders. Basically, this method allowed us to have hooks fishing from 3ft deep to 15ft with one single trotline.

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Favorite trotline baits

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Catfish bait
  • Bait for flatheads

The best bait I have found for flatheads is almost any large live bait. Bream, sun perch and goldfish work great. Shrimp is also a great option. (Keep in mind goldfish may not be legal to fish with on your body of water.)

  • Channel cat baits
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Channel Cats can be caught on many different types of baits. However the two baits I prefer to use are soap and cut-bait Zote Soap has been used on trotlines in Louisiana for countless years. Of course cut-bait is also great for trotline fishing for both flatheads and channel cats. There is one reason I like to use cut-bait and soap on my trotlines. Both baits seem to stay attached to hooks in current better than a lot of the store-bought catfish baits.


Try the tips shared in this post this spring when you set your trotlines. By utilizing the tips shared, I hope you can fill you freezers in no time. Check back with us at or subscribe if you are interested in more tips for trotline fishing. I plan to write a post dedicated to trotline fishing the mighty Mississippi River. Trotline fishing the Mississippi River is unlike any trotline fishing I have ever experienced on a creek or lake. Anyone can do it with the right equipment.

I hope you guys found some useful tips in this article. For life tips and tricks for fishing and hunting, go to!

Thanks for reading!

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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 >>