Want to hook more good-eating, hard-fighting catfish? These 10 tips can help.
- Fish the morning shift. Catfishermen often disregard one of the best fishing times—dawn. On many waters, catfish activity peaks just as the sun rises. Be fishing at daybreak, and your catch rate may soar.
Don’t cast a shadow. Catfish spook when a shadow crosses the water. Remember this when fishing. Keep the sun in your face or to your side, not at your back, to avoid casting a shadow on the water you’re fishing.
Worms for trophy flatheads. Done this way, worms entice big flatheads almost as well as live-fish baits. Run an 8/0 Kahle hook through one end of a worm, then run it back through the worm’s collar, leaving the end of the worm hanging. Continue with additional worms. You want as many loose ends as possible and enough worms to create a tennis-ball-sized wad. Small fish—sunfish, suckers, etc.—will nibble the worms when they’re fished on the bottom. A big cat nearby will watch the little fish, and if nothing disturbs it, Ol’ Jumbo knows it’s safe to go out and eat. When you notice the nibbling stop, that means the small fish are fleeing as the big cat approaches. Prepare for a strike.
Hit the bull’s-eye. Rock wing dikes in rivers often attract catfish. When fishing these structures, watch for little whirlpools forming and moving across the water at each dike’s end. Time your cast so you drop your baited rig in the “eye” of a whirlpool. Do this and the bait will fall directly to the bottom and hold, rather than being swept away in the current. Your chances of hooking a nice cat increase substantially.
Try double-dipping. The double-hook tightline rig is excellent for sometimes-suspended channel cats. Begin with a 1-ounce bank sinker at your line’s end. Tie a loop knot 18 inches above, and another 18 inches above that. Tie 3/0 hooks on 2-foot leaders, tie the leaders to the loops, and bait each hook.
Bounce the sinker on bottom as you drift. You’ll soon learn the “feel” of your sinker striking structure. When the rig bumps structure, hold it there momentarily. If a catfish is waiting in ambush, your bait won’t last long. Set the hook at the first sensation of a pull on the line.
- Catfish sandwiches. Big blue cats love catfish sandwiches. Make one by sandwiching the innards of a big herring or shad between two fillets from the same baitfish. Each piece of the “sandwich” is threaded on a 5/0 wide-gap circle hook tied on a drop leader above a 2-ounce bank sinker. Bottom bounce the rig while drifting, and hold tight.
Wade on in. Small streams often bristle with small- to medium-sized catfish. Here, a bobber/drift presentation works well. Position a bobber so the bait hangs just above, but not on, the stream bottom. Add enough weight to hold the bait down, then allow the rig to drift naturally, guiding it alongside potential catfish hideouts. If possible, use natural baits—crayfish, hellgrammites, etc.—taken from the stream you’re fishing.
Set the table. In many states, it’s legal to use chum to attract and concentrate catfish. Check regulations to be sure. If it’s OK, give chumming a try.
Pour a gallon of wheat and/or milo into a 5-gallon bucket and cover with water. Place in a sunny location outdoors, uncovered, and allow to sit several days until the mixture sours. The worse the mixture the smells, the better catfish like it.
Scatter the chum around areas you intend to fish. You want catfish to pick up the feed kernel by kernel so they don’t get full. Lower a bait (baitfish, night crawler, etc.) on the bottom with the grain, and with luck, you’ll hook a catfish attracted by the chum.
- Grocery baits for trophies. Bait store’s closed? Don’t fret. Head for the nearest grocery. For trophy blue cats, try Hormel Spam. A chunk of this spicy canned meat caught a former world record that weighed more than 116 pounds. Jumbo channel cats and eating-size flatheads? They love cheap hot dogs.
Near or far? On moonless nights, catfish hunt the shallows. Cast your bait near shore, not toward deeper water. On moonlit nights, start deep and work into progressively shallower water until you find fish. Tighten your line, keep a finger on it to detect bites, and set the hook hard when you get a taker.
Note: Keith “Catfish” Sutton is the author of “Pro Tactics Catfish,” a 168-page, full-color book jam-paced with information to help you catch more blues, channel cats and flatheads. To order an autographed copy, send a check or money order for $24.45 to C & C Outdoor Productions, 15601 Mountain Dr., Alexander, AR 72002. For credit card and PayPal orders, and for information on Sutton’s other books, visit www.catfishsutton.com.