“What can I do to catch more big catfish?”
Many anglers want a simple answer to that question, but unfortunately, there’s rarely one to be found. I’ve been chasing heavyweight catfish for decades and have learned that no magic formula ensures success every time we fish for big blues, flatheads and channel cats.
One thing is certain, though: When we’re having an unproductive fishing day, more often than not it’s due to our own errors, not because trophy catfish are exceptionally evasive or tight-lipped.
At times, nothing we do can entice a jumbo catfish to bite. For reasons we don’t fully understand, these fish often become inactive and darn near impossible to catch.
It’s important to remember, though, that a poor catch rate may be totally unrelated to the level of catfish activity. Frequently, it’s just a result of our own bad habits. To increase the odds of hooking a beefy blue, channel cat or flathead, examine your tactics now and then, and be sure you’re doing everything correctly to the best of your ability. Correcting bad habits may be the best way of all to ensure success.
If you’re not catching heavyweight cats, one of these eight problems may be the reason why.
- Remember that kid Mikey in the old Life cereal commercials? His friends try the new breakfast food on this youngster because, they say, “He’ll eat anything.” Many anglers think catfish are like Mikey. They believe no matter what food is on the table (or river bottom), catfish will eat it. In fact, many folks believe catfish behave like underwater vultures, cleaning lake and river bottoms of carrion and garbage. Consequently, they say, it does not matter what type of bait you use, and, indeed, the more rotten and smelly the bait, the more likely a big catfish will find and eat it. To some extent, they’re right. Catfish are scavengers and aren’t picky about food. But this applies primarily to small catfish. For example, I’ve caught thousands of channel and blue cats on homemade and commercial stinkbaits. But fish caught using prepared baits usually are less than 5 pounds. Trophy specimens are rarely enticed with stinkbaits. Consider flatheads, as well. Small ones eat prepared baits, crawfish, worms and other enticements without hesitation. When seeking heavyweights, however, these baits don’t work well. A meat-and-potatoes meal for a giant flathead is another fish—a live fish—such as a bullhead, chub, sucker or sunfish. Remember this: A catfish 24-inches or longer, regardless of species, sustains itself primarily on other fish. For flatheads, this means live fish, like the river herring used to catch the big flatty pictured here. Trophy blues and channel cats devour dead baits, too, but even so, the best dead baits are fresh baits. A rotten, smelly chunk of shad won’t work nearly as well as a fresh-caught baitfish.
About the Author
With a resumé listing more than 3,800 magazine, newspaper and website articles about fishing, hunting, wildlife and conservation, Keith “Catfish” Sutton of Alexander, Ark., has established a reputation as one of the country’s best-known outdoor writers. In 2012, he was enshrined in the National Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Fame as a Legendary Communicator. The 12 books he’s written are available through his website.