June 13, 2018
By Keith Sutton
When everything is ideal - weather, water conditions, fish attitudes - almost any bait dropped in the water results in catfish.
Unfortunately, conditions are seldom ideal. When that's the case, some extra tricks are needed to go home a winner.
THE RIGHT FEAST
Many anglers believe catfish will eat any bait used. To some extent, that's true. Catfish often aren't picky about food. But this applies primarily to smaller catfish, which will hit most baits without hesitation.
>> Related: 10 Secret Catfish Baits You Didn't Know About
Those seeking heavyweight cats, however, need to use baits preferred by bruisers.
When targeting big flatheads, it's best to use live fish and nothing else. Unlike channel and blue cats, flatheads rarely scavenge, preferring to eat native fish.
The diet of big blue catfish consists almost entirely of schooling baitfish in the herring family. Live or dead baits work well, but freshness is important.
Channel cats tend to be much less finicky. Those hoping to catch channels exceeding 15 pounds, however, should narrow bait lists considerably.
Top enticements include live frogs, fresh bloody chicken liver and big crayfish with the pincers broken off.
Some places are better when fishing for catfish, because of cover, oxygen levels and forage.
Catfish congregate in dam tailraces to feed, with numbers increasing during the prespawn period. During summer, there's another influx of cats moving from oxygen-poor areas downstream to oxygen-rich water below the dam.
When hard bottom obstructs flow, a river changes direction and forms an outside bend. These bends are honeyholes, especially where there are undercut ledges and toppled trees.
Some rivers and lakes have prominent bottom channels; others have subtle drops and ledges. All such structures are cat magnets that can be found using a fish-finder.
Engineers often place large rocks along shorelines to prevent erosion. This riprap appeals to catfish because it attracts forage and provides cover, depth and shade.
>> Related: Catfish Night & Day - How to Catch 'Em Both Ways
During most seasons, pond catfish are in the deepest water, usually close to the dam. Cats abandon these structures only when oxygen levels fall too low, such as when a pond stratifies in summer.
To catch more catfish around structure, learn to make the paternoster rig, which is ideal for fishing live baitfish.
Making this rig requires:
- One bobber stop and bead
- One large slip float
- Two size-7 barrel swivels
- One 1-ounce bell (bass-casting) sinker
- One size 8/0 octopus hook
Begin by making a swivel-sinker leader with 17-pound-test mono. Tie one of the barrel swivels to one end of the line and the bell sinker to the other, making it about 36 inches long.
Then make a 20-inch swivel-octopus hook leader in the same manner using 30-pound-test mono. Place the bobber stop on the main line, followed by the bead and the slip float. Run the main line through the eye of the swivel on the swivel-sinker leader, and tie the main line to the free eye of the swivel on the swivel-hook leader.
The paternoster rig allows baits to ride higher off the bottom. The sinker lies on bottom while the baitfish struggles against the float. Position the bobber stop on the main line to leave a foot or two of slack line between the swivel-sinker leader and the float.
This gives the bait freedom to move. Lighter line is used on the swivel-sinker leader, so it will break off if the sinker gets snagged.