Make the Perfect Drift-Fishing Rig for Autumn Blue Cats

Make the Perfect Drift-Fishing Rig for Autumn Blue Cats
Drift-fishing is a great tactic for nailing big blue cats like this in fall. But you need the right rig to make it work. (Photo by Keith Sutton)
Autumn provides ideal conditions to drift-fish for blue catfish in big lakes and reservoirs.

Schools of these big whiskered brutes become scattered and more difficult to find as days grow shorter and water temperatures fall. Drift-fishing with multiple poles and baited lines can help narrow the search for them quickly.

What may be the perfect rig for drift-fishing was shared with me several years ago by Texas catfish guide Randle Hall. At the time, Hall was guiding on several big reservoirs in the Dallas area, and he had spent long hours perfecting a rig that would help his clients hook and land more heavyweight blues.

At the time, his customers held four lake records for blue catfish in 29,592-acre Lake Lewisville, proof that this cat man was onto something.

“There’s nothing magic about the way I drift-fish,” Hall told me. “But my customized drift rig is different from the norm.”


Components for each rig include: 1) a 12/0 Mustad circle hook, 2) a stainless-steel split ring, 3) a 3- to 4-foot, 50-pound-test leader, 4) a 2-inch crappie cork, 5) a barrel swivel, 6) a 1-ounce Snake Weight or Slinky Weight (made with pieces of lead in a flexible nylon sleeve), and 7) a size 7 snap swivel.“


The split ring is attached to the eye of the hook,” said Hall. “Then I put two drops of Liquid Weld on the split ring so it holds together. The split ring is tied to the leader with a Palomar knot. I put the crappie cork on the leader about 10 inches above the hook and ring. The other end of the leader is tied to the barrel swivel.

“To create a sort of sliding sinker, I clip the snap swivel on the Snake Weight, run my main line (30-pound-test Berkley Trilene XT Solar) through the eye of the swivel, then tie my main line to the free eye of the barrel swivel.”

“DriftRig”
Randle Hall’s drift rig. (Image Keith Sutton)

The effectiveness of this rig becomes apparent when one examines Hall’s reasoning in its construction. First, the use of a circle hook alleviates the need for Hall’s customers, often inexperienced fishermen, to grab a rod from a holder and attempt to get an effective hookset.

“I did use Kahle hooks,” Hall said. “But customers had to jerk to set the hook and missed lots of fish. With a circle hook, the catfish hooks itself. I told my customers when a fish strikes, leave the rod in the holder, crank the reel handle 10 to 15 times real fast, then pick the rod up and simply start reeling. The fish will be on. The 12/0 hook may seem big, but I’ve caught many 12-pound channel cats on them, and the bigger size seems to work better.”


The split ring allows the baited hook to swivel, a fact Hall credits for better hook penetration. The Snake Weight is relatively snagless, making it ideal for drift-fishing, and when the rig moves across the bottom, the crappie cork keeps the baited end floating in the strike zone.

“I drift with several rods out,” Hall said, “and with the bright XT Solar line, I can better see what’s happening when fish are biting.”

Hall’s experiments with baits led to equally innovative choices. Cut shad, an old standard for blue cats, was one of his favorites, but he also used squid and strip baits made from buffalo, carp and bonito.


“In winter, regular baits can be hard to come by,” Hall said. “So I started experimenting and found that squid really works. I use non-cleaned squid bought at a supermarket, half a squid per hook.”

When using carp, buffalo or bonito, Hall scaled and filleted the fish, then cut the fillets into triangular pieces 3/8- to 1/2-inch thick, 3 to 4 inches long, and 1-1/2 to 2 inches across on the wide end.

“I hook the bait through the point of the triangle,” he said. “Then it flutters through the water enticingly. Sometimes I split the bait so it looks like a split-tail eel to give it more action.”

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Recommended Articles

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

Daiwa Tatula 300 Baitcaster

Daiwa Tatula 300 Baitcaster

The new Tatula reel is perfect when an angler is on the water fishing big baits for big bass!

Humminbird CoastMaster - A Closer Look

Humminbird CoastMaster - A Closer Look

Patterned after Humminbird's LakeMaster charts for freshwater anglers, CoastMaster charts bring the same features for salt anglers. CoastMaster delivers unrivaled nearshore and offshore fishing performance.

Yakgear Basic Kayak Angler & Deluxe Anchor Trolley Kits

Yakgear Basic Kayak Angler & Deluxe Anchor Trolley Kits

New products from ICAST 2020 included the Yakgear Basic Kayak Angler and Deluxe Anchor Trolley kits. Bill Bragman highlights the features of each kit.

Yo-Zuri

Yo-Zuri's 3DB Pencil Popper, 3DB Jerkbait 110 & 110 Deep

Bass pro Clent Davis gives the inside info on Yo-Zuri's new-for-ICAST lures.

See More Popular Videos

Trending Articles

A quick look at offerings from SPRO for 2020-21. Baits & Lures

New from ICAST: Rattle Little John; Essential Series

Game & Fish Staff - July 13, 2020

A quick look at offerings from SPRO for 2020-21.

The best jig fisherman are those that are always aware of what their jig is doing. Bass

4 Tips When Jig Fishing For Bass

Chris Schneider - August 25, 2015

The best jig fisherman are those that are always aware of what their jig is doing.

Who needs live bait when the big 'gills are so eager to strike these lures? Other Freshwater

5 Great Lures For Bluegills

Stephen D. Carpenteri - March 10, 2011

Who needs live bait when the big 'gills are so eager to strike these lures?

See what made the Old Town Sportsman Autopilot kayak the show's top pick. ICAST

Who Won ICAST 2020 Best of Show?

Game & Fish Staff - July 17, 2020

See what made the Old Town Sportsman Autopilot kayak the show's top pick.

See More Trending Articles

More Catfish

On this episode of Outdoors with Ole Pops, Jeff Williams has run his flat bottom boat up the Neosho River in northeastern Oklahoma to search for some channel catfish that are plenty hungry prior to the start of the springtime spawn. Fishing How-To

How to Catch Catfish in Rivers - Tips & Tricks

Game & Fish Staff

On this episode of Outdoors with Ole Pops, Jeff Williams has run his flat bottom boat up the...

If you've been overlooking the West's channel catfish, you're missing out on prime fishing. Catfish

Catch River Channel Catfish Now

M.D. Johnson - April 30, 2020

If you've been overlooking the West's channel catfish, you're missing out on prime fishing.

Your kitchen cupboards have some of the most effective catfish baits. Catfish

'Grocery Baits' for Giant Catfish

Keith Sutton - May 27, 2020

Your kitchen cupboards have some of the most effective catfish baits.

You don't have to go stinky with catfish baits. Some of the best enticements don't smell bad at all, including these. Catfish

Great Catfish Baits That Won't Stink Up the Place

Keith Sutton

You don't have to go stinky with catfish baits. Some of the best enticements don't smell bad...

See More Catfish

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Digital Now Included!

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Get Digital Access.

All Game & Fish subscribers now have digital access to their magazine content. This means you have the option to read your magazine on most popular phones and tablets.

To get started, click the link below to visit mymagnow.com and learn how to access your digital magazine.

Get Digital Access

Not a Subscriber?
Subscribe Now