How to catch catfish in heavy current from shore. You need to plan strategically, use the correct rig, and fish the right spots. Current breaks, riverbands, tailwaters, and behind cover are all great areas to target.
Catfish can be very predictable in heavy current, so do not get intimidated. As long as you explore different spots and find the sweet spot, you can be catching catfish in heavy current in no time.
Areas to Target
The best areas to target when fishing for catfish in heavy current are riverbends, current breaks, wing dikes, and behind rocks and logs.
Catfish do not necessarily like to be in heavy current. There are times where they hold out, and prefer less current, and other times there are right in the middle of the current.
Usually as the weather warms they will be more active in heavy current. This being said, it is best to know some spots to target catfish in both situations.
Riverbends– Riverbends are a great area to target catfish, simply due to the fact that the current slows.
This is a great area for catfish to get out of the fast current and take a break. This is also a good area to find bait, and if we find bait we find the catfish.
Catfish love hiding and concealing themselves in anything they can. Riverbends are great spots for trees, rocks, and any other debris to collect.
This naturally creates a great area for catfish to be. This will likely mean more snags however, so plan accordingly. I always try casting the middle of the bend, to the right and left.
This way if fish are moving up and downstream they will have the chance to pass my bait.
Current Breaks– This is probably the most common spot to target catfish in heavy current, but there are a few tip would like to add with this spot.
Current breaks are natural places where the current stops flowing one way, and there is a spot of calmer water. This can be eddies, current seams, behind cover etc.
Catfish often stage up in this places, waiting for small baitfish to make a mistake and turn into these current breaks.
Placing baits directly in these spots can yield some fish, but I also like to cast beyond the current breaks.
Just beyond the current breaks could be feeding catfish, so it is important to not limit your spots. Often times I will only catch fish on the rod that is in current.
Like I said before, you just never know until you try.
Wing Dikes– Wing dikes are comparable to jetties, but positioned in a different way. Wing dikes are used to guide the main river away from the shoreline to help control erosion.
These are such a piece of structure in the water; fish of all kinds will flock to the area. This will provide bait, and in turn provide catfish.
Rocky structures in current provide some of the best breaks from the current, and so many ambush points for catfish.
You can fish in line with the current, fish off in the eddie, and also catch bait here if you needed to.
When fishing wind dikes you need to exercise caution, because if you fall in you could be swept away quickly by the violent current.
Be smart, space your baits out adequately, and catch some catfish.
Trees/Rocks– People often overlook the most easy and fishable cover. Downed trees, rocks, and other kind of structure in the water provides excellent habitat for catfish of all sizes to live.
The natural break in current is a great ambush point, and it can be easy to keep baits in one spot.
That huge boulder in the water you look at every time you fish the spot could have a new state record behind it. You really just never know until you try.
Flathead catfish are a commonly know species that sit up in trees, rocks and even holes in the riverbank. These given, make sure you have the right tackle for the job.
At least 30lb mono and a heavy rod will be needed to pull fish out of heavy cover. Try casting in and around the cover, maybe even drift baits by the cover.
You want to use every tool in your toolbox to help you get the job done.
The Best Rigs for Fast Moving Current
The best rig by far in moving current is the 3 way swivel rig. The way it is designed, it helps to eliminate twists and tangles, and helps give your bait a natural appearance.
The Carolina rig often gets tangled, and is not the best for fishing fast moving rivers. The weight on the bottom and the hook on the top for the 3 way rig helps keep your bait separate from your weight.
The swivel itself helps a lot too to keep the different parts of the rig separate. Another rig that can be very effective is the “zero rig”.
This rig consists of a slip weight attached to your line leading directly to your hook. This eliminates any need for a swivel.
This rig is great to use in heavy cover, and also fast moving current. It will not hold bottom as well because of the design, but it can still be effective in catching some catfish.
This rig is also effective in high snag areas, as there is less points for you to get stuck.
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Where do Catfish Stay in Fast Moving Current?
Catfish are usually behind a rock, tree, in an eddie, or just off shore in the main current. As I said before, there are times when the catfish will be directly in the main current, but for the most part they are hiding from it.
Even when they are in the main current, they are likely behind a rock underwater. Catfish patrol the eddies, they move in and out of current as the day goes on.
In the winter months, they will likely be sitting in one spot, due to the water temperature. Catfish do not move a lot in the winter, so it can be confusing when the bite dies.
The fish are likely there, just extremely inactive. As the weather warms, they will move up and down the river in search of food.
Th spring time is really when the fish get moving. Catfish are not shy eaters during this time of year, so be ready to find them in just about any spot of the river.
Live Bait or Dead Bait?
Both live and dead bait work great in heavy current. Live bait is more of a summer time bait anyway, so as it gets colder I would focus more on dead bait.
In heavy current it is best to put baits in a spot where they aren’t going to drown. A small bluegill can only take so much water pouring into its gills, so I usually target the current breaks, eddies, and slower moving areas with live bait.
Dead bait is best in the thick of the current. You don’t need to worry about it dying, and the scent trail will travel all the way downriver.
This can get your bait scent out there much more effectively, and can often draw fish in that are close by.
It is best to read your river and see what is best for bait. Summer you can typically use more live bait, and winter you should use more dead bait.
Remember to match the hatch if possible, but if you are unable to then go with what is available.
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Catching catfish in heavy current can be very intimidating. You pull up to the raging river and you don’t have a clue about where to start.
Hopefully with these tips you have a general baseline about what to do and where to start.
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