How to catch catfish in lakes from shore. By targeting windy banks, targeting structure, using fresh bait, and moving spots often to find the fish. Catfish can be very predictable in lakes, so do not panic!
Catfish can be a very fun species to target in local lakes. However, not all of us have a boat, so we are limited to either bank fishing to pier fishing.
I have ran into a few situations where I needed to find the fish from the bank. It really isn’t as hard as it seems! If you stick to a few simple tips and tricks, you can be catching catfish from your local lake bank in no time.
Finding a Spot
When looking for a catfishing spot on a lake, it is good to target windy banks, coves, creek mouths, structure, and also points.
Windy Banks – Windy banks are prime feeding grounds for catfish. This is a situation the wind can be your friend rather than an enemy.
The wind blows bait and nutrients into the bank. If you position yourself so the wind is blowing straight into you, you are in a catfish hotzone.
Catfish usually follow the bait, so with the wind blowing the bait straight into the bank that you are fishing, you’re potential of finding hungry catfish goes up drastically. You cannot always make the fish bite, but if you position yourself on a windy bank, you can definitely get some fish.
I prefer casting closer to shore in these spots, as most of the bait will likely be closer to you. It does not hurt however to spread some rods out to see where the fish are going to be.
Coves – Coves are a natural attractant for baitfish. Baitfish can easily hide out in coves away from large predatory fish (such as catfish and bass).
This however, does not stop the fish from following the bait. Like I said before, catfish follow the bait. If the bait stacks up in a cove, then the catfish will be there to follow them.
Also, the water in shallower coves seems to warm up faster than the water in the main lake, so this can help attract catfish as well. Especially if the conditions are colder, a warm day can get the fish moving up into the coves to feed.
If you can find a windy bank in a cove, this is probably the best conditions you’ll get. The fish will have bait corralled into the cove, providing tons of easy access bait to any nearby fish. It is basically like shooting fish in barrel.
When fishing a cove I usually put one bait at the mouth, one in the middle, and one closer to the bank. This way you have an even spread of locations for potential catfish.
Creek Mouths – Creek mouths are classic catfish spots. Often times when you have a creek mouth feeding into a river, it is going to attract all kinds of species of fish. Baitfish naturally flock to shallower, protected water.
Creeks provide a great place for these fish to hide. As we already know, these baitfish will attract catfish, and catfish will attract you!
Fishing the mouth of a creek, and even slightly up the creek, can produce a good number of fish. Especially when these creeks flood, you can get yourself on a hot bite.
All the baitfish will be washed out to the mouth of the creek, so this is your chance to pin one or two.
Be aware of fallen trees and debris, because creek mouths are where things like that settle. You can help solve this by using a bobber, and simply drift down the creek to the lake entrance.
Points – This one may not be as common, but points are still great spots to target catfish. Often times catfish will sit on either side of a point (usually the side that has more bait) and wait for an easy meal.
It is best spread your rods out into different spots. One rod on the left side, one on the right, and the last at the very end of the point. This is a very good spot to target especially if you have little to no cover in your lake.
Catfish have that need to be next to something, just like other fish. If your lake is barebones, but has some points you can get to from shore, they can provide that structure the catfish like to be next to.
Catfish love to be in and or near structure a lot of the time. If you have fallen trees, floating docks, boat wrecks, and even something like a big rock, these can be KEY areas to find the catfish in your lake.
Like I said before, barebones lakes where there is nothing around and there is a solitary rock, tree, or something else is going to be your best bet. Channel catfish especially are very drawn to structure.
In the summer time on my local body of water, I try to target rocks, trees, and even barge structures in the water. It is not uncommon to find a lot of fish hanging out in one area.
I remember fishing a lake for the first time, I did not know where to start. After a quick scan of the water, I spotted a floating dock not far from bank.
After having baits in the water for maybe 10 minutes, me and my dad were on them. It is always a safe bet to target that structure.
Best Bait for Catfish in Lakes
Here I am going to stand by my statements that I have made multiple times in the past. Match the Hatch. Whatever local baitfish that is in the water should be used as bait.
Lakes are usually home to panfish, shad, carp, and even crayfish. If you cannot seem to find out what baitfish or local prey is in your lake, then here are some alternative baits that have proven to be successful over the years.
These fish can be used live also, so here is a guide to catching live bait for catfish.
- Chicken livers (with garlic powder)
- Jell-o Chicken Breast (with garlic powder)
- Any other fresh fish you can find, preferably a fish with an oily scent trail.
Catfish are not picky for the most part. There are rare cases where they will only bite specific bait, but they are few and far between.
I can usually get the job done with garlic flavored chicken livers in any body of water I fish. It is cheap bait, it works, and it catches both channels and blues. The only bait I would NOT recommend is any kind of dip bait/dough bait.
You are really limiting yourself by using artificial bait, given there are so many alternatives of fresh bait out there. Chicken liver and even hot dogs will outfish any artificial bait on the market.
Fresh bait will more than likely always outperform frozen bait. So that is also something to keep in mind. If you want to see the comparison between fresh and frozen bait, click here.
Not knocking the artificial bait companies, but just giving my honest imput about proven bait trials, and my own experiences. If you can get that fresh naturally feeling bait out in the water, then do it!
Move to Find Fish
Okay, I am guilty of doing this as well. You get all set up on the bank and you start your wait for a bite. An hour goes by and you are so comfortable, you don’t wanna move! No no no.
If the fish aren’t there, then they are not there. Catfish are the type of species you need to move around to find. You can’t just cast a line and wait around all day.
I must admit you could get lucky and catch a fish for the whole day, but you really aren’t maximizing your chances. Unless there is a dramatic change in weather conditions, your bite will be stagnant if you stay in a spot.
Move around! If you are not getting any kinds of bites in 45 minutes to an hour, this is a good indication to move.
Try different depths, different sides of the lake, maybe even move over 50ft. Change is good for catfishing, so we must embrace it. Do not be that guy sitting around for 6 hrs in one spot with one bite for the day.
Go out and find your fish. Put those lamborfeeties to work and do some recon.
Tips to Cover Water
A great way to cover water is by using a bobber. You can drift it with the wind to help disperse your scent along the lake.
This is a great way to use the wind to your advantage, especially if you are across the lake from a windy bank. You can even use a balloon if you are using bigger baits as it works exactly the same.
By covering the water, you can pinpoint where you are getting bites at, and this can help you narrow down where the fish are. The bobber rig is great for experimenting, and should be a tool that every angler should know.
Catfishing on lakes can be intimidating, especially given the vast size of some lakes. Do not worry about size, as your knowledge and tips will help you find fish!
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