The 5 best catfish rigs for bank fishing are, The Carolina rig, Santee Cooper rig, 3 way rig, Slip float rig, and Balloon rig. These can all be used in a variety of situations when fishing from the bank. It is good to know all of these rigs if you are a bank fisherman. You never know what day one of these can save a day of fishing.
The Carolina rig is probably my favorite rig when fishing from the shore. This rig consists of a sliding sinker, barrel swivel, to a leader.
The Carolina rig is designed so when a fish bites your bait, there is little to no resistance. Because of this, using the bait runner option on your reel with this rig makes it extremely effective.
This rig can be used with both live and dead bait. Catfish usually don’t seem to mind pressure from the rod, but on the off chance they are being finicky, the Carolina rig can save you. By engaging the bait runner, the fish will be able to run with the bait freely without feeling the weight.
Your leader line can be any length you would like it to be. Catfish are not weight shy, so you could have a 6inch leader if you like. It is best to base your leader length on your bait and location. For live bait I generally use a longer leader, so the baitfish can swim freely. For Dead bait, I usually use a shorter leader.
The best areas to use the Carolina rig in are slow moving rivers, lakes, and ponds. It isn’t the best rig to use in fast moving current, as the current can easily tangle your line and weight. I have made this mistake a few times, it is not fun untangling. Also in faster current, it can make the line drift out much further than the weight. The current has enough force to move your rig and leader, but your weight stays on the bottom.
3 Way Rig
The 3 way rig for catfishing is a must know for bank fishing. Live and dead bait both work well on this rig but, I prefer to use dead bait on it.
This rig consists of a 3 way swivel (although it can be tied with a regular swivel) leader line, and dropper line for your weight. For your dropper line with your weight attached, it is important to use a lighter line than your main line. This is because if your weight gets snagged on the bottom, you can retrieve the rest of your rig.
Say you had 20lb test mainline, I would cut it in half and use 10lb for your dropper line. You want enough strength for your dropper line to hold up on the cast, but break it off if it gets stuck. The 3 way rig is best used in heavy current areas, rocky areas, and times you want to maximize casting distance.
The way the swivel is setup, it eliminates tangling. Unlike the carolina rig, the 3 way rig is all attached at one point. This means your leader can not be separate from your weight by the fast moving current.
It is much easier to cast further with this rig rather than the Carolina rig. Often when casting the Carolina rig, your weight and leader can be separated mid air. This will create more drag, and also land your weight in a much different place than your bait.
You can make this rig with a shorter leader to keep your bait off the bottom, or make it longer for live baits. I usually match my leader line length with my dropper line length. This has worked the best for me in my river system. Channel, blue, and flathead catfish can be caught in this rig. My favorite species to use it for is flathead. You can easily fish this rig in heavy cover and current, and not worry about breaking off.
Santee Cooper Rig
The Santee Cooper rig is a modified Carolina rig. This rig uses a peg float, spook, or demon dragon, to float your bait off the bottom.
This rig is a sliding sinker, barrel swivel, and leader with float attached 2-3 inches from your bait. This way the weight stays on the bottom, and your leader with your hook/bait floats off the bottom.
This is a very versatile rig, as you can tie longer or shorter leaders to float your bait to different depths. Sometimes there are days this rig with outperform the simple Carolina rig. If you can put your bait in the perfect spot in the water column, you can get the bites.
The Santee rig works very well with blue, channel, and flathead catfish. For flatheads it can help you float your bait off of the rocky bottom. This way flathead don’t have to work at getting your bait out of the cracks and crevasses.
The best places to use this rig are usually slow moving rivers, lakes, and ponds. In faster water it can be harder for your bait to stay upright on the bottom. The purpose of the rig would be pointless as it will just be swept to the bottom with fast current. This is mainly used with dead bait but, I have also seen it used with live bait.
I personally only use this with dead bait, as I like to give my live baits the option of swimming freely. I prefer a natural presentation.
Slip Bobber Rig
The slip bobber rig can be a very fun way to catch catfish! I haven’t used this in years so I am hoping to do some bobber fishing this summer. This rig consists of a slip bobber (varying in size) with a bobber stop, down to a split shot or a sliding weight, then a leader ending in your hook.
I prefer to use J – hooks while using a bobber, just because I find circle hooks can’t get a proper hookset. Circle hooks are made for the “set your rod in a rod holder” type fishing. Bobber fishing is a lot more hands on, so I would go with the J – hook.
The bobber stop can be used to adjust the depth at which you’re fishing. You can let your bait down to 30 feet if you wanted to. This is very convenient to help you easily adjust depths and find the fish.
Channel catfish are the most common species caught on the bobber. I have also heard of some people using bobbers for flathead, though I have not tried myself. I find this is a great method to catch catfish in creeks, although this also works well in ponds and lakes. The summer and spring time, catfish will come very shallow, so this is an opportunity to catch them on the bobber.
You can drift baits down the creek, fish the current seams and Eddies, and also let your bait sit in the middle of any still water. The toughest part about bobber fishing is keeping it in one spot. on a windy or fast current day, it can be tricky keeping baits in one spot. Wind can be a huge hassle when bobber fishing, so if it is gusting, a bobber might not be the best idea. Work smarter, not harder.
The balloon rig is probably the least used rig, but a valuable tool to the bank angler. The balloon rig is very similar to the slip bobber rig, as it uses a balloon rather than a bobber.
The balloon is fastened to the line by a snap or snap swivel. You add a bobber stop, adjusting to the depth you would like to fish, down to your sliding weight, barrel swivel, and leader. In windy conditions, this rig can make a big difference. You can float your baits out with the wind to get them in the spots just out of casting distance.
You will be surprised how far off the bank this rig can get your baits. You will be fishing water you have never fished before! When your baits hit that new spot, you just may have found yourself a golden ticket.
You can also use this to cover water. With your baits drifting down the river, lake, etc, you can potentially bump into quite a few fish. The balloon rig is a great versatile tool for cat fisherman. This rig would also work better with bigger live baits, as the balloon would be much tougher to sink. Casting those big live baits can be challenging, so floating them with balloons is a much easier option. Do not overlook this rig, it can certainly save your day if fishing.
Modify These Rigs
DO NOT LIMIT YOURSELF TO THESE CATFISH RIGS! Maybe just starting out use these rigs until you get the hang of them. It can be difficult to learn how they work in different bodies in water. After you have become a bit more comfortable, you can modify these in any way you want. If you want to add 2 balloons instead of one, then go for it! If you feel like tying on 2 hooks for your 3 way rig, do it! Do not be afraid to experiment, because like I said before, one of these rigs can be your golden ticket. Make the tweaks you know you have to make, to catch yourself some more catfish.
Apply these rigs to their respective scenarios next time you are on the water. I know there are some days that I wish I had known some of these.
Good luck! I hope these tips helped you out!
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