The EASIEST Way to Catch Catfish

A small blue catfish caught in spring

The easiest way to catch catfish is bottom fishing using a basic carolina rig, with fresh cut bait or night crawlers. Covering water is a key step in catching catfish. When you find one, you generally find more.


Finding Catfish

My wife with a 16lb Blue Catfish!

Finding catfish can be challenging in some areas. These bottom feeding fish are in a wide variety of lakes, rivers, ponds, and creeks across the United States. Finding them is actually easier than you might think. Covering water is the easiest way to find catfish.


Key areas in Rivers

  • Current Breaks
  • Pools
  • Holes
  • River Bends
  • Junction of 2 Rivers

Key Areas in Lakes

  • Coves
  • Drop Offs
  • Riprap
  • Points
  • Windy Bank (wind blowing into you)

Key Areas in Ponds

  • Weedy Shoreline
  • Holes (deepest part of pond)
  • Structure (floating dock, fallen trees, etc..)
  • Windy bank (wind blowing into you)
  • Points and bottlenecks – ( where the pond funnels to either deeper or shallower water).

Key Areas in Creeks

  • Current breaks
  • Deep holes
  • Pools
  • Eddies/bank cutouts

These are the general areas you should target. I usually try one rod a bit deeper than the other, as this helps to spread out your baits to find fish. It may take some time to find where fish are at.

A muddy potomac river

If you are fishing during the summer or fall time, the bites should be coming quickly. You will know pretty quick if you are in the correct spot. If you have waited more then 30-45 minutes, it may be time move spots.

It is very important to do a “trial and error” on your local body of water. The catfish can live in very different locations depending on where you’re at. Explore and cast in new spots, this will drastically help you cover water and find the catfish.


The Best Time of Year to Catch Catfish

The best time of year is usually the warmer months. From may all the way to august is a great time to find a solid catfish bite. Most if not all spots will have biting fish this time of year. Catfish prefer warmer water, so during the spring and summer they move up into the shallows. This is a great opportunity to get on a hot bite.

A beautiful morning on a VA lake.

Fall, the bite continues all the way until about December. The fall bite can often be more productive than the summer time. The bigger fish start to feed, and they are not as picky.

From this point on (depending on your body of water) the bites slowly starts to die. So if you are focused on the easiest way to catch catfish, fishing in the winter is rather counterproductive.


Basic Catfish Rig

The most basic and easiest catfish rig to tie is the Carolina rig. This consists of a sliding sinker weight, barrel swivel, then leader.

The weight goes onto your main line, then tie the barrel swivel. Then tie your leader to your barrel swivel. Finally tie your hook on to your leader line and BOOM, your done.

The amount of weight you use is dependent on your body of water. If you are fishing a faster moving river, you may need more weight. If you are fishing a lake, you may only need 2-3 ounces.


Leader and Hook

Basic Circle hook Catfish Rig

Your leader line should be about double your main line. If you are using 15lb test , then tie a 30lb leader. This just helps with the debris under water, so your line doesn’t easily break. Your leader can be anywhere from 6 inches to 2 feet. I usually go with 1 foot long leaders.

It is all personal preference really. For your hooks I highly recommend using circle hooks. Catfish often bite very hard, and take fast runs. They tend to hook themselves pretty easily. Circle hooks will help tremendously to make sure no fish get away. For the baseline size , I would go with 5ot. This is not too big and not too small. 5ots can catch some pretty big fish, but also hook the little guys too.


Rod/Reel

Your rod and reel really don’t have to be too fancy for catfishing. I usually suggest a medium heavy action rod, 7ft or longer. The length is personal preference, just make sure it is long enough for you to cast 50-60 yards out.

Ugly stik and Penn make good rods. I would also take a look at Daiwa for rods and reels. These companies provide a great selection of rods, and have been trusted for making good products over the years.

For your reel, I would look at the okuma avenger spinning reel, okuma cdx spinning reel, and the abu garcia 6500 casting reel. You can never go wrong with okuma for the price and quality.

I have owned many okuma reels and I still use them on just about every outing. They have held up well on my catfish catches. Abu Garcia reels are very popular among catfisherman. They are great both in the boat and from shore. The casting distance on them is amazing!


Line

For most types of catfishing, a good baseline to go off of is 20lb mono, and 50lb braid. If you are going to be fishing a much more rocky, wooded, snaggy area, it may be best to use mono. If you are fishing a flat bottomed, sandy or muddy body of water with limited cover, braid can be a good option.

Mono is generally better in rocks and cover, and braid is usually better when there is no rocks or cover. When fishing from a boat, you can also use braid. As long as you can keep it away from the rocks, you should be ok.

I have lost PLENTY of fish due to braid breaking on the rocks. Do not try and be stubborn, just change to mono. I promise it’s worth it.


Bait

There are so many options when it comes to catfish bait. Live bait, cut bait, stink bait. We are going to keep it simple here. The top 3 baits to use to catch catfish easily are nightcrawlers, chicken liver, and cut shad. If I explore a new spot, and I know I want to at least catch fish. I used garlic scented chicken livers.

Simply pour some garlic powder into a tub of liver, and let it sit overnight. BOOM, the easiest, cheapest, and best catfish bait ever. You can often find chicken liver at your local supermarket. If you don’t have access to liver, try some cut shad.

Shad are abundant in almost every major lake and river system out there. A piece of cut shad will easily attract bites, even in the larger bodies of water. You can check your local fish market to see if they carry it.

Lastly the good ole nightcrawler. Nothing beats using worms for catfish!! This is an extra affective bait for primarily channel catfish, although every species of catfish will eat a worm. They stay on the hook very well, and the natural scent attracts all kinds is fish. That is the only issue with using worms.

Worms attract more than just catfish, they also attract bass, bluegill, perch, etc…. If you are fishing a spot with a lot of these species, worms may not be the best option. Worms can be found at just about every bait shop. Walmart is also a good bet to find a tub of worms.


Setting the Hook

For circle hooks, you don’t really need to set the hook. The most effective method I have found is to reel into the fish. As I am getting the bite, I start reeling fast until the line is tight.

When the line gets tight I do about 2-3 more cranks, then I lift up on the rod to drive the hook. Don’t be afraid to put some pressure on those fish. Catfish have rather hard mouths, so you won’t hurt them driving the hook through their mouths.

Sometimes when the rod is in the rod holder, I will simply reel down until I feel the pressure of the fish, once I do, I pick the rod up and drive the hook. You don’t have to swiftly snap the hookset. A simply raise of the rod with a gradual upward or sideways motion will do.


Handling Catfish

Although catfish do not sting, they can poke you with their sharp spines on the dorsal and pectoral fins. Excercise caution when grabbing them. I usually hold them by the mouth or I grab them in between their fins. This way there is no way for them to stab you. It does hurt, I have had the spikes in my foot, hand, leg, and finger. Each equally felt as bad as the other.

Go catch yourself some catfish!

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