A Complete Beginner’s Guide To Fishing Catfish

A Complete Beginners Guide To Fishing Catfish

Catch catfish like a pro with this complete beginner’s guide to fishing catfish. One common problem of hunting for catfish species is that they are hard to fight. But it’s worthy of your time and effort. If you cook it after your catch, its flavor will burst into your mouth.

If you want to capture catfish, start by getting the right fishing equipment, and choose the appropriate bait. Then, doing correct catching techniques follows. More importantly, make sure when and where is the right time to find catfish.

Catfish are often not often willing biters, but most anglers can do it with proper methods. So, this guide will teach you the right way of catching catfish. Learn how to do it right through the right gear that you need.

What Are Catfish?

Catfish are some of the most underrated fish species worldwide. It is not as popular as bass, but it is a common target to those anglers who like a challenge in fishing. Let’s start this post by understanding the different types of catfish.

Types Of Catfish Species

The first thing you need to know about catching catfish is that more than one kind of catfish exists. To help you pick your goal, here’s a quick look at each species.

Flathead Catfish

Flathead catfish are the hardest catfish to capture. They’re solitary, hard to find, and once you hook them, they put up a serious fight. Even professional anglers are pleased to catch one large fish per journey.

Flatheads weigh about 100 pounds, but in the past, monsters topped the scales at 120 pounds. With a long body and a square, flattened head, they’re easy to tell apart from other animals. Hence, this species has this name.

Blue Catfish

The Blue Catfish is America’s largest and most respected catfish. With the all-tackle record weighing in at an impressive 143 pounds, they can grow to mammoth sizes. What’s great about Blue Cats is that they’re not as isolated as the Flatheads. As well as individual giants, you can land vast amounts of them. It makes for a fishing trip that is far more action-packed.

Blue Cats live in the same range as flatheads, but in lakes and main river areas. You can often find it restricted to deeper waters. They like to hang out near heavy currents, waiting for prey to attack.

Channel Catfish

Channel Cats are much smaller than their counterparts, which are blue and flat-headed. Most fish don’t exceed 20 pounds, and when pursuing them, anglers are typically searching for numbers greater than size. With fish in the 50 lb range decorating record books and mantelpieces, you do get the odd beast, though. Channel Catfish may not be the block’s biggest cat, but they get around the water a lot.

A Complete Beginners Guide To Fishing Catfish

When to Catch Catfish?

In dirty water areas, such as a tributary and its outflow, search for catfish during the day. Deep structures, including river bends, the base of drop-offs, deep holes, and humps are also fine. Like standing timber and deep weed edges, catfish can also keep around cover.

Night brings terrific fishing. To find food in the dark, catfish use their heightened senses of smell and taste, along with their barbels (whiskers). Flats, bars, points, shorelines, and weedy areas are popular places at night for capturing catfish.

Where to Catch Catfish?

In many water bodies, from shallow, warm ponds to swift rivers, catfish can thrive. There are general areas that appear to hold catfish, although different species can like differing environments. One of the most enticing features of catfish is that you can find it in a wide range of waters. 

As a hot water species, wherever you find bass and panfish, you will also find catfish. There are catfish in most lakes and large rivers, and several cities stock catfish in municipal ponds. Ask around or send your fish and game department a call to find a good catfishing hole in your area at your nearest tackle shop. 

Look for deeper holes and pockets to target once you locate a body of water that contains catfish. Catfish also like the structure, so be sure to cast your bait near submerged logs, brush piles, boulders, and other alike features a catfish can call home. 

What Is The Best Season for Catfishing?

The best time to find catfish is in summer, but you can catch them throughout the year. It varies according to the species. The general rule of thumb is that catfish like deep, and slow-moving water in winter. On the other hand, these species like shallower, and faster water during summer.

Essential Catfish Tackle Box

You now have a better understanding of catfish and its whereabouts. Now, let us talk about things that you need to put in your tackle box. Don’t forget to bring these if you want higher accuracy and efficiency in catching catfish.

  • 1/0 to 3/0 circle or bait hooks
  • #2 to #6 treble hooks
  • Bobbers
  • 0.5 to 2-ounce egg sinkers
  • Split shots
  • #7 to #10 swivels
  • Beads 
  • Jigheads
  • Live worms or minnows
  • smelly artificial bait or lures
  • Rod holder
  • A pair of long-nosed pliers

You can also check out this article if you want to learn how to catch fish without a bait.

Basic Catfish Equipment

After filling your tackle box with essential tools and baits, make sure that you have the right fishing equipment. Any rod and reel would work fine when catching catfish. Whether it is spinning, baitcasting, or spin-cast – these would give you excellent results. But it all differs with a specific catfish setup. Here are some points that you can consider.

A Complete Beginners Guide To Fishing Catfish
  • Fishing Rod – Medium to medium-heavy action rod. It gives even the biggest catfish plenty of backbone to battle. When it comes to size, 7-foot rods are great length in catching catfish. It’ll give you all the casting distance you’re probably going to need. Think of using an 8 or 9-foot rod if you’re fishing really big water and need to cast extra far.
  • Spinning Reel – Spinning reels are the most versatile reel type. It works well for catfishing. Plus, you can use and learn it easily. For catfish, a good spinning reel should be designed to fit your rod and carry a line of at least 200 yards.
  • Fishing Line – Monofilament or braided fishing lines are excellent choices. When in doubt, a 20 to 30-pound test monofilament line is the safest option.
    • Monofilament has a short stretch that allows a catfish to commit to taking a lure. It is why most hardcore catfish anglers use it.
    • A braided line is also a good choice for catfish. It doesn’t extend, leading to a stronger set of hooks. Plus, without losing line yardage, the braided fishing line enables you to spool your reel with more lines or improve the braking power.

Don’t forget, you should also know how to clean your rod and reel properly.

How to Catch Catfish?

You have the tools, equipment, and you know where and when is the best time to catch catfish. So, how can you capture this species? All pieces of your fishing gear would be useless if you don’t have the right methods. Let’s take a look at some approaches that you can do.

Catching Through A Slip-Sinker

In catching catfish, a slip-sinker rig is a popular setup. However, it has more accuracy if the target species is near the water surface. You can make this setup by threading a sinker on the mainline and a bead. Then, tie the main fishing line to one end of a swivel.

On the other side of the swivel, attach a 1 to 2-foot monofilament leader followed by your preferred hook. Then, you can put the rig on the left on the bottom or hoover it about the water surface.

Catching Through A Float Rig

With a float rig, you simply have to add the float above a slip-sinker rig’s weight. Without snagging on the bottom or in the cover, use this rig to drift bait slowly through wood-rich catfish lairs or over weed. Drifting a float helps cover the bank’s water as well.

Catfishing at Night

There are two good reasons why people go catfishing at night. It’s a lot colder, and in much shallower water, the fish show up. Catfish follow their stomachs, and the forage follows their stomachs. 

On a warm summer day, the topwater gets too hot for baitfish. Even under cover of darkness, they feel better in open water. Catfish, however, are fragrance-based hunters and have no trouble tracking forage in the dark.

Daytime Catfishing

It’s much easier to catch catfish during the day from a cruise as you can get out to the deeper waters. You can fish from the sea, you only need to be able to throw it into deep water accurately. 

In the deepest reaches of the river or lake, start with fishing points and humps, then work your way up to deeper water until you find the right depth. It takes a deeper understanding of the waters in which you fish, but it can be just as satisfying.

Catfish Bait Options

As they say, picking baits is like “picking your poison.” The good news is that most Catfish species are not very picky when it comes to baits. If you want to be certain, here are some excellent catfish baits that you can easily buy or find in your kitchen.

A Complete Beginners Guide To Fishing Catfish
  • Chicken Liver – It is the quintessential catfish bait. You can find it easily at a grocery store and are very inexpensive. Livers are bloody, helping to attract catfish from all over the lake or reservoir. It also creates a scent trail downstream in rivers that catfish will follow to your hook.
  • Hotdogs – Buy a handful of cheap hotdogs from the grocery store, break off a chunk, and thread it on your hook. A big benefit of using hotdogs is that they are much cleaner to handle than chicken livers.
  • Nightcrawlers – If you’re fishing for channel catfish in small ponds, nightcrawlers work extremely well. Try to find the largest, juiciest worms you can and thread your hook with the whole thing.
  • Commercially prepared catfish baits – Catfish bait is a big industry. At most sporting goods stores, you’ll find countless ready-made baits available. .There are pellets, doughs, dip baits, and several other types. These are common to use for attracting catfish with scents and flavors.

Catfish Rig Tips and Tricks

Learning some catfish rig tips and tricks will increase your success rate in fishing this species. So, here are some things that you need to consider.

1.Know The Three-Way Rig

It is one of the most popular catfish rigs. You can use it to catch catfish, like many other catfish rigs that you can use in various situations.

As mentioned, the slip-sinker rig is the only catfish rig that you should fully understand. For all catfish species and nearly every catfishing technique, you can use this rig efficiently. No wonder it is one of the most popular rigs to use.

2.Level Up Your Skills With The Santee Rig

A minor variant of the slip sinker rig that involves a small foam peg float is the Santee Rig or Santee Cooper Rig. You’ll raise the bait off the bottom and also capture more fish by adding a 2 to 2.5 inches foam peg float on the leader line a few inches above the hook. Get the correct setup and let the fish tell you what they want by playing with leader length.

3.Use Corking Cats With The Slip Bobber Rig

Slip bobbers or slip floats, particularly smaller 1 to 10 lb channel catfish, are very effective for catching catfish. Slip bobbers make it possible to change quickly and easily based on water depth. This way, you can fish deeper or shallower as needed. You also have a very sensitive catfish rig with the proper slip bobber that provides a visual warning when a catfish hits.

4.Beware Of Ultralight Channel Catfish Bite

For certain anglers, smaller channel catfish often have a very light bite that can be frustrating, and they will often miss a lot of fish. The Secret Catfish Rig is more sensitive than any other rig. But it will increase your catch ratios by as much as 500% if you are targeting 1 to 5-pound channel catfish.

5.Balloon Rigs For Catfish

When a lot of water needs to be covered, balloon rigs are very successful. Using balloon rigs to float baits if you are fishing from the shore as you can cover wide distances to bring your bait to places that you would otherwise be able to reach casting. If you fish from boat balloon setups, you can cover a wider water area and work well for suspending baits as well.

6.Sometimes, Noise Matters For Catfishing

Catfish are developed fish and respond to vision, sound, vibration and smell. Catfish rigs that incorporate sound capture more fish than those that don’t, after thorough research. To add sound to any catfish rig and use it for any catfishing technique, use the Versa-Rattle.

7.Fishing In Or Around Heavy Covers

If you are targeting catfish in or around heavy cover, consider using a drop shot rig or zero rigs. It will allow you to fish tightly against the cover. You can also minimize the number of snags and hang-ups, particularly if fishing vertically.

8.Leader Line Is Crucial

In most catfish rigs, the leader line is used and is usually a thicker line than the main fishing line on the fishing reel. When a fish attacks, this thicker line used as a leader absorbs shock and gives extra abrasion resistance to minimize line breaks.

The longer your leader line is, the more current your catfish bait can move in the water and the more fish without you knowing they will move with it. Experiment on your catfish rigs with the length of the leader to find the “sweet spot” depending on the bite of the catfish. To adapt, you might need to change regularly!

9.Maintain Tangle-Free Leader Line

In a tackle box, a led line left loose would rapidly become a tangled mess. Store ¼ pound spools of leader line inside a neoprene koozie, using this trick to solve this dilemma. It’s going to remain nice and tidy and stay tangle-free.

10.Get The Perfect Rig Weight

Don’t go overboard, use just enough on your catfish rigs for the amount of weight. The catfishing technique you use the wind and the current will depend on how much you need. Don’t use four if two ounces is an appropriate weight. This way, you’ll be saving money and catching more fish!

Catfishing Tips On Techniques

28 Tips On How To Start Fishing As A Hobby

Let’s top your fishing tools and equipment with some of these tips for catching catfish. Check out some tips on various catfishing techniques and tips for success using these techniques. These are some of the many different methods of capturing catfish!

Tip #1 – Drifting Or Drift Fishing For Catfish

A prevalent catfishing technique is drift fishing. It includes throwing baits (usually with several rods) on one side of the boat and dragging baits along the bottom as the wind pushes the boat. Drift fishing allows a lot of water to cover you and is one of several ways to catch fish. If you’re just getting started, it is a great technique, to begin with as it is difficult not to catch catfish using this technique.

Tip #2 – Proper Strolling

It’s similar to drift fishing, except rods are typically run off the back of the boat instead of the side. Instead of having the wind to drive you, a trolling motor is common when using a boat.

Tip #3 – Controlled Drifting

In certain respects, controlled drifting is similar to strolling, and the technique it refers to can differ depending on where you are fishing. It generally suggests either the same approach as strolling or using the trolling engine and keeping the rods off the bottom while bouncing baits.

Tip #4 – Doodlesocking

Doodlesocking is a tool widely used for catfish channeling. This includes dropping baits in and around rocks to capture spawning channel catfish and rip-rap shorelines. This is an extremely useful technique to use in the summer months for catching catfish.

Tip #5 – Slip Corking

A term used to describe catfish fishing with slip bobbers is Slip Corking for catfish. Although you can use these techniques for any catfish species, using slip bobbers and prepared baits. Punch bait or dip bait is a common way to fish for channel catfish.

Frequently Asked Questions

Catch catfish like a pro with this full catfish fishing guide for beginners. Start by having the right fishing equipment and selecting the necessary bait if you want to catch catfish. Then it follows right catching strategies. More significantly, make sure the best time to locate catfish is when and where. For catfish species, one common issue of hunting is that they are difficult to combat. But it’s worth of your effort and time.

What is the best bait to use for catfish?

The best bait to use for catfishing is either freshly-caught cut shad or 3 to 4-inch shad minnows cut into half. Any type of catfish stink bait dough bait would be another great choice available at Walmart. The most accessible catfish baits are hotdogs and chicken liver. There are just as many ways to capture a catfish as there are many ways to lure a catfish.

How do you fish for catfish at night?

Your best bet if you fish around lights is to stay away or just below them, and you’ll catch more cats. Whilst some catfish feed at night in shallow water, some species will still be there during the day. Notice that not all catfish flock to the deeper waters at night.

How deep should you fish for catfish?

The best depth is between 15 and 20 feet deep in lakes for catching catfish. Some anglers call it the catfish zone since in most lakes they live within such depths. However, some catfish species can also live in shallow areas, depending on the time of the year and the temperature of the water.


Freshwater purists also ignore catfish. People think that they’re all the same even though they’re as different as Trouts and Bass. With other “rough fish,” they get lumped in and mostly forgotten about. Catfish can never get the respect they deserve, but they are a game fish deserving of being classified with the best of them, for those in the know.

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