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Neumann's Blog

Try This Simple No-Leader Cat Rig

by Dr. Rob Neumann   |  June 19th, 2012 2

So far this spring, at least two catfish trips come to mind where an adjustment in rigging made all the difference in catching more fish, and in one case at least some fish. We’ve written about this rig before, but it still tends to get overlooked, I think partly because of its simplicity.

In the instances I’m writing about here, which were both tailrace situations, we started the day using standard sliprigs, constructed by sliding a slipsinker on the mainline, tying the mainline to a barrel swivel. A leader (about 10 inches) was tied to the other end of the barrel swivel, and a hook (circle hook) was tied to the end of the leader. Hooks were baited with cutbait. Standard stuff.

This rig was successful in getting baits to cats, but success in getting catfish to commit and hook up was low. It could have been that the fish were tentative, but it just as well could have been that the fish didn’t prefer a bait that was likely dangling and fluttering in the current on the leader, or a combination of factors. Too much bait movement perhaps?

Having trouble hooking up, the adjustment we made was eliminating the leader, letting the No-Roll sinker slide right to the hook (with a bead added to cushion the sinker on the knot at the hook eye). The result was that strikes were more committed, and hookup rates increased substantially.

The success of the no-leader sliprig must have been due to keeping the bait stationary with the leader eliminated, reducing the bait’s ability to flutter in current, and staying pinned more to bottom.  I wonder if current pulling on the bait creates some distance between the hook and sinker, pulling line through the sinker. But more realistically, current forces act on the line, which causes the line to bow downstream, which actually pulls the bait into the sinker keeping it tight to the sinker.

Some might wonder if cats might shy from a sinker being too close to the bait, or whether they feel the sinker and drop the bait. I don’t think the presence of a sinker is going to deter a catfish from picking up a bait—it doesn’t know the difference between a sinker, a rock, or a spark plug. As for the “feeling” of dragging a sinker? Can’t be much different than a standard sliprig.  A hungry cat is a willing cat is a committed cat.

A few weeks ago, Red River of the North catfish guide Brad Durick and I turned a good day into a great day, filming a segment on channel cats for In-Fisherman TV, by eliminating the leader on the sliprig. You might consider this rig for flatheads, too, especially around wood, and also for blue cats. Sometimes simple is better.

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  • newbie fisherman

    Good article! This is similar to the rig I used when testing my new rod and reel at the river. I was given a 1/4 oz. Johnson Sprite silver spoon (with some of the finish worn off, which means it works). I traded out the treble hook for an Eagle Claw #2 barbless circle hook, and swiped a dark green with black flecks curlytail grub from my buddy's collection.

    After hiking the mile to the riverbank, I made a few casts and then — wow! I think it's a fish! It doesn't act like a piece of wood! I reeled him/her in and of course just before it hit the bank the line catches on a bush about 6 feet out. I am wearing my leather hunting boots (snakes, you know) and gnash my teeth as I wade out to free Mr. Cat from the bush. He was a nice one, about 16 inches — First One Ever!!!! — and I quickly took the photo and slipped that barbless hook out of him with no problem. Being as it was dark and the 'gators were trolling, I really didn't want to make any more commotion.

    So yes, the theory of keeping bait close to the bottom worked fine in my case. Best of luck to all of you.

  • Chris McVey

    tried this in the summer of 2012 and had a lot less snags. According to the recent catfish DVD and last year's in-fisherman season, I intend to try it out more for Flatties since it will keep the baitfish alive longer in current.

    Dr Rob has the best blog!

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