European Catfish RigsMy experience with North American catfish species is limited to the Kansas River where I managed to land a few blue and channel cats, and handle several flatheads. But I have plenty of experience with their European cousin, the wels. Rigs are similar for both species, but few anglers in the United States employ catfish rigs designed for wels cats. Flatheads appear closest in behavior and feeding habits to wels cats, but the predatory nature of large blues and channels can be exploited with European rigs, too. The European catfish rigs described below have worked for me in many situations and could prove effective alternatives to the standard sliprig, especially for presenting livebaits.

Fishing From a Boat
Float Fishing—Float fishing is one of my favorite presentations. Apart from the versatility and effectiveness of floats, I enjoy watching them dancing in the current and the anticipation of a run when a livebait gets frantic. When float fishing, I look for good current coupled with decent depth—I always try to find deep water, regardless of the rig I’m using. I locate holes, depressions, and drop-offs with a sonar unit, and then position my boat immediately upstream.

Don’t worry if the hole is close to the bank. If it’s deep and has adequate cover, it usually holds fish. Unlike many rigs, it isn’t necessary to quietly slip into your chosen spot. Catfish often respond to the sound of an outboard engine, and although I try not to make a lot of banging noises in the boat, I’m perfectly happy to fish water I’ve just been over. I’m certain that it does little harm and, in many cases, may actually encourage catfish to investigate.

To set up a float rig, I attach a small swivel to the bottom of the float, which I then slide onto the main line. Floating braided line is a good choice, since it allows more control when drifting the bait away from the boat. Next I thread an egg sinker onto the line, followed by a a rubber shock bead. Then I tie on a strong swivel to the end of the main line using a palomar or uni-knot. I attach a short leader of about 18 inches to the bottom of the swivel, usually 20- to 40-pound mono or heavy Kevlar. I don’t use a standard braid with a large bait, since it’s prone to tangling as the bait swims. A strong hook of a size that matches the bait—usually 2/0 to 8/0—completes the setup. I set depth by tying a sliding stop knot with a short length of braid above the float.

Floats can be dropped over the side of an anchored boat and allowed to drift with the current into likely looking areas. If I’m fishing alone, I generally use three rods. If I’m sharing the boat with a partner, two rods each usually is enough. I set my baits at different depths, including at least one extremely shallow. Wels catfish are quite happy to rise to the surface to snatch a bait—especially if it’s a big, active livebait—North American cats might behave likewise.

Drifting baits away from the boat at various depths also covers more water. After an hour or two of fishing, I usually lift the anchor and allow the boat to drift downstream 20 to 30 yards before starting again and covering fresh water. The only time I stay put is if I’m confident that a fish is present where I’m fishing, but not feeding. If I’m spending the night afloat, I sometimes stay put and try to grab some sleep, relying on the bait clicker to signal a take.

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