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Catfish Week: 3 Tips To Catch More Cats This Season

Consider these three important pieces of advice to enjoy a more successful summer of catfish fishing.

Catfish Week: 3 Tips To Catch More Cats This Season

It is very likely that catfish are the Rodney Dangerfield of the fishing world. Catfish fight hard, are found all over, and can even be caught from shore in many cases, yet they are often still in the shadow of other species. I am guilty myself of not often taking advantage of some great angling in my own backyard. While you can make catfishing as simple or complex as you want to, here are three areas to focus on to improve your catfishing this season.

Boat Control

Regardless of what you fish for, if you improve your boat control, your fishing will drastically improve. Sure, you can have boat control when there is no current or wind blowing, but the other 99% of the time you will need to be able to keep your boat right where you want it with minimal effort. I say minimal effort because if you are spending all your time fighting the boat, it can be difficult and not very fun to try and actually fish.

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Being able to fully control the boat will help you present catfish baits correctly, which will mean more fish in the boat.

In yesteryear, a good ole fashion giant anchor was the tool of the trade to keep you in place. Let out a little rope to setup differently on a deep hole or put your lures in front of new fish. The problem is lugging a big anchor up and down becomes tiresome and makes us lazy to the point that even those young anglers don’t fish as much new water as they should. While I’m not suggesting that you sell your anchor just yet, two modern devices have made an anchor almost obsolete for me.

Today’s shallow water anchors likely should be called “not so shallow” water anchors. My Minn Kota Talon model is capable of holding me in place in fifteen feet of water. While I’ve had one 15-foot model on both of my boats, I recently added a second 15-foot Talon to my Ranger 618 tiller boat because it adds that much more boat control compared to one. Whether I am casting to walleyes in the middle of the night on a giant lake or trying to hold in a strong current on a river or big bay, the second Talon keeps me from swinging. This is critical because when soaking meat for big cats, it keeps me from having to “mend” or continually adjusting the amount of line out and keep tenson on the baits.

The other key boat-control method is a bow-mounted trolling motor with Spot-Lock technology. When engaged, Spot-Lock takes a waypoint and will hold the boat perfectly in place. This can be a great option when the current or water makes it unsafe to pin the stern of the boat down where water may continually come over the back. In other circumstances you may want the rear of the boat to sway so that you cover more water or provide movement to your lures. Other options on modern day trolling motors, like my Minn Kota Quest Ultrex, is the drift feature that allows me to cover water and fish instead of fight the boat control all day.

Electronics

While having boat control is as critical as it gets, so is putting the boat in the right spot to begin with. I realize most catfish anglers want to keep it simple, but many anglers that fish for catfish already have many of the tools that are intended for other species and don’t use them when they do actually fish for catfish.

The first and one of most important things I use is Lakemaster mapping. You can even get an app on your phone to have this incredible technology in your hands at all times. The ability to shade mapping at different depths with different colors is a gamechanger. This allows you to see where the deeper holes, feeding flats and shallow navigation hazards are at in a glance. The accuracy of their contour lines is also a big deal. Even if shore fishing, not using this technology is silly.

Other technology such as Side-Imaging is becoming almost standard. Most manufactures now have side and down scan available in much smaller units with a very reasonable price tag. Side imaging helps breakdown water that looks good on mapping before you even stop to fish, particularity in shallower water. The ability to scan to the side of the boat and see structure, depressions and even fish greatly improves your fishing efficiency.

Rigging

Most of us anglers are gear heads and love the bells and whistles that come along with it. While catfishing doesn’t require fancy high-end rods to feel the subtle of bites, setting up gear specifically for it will result in more bites and fish landed. If I’m being honest, my favorite catfish rods are redfish and bass rods already in my arsenal. I prefer baitcasting reels on rods that are 7 feet, 6 inches and moderate to moderate fast action with a medium heavy power. This extra give in the rod allows me to see a bite visually without having the fish drop the bait from feeling me.

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Rig right for catfish based on the water you fish. Current is usually a thing you'll have to deal with, so heavy weight is key.

The line choice is also important, and a mix of monofilament and braid come into play. I have noticed that some days one type just seems to get more bites—or at least landed fish. With braid’s low stretch, it is easy to get on the fish too quickly and in some cases I believe the fish feel us, causing them to drop the bait. While I prefer a high vis line, I will also mix in some low vis green line simply so that if (when) a tangle occurs from setting four or more dead sticks, it makes diagnosing and untangling lines much easier. This is especially the case when a ten pound plus cat is on the line.

Match the pound test to the fish caliber that you are fishing around, but don’t be afraid to go a little heavy so that when nasty bottom debris or that fish of a lifetime comes into play you are not under gunned. For me this means 12- to 20-pound P-Line CXX co-polymer and 30-pound P-Line EdurX braid. A short leader anywhere from one to three feet made out of P-Line Shinsea leader material fluorocarbon in 25- to 30-pound is preferred.

While there are as many ways to rig a basic bait for a variety of catfish species, a modified Carolina rig is my go-to. A simple weight, bead as a stopper, small swivel and short leader to a hook just gets the job done. Instead of rigging the weight directly on the line like you would on a bass rig, I prefer to use a sliding saltwater style clevis. This allows several distinct advantages.

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Not having the weight fixed on the line obviously makes it much easier to change sizes, but it also almost completely eliminates line wear and makes regularly retying and rigging almost a thing of the past. When moving from spot to spot in the boat or in the garage not having a large sinker banging around will help keep rods from being damaged and tangled in a total mess.

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The right kind of hook is critical to keeping the fish pinned all the way to the boat and helps keep them releasable.

Look for sinkers that have a flat side so that they won’t roll in the current and better keep the bait in place. If you have a pile of sinkers at home already, a heavy hammer to smash them flat is a great way to quickly repurpose any sinker into a catfish sinker.

The hook on the business end of the rig really will vary with the species of catfish you are fishing for and what bait is being used. Depending on what part of the country you are in you may be able to use anything from live bluegills to hot dogs soaked in garlic powder. Having a variety of sizes in both circle and wide-gap hooks will ensure you are covered no matter what you run into. If you plan on releasing the fish a circle hook will make it much easier to get the fish back in good health.

Sure, there are more than three factors to consider no matter what we fish for, but if you understand and better prepare for these three factors you are sure to land more catfish this season.

Capt. Ross Robertson

Bigwater Fishing




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