How To Catch Catfish

Catfish can be found all over the world. They’re great fun to catch and also make a delicious meal. They’re great for a fish fry.

As a popular gamefish, catfish have a dedicated following and many anglers seek them out. And the tactics that will work on one species of catfish, will usually work on others too.

Here are my top tips on how to catch catfish.

Catfish Gear

Before you go out, you’ll want to outfit yourself with the right gear. You’ll need a rod, reel, line, terminal tackle and baits or lures. We’ll cover each of these below.

Cat Fishing Reels

If you’re just starting out, you can go with a medium spinning reel. This will give you a good balance on ease of use and versatility. If you later decide that you want to go after other species, you should have no problem. 

The Shimano Stradic 3000 size is a great option. A more budget friendly quality reel is the Shimano Sienna.

These are both reels from a quality company that should last you a long time and be able to haul in decent sized catfish.

Catfishing Rods

When you’re trying to decide what type of catfishing rod to get, you should start out with a medium heavy action rod. 

The Shakespeare Ugly Stik Catfish Spinning Rod is a great option. It’s not very expensive and has great reviews.

They come in 1 and 2 piece models. So, if you need a rod that can be stored in a shorter package, this is a good option.

Overall, these rods have a reputation for being bulletproof.

They’re able to take the punishment that the strength of a large catfish can dish out.

Also, if you prefer casting reels, then you can also get these rods in a casting version.

Catfish Fishing Lines

When it comes to lines there are 3 main options. Monofilament, Fluorocarbon and Braid.

These 3 should be able to meet all your needs to catfishing. But, there is one setup that I think is best.

A monofilament backing, then a braided line mainline. Finally, add to that a fluorocarbon leader.

Here’s why.

The mono backing is there to save money. So, if this is not an issue for you, then you don’t really need it. 

What you do is start loading your reel with mono. When it gets to a point where the remaining space on the spool is enough for casting and long catfish runs you can stop. So, for example, say your spool will hold 200 yards of line. Then, you’ll load it up with about 100 yards of mono and then load the remaining 100 yards with braid.

You’ll need to tie the mono to the braided line. I like to use a double uniknot for this task.

Mono is usually much cheaper than braided line. This will save you lots of cash in the long run.

Once you get your braided line on, now it’s time to add your leader.

Catfish Rig

So, once you have your rod, reel and loaded your reel with line, now you can set up your terminal rig.

Remember that catfish are bottom feeders for the most part. So adding a sinker is a good idea.

To create this rig, you’ll need:

  • Leader Material. I recommend starting with 20 pound test Fluoro or Mono.
  • An egg sinker. I recommend starting with a 1/2 ounce.
  • A swivel. Get one that can withstand at least 50 pounds.
  • A hook. Try a 1/0 circle hook.

To make the rig:

  • Start off by cutting out a section of leader. You can cut off 18 to 24 inches of leader material to start.
  • Pick out a sinker. I recommend you start off with a 1/2 oz. egg sinker. Then, slide it up your main braided line.
  • Now you can tie on your swivel to your main braided line. When you’re done with this step, the sinker should fall onto the swivel and stop when you lift your mainline above the sinker.
  • Next, tie your leader material to the other end of the swivel. 
  • Finally, you can tie the hook to the end of your leader.

This will leave you with a basic sliding sinker rig. The benefits of this rig are as follows:

With a shorter leader, it’s easier to cast.

If a catfish grabs your bait, you might not notice it right away. The catfish will be able to pull some line through the slip sinker without getting spooked by the weight. This will give you time to detect the strike and reel in. Although often times, with w circle hook the catfish will hook itself without your help.

Catfish Fishing Accessories

Before you go out for your catfishing trip you’ll want to make sure that you bring some essential gear with you.

A good pair of needle nose pliers or a specialized hook remover is a good idea. I always carry one with me for all types of fishing. 

If you practice catch and release, removing a hook quickly will help fish survival rates.

Pliers will also help keep your hands away from sharp hooks that could accidentally hook your hand.

A landing net is another very useful piece of gear to bring on your catfish trip. When you do bring in a big one, you’ll want to have a net handy to make sure it doesn’t get away.

If you’re fishing from shore, keep in mind that you may be on an elevated position. This may require a long handle to make sure you can get the net low enough to net your catch. 

Catfish can be extremely slippery so having a net can be a real bonus for this species.

If you’re fishing from shore, another great piece of gear to have is a spike rod holder. These are rod holders that you drive into the ground. You can then place your rod in it and sit back and wait for a strike.

Catching Catfish

Now that you have all the necessary gear ready, you can go out and start catching ’em. As I mentioned earlier, catfish are bottom feeders. They’re also opportunistic scavengers that will take advantage of an easy meal.

They have a very good sense of taste and smell. So, finding them and then presenting them with a smelly, flavorful bait can equal success.

How To Find Catfish?

Catfish are ambush predators. They will lie in wait in secluded areas of lakes and rivers. But how do you find these places?

Well, if you’re looking on a lake or pond, then look for areas where baitfish and panfish congregate. Once you find these areas, try to get clues for good bottom structure and cover.

For example, if you can see that there are large chunk rocks running from the shore down into the water, this may be a good place to look.

Also, if you see wood such as fallen trees check them out. Catfish love to hide inside hollowed out tree trunks.

If you’re fishing a river, the tactics mentioned above will work. However, you’ll want to add one big condition to them. That is current. Catfish will look for areas where the current is nearby, but blocked. For example, say there is a tree trunk that has fallen into the river. The larger the trunk the better. It will block the current and make for a great hiding spot.

Catfish will position themselves on the downstream side of these trees. Then they’ll wait for passing baitfish to ambush.

I recently caught a 10 lb. channel catfish on the Wisconsin River using this tactic.

When Is A Good Time To Catch Catfish?

Catfish are known to be night feeders. So, try some night fishing if you can. Otherwise, it is very possible to catch them during the day. You might just have to be more patient. 

To catch them in the daytime, you’ll need to make sure you place your baits very close to them. They might not be as willing to travel long distances to eat your bait during daylight hours.

Like other types of fishing, finding the right spots is key. If you catch a catfish in one spot, make sure you make a note of it, or enter a waypoint in your sonar unit.

Aside from that, you can research the solar lunar tables for best days and times for fishing.

Catfish are known to bite in post front conditions that would make fish like bass harder to catch.

Catfish Baits

Remember that catfish can be highly attracted to smelly baits like cheese and oily fish. You can even buy pre-made smelly baits that are pre-packaged for catfishing. 

Another option is to catch a panfish like bluegill or other bream and cut it up for catfish bait. Be sure to follow local regulations when doing this.

Store bought worms such as night crawlers can also be used for catfish. Just keep in mind that you’ll attract other types of fish with night crawlers. Bass, panfish, pike and walleye may all hit your crawler intended for catfish. 

Crayfish can also be an effective lure for catfish. If you use a dead crawdad, you’ll be more likely to avoid getting hit by bass. Bass are more likely to go after live crayfish.


Overall, catfish fishing  can be a rewarding and tasty hobby. You can also catch some truly large catfish if you learn how to find them. So, get your gear ready and get out there.

Don’t forget to make sure you learn the rules in your area before you go.