Catfish Fishing Tips: Catch Catfish Like a Pro

Catfishing is an old tradition that has been handed down from generation to generation in many parts of the country. Although many people simply grab a few hotdogs and chicken livers at the local grocery to prepare for catfishing, we want to help you get better!

Let’s say that you want to learn more about how to catch catfish.

We’ll be dispelling the myths and describing the catfish tips that will increase the number of catfish in your cooler

Catfish Basics

The United States is home to three types of catfish: the blue, channel, and flathead.

This flathead is giving the photographer evil eyes!

They have significant similarities in their spawning patterns and commonalities. Knowing what makes a cat a cat is a great way to target them all. These two traits are what really make them stand out from other fish.

Negative Buoyancy

Catfish are a very unique species. They are not like other fish and they are extremely buoyant. Catfish are ideal for bottom-feeding due to their large heads and small swim bladders.

Catfish have a “smell and taste” for their skin

Although catfish do not have scales, their leathery skin is completely covered in chemoreceptors. They can smell and taste the water around their bodies, which allows them to detect prey items in murky or muddy water.

Although not often this large, take a look at this giant channel cat that was caught in Texas.

Many anglers believe that night is the best time to fish catfish because they are well-adapted for low-light feeding. While there is some truth to this, it’s not a universal rule. Stinky baits may not be the best for all three species. Both the flathead and blue are active predators who prefer live food.

These traits can reveal a lot about catfish behavior.

  • Catfish prefer to work at the bottom of the water column.
  • They will hunt and forage in low light conditions, such as turbid water, dawn, dusk, and night.
  • Catfish owners should consider the importance of their senses.

These traits are the first step to becoming a better cat fisherman. Next, learn what makes them different.

Be a good friend to your species!

It can be very helpful to know which catfish species you are chasing.

The Blue Catfish

The largest of all three common species is the blue catfish, Ictalurus furcatus. It can grow to a staggering 65 inches in length and weigh up to 150 pounds.

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Blues are predators and not bottom-feeding scavengers to support their size. They will eat almost anything they come across, but aquatic invertebrates such as mussels and crawfish are common prey. Frogs, snakes, and just about anything else that is in the water are also acceptable prey.

The Channel Catfish

The most common cat is the Ictalurus punctatus. It’s usually smaller than the blue and has a very small body. It can grow to 40-50 pounds and is often caught between 2 and 4.

The channel catfish is well-adapted to dark environments and can be a dangerous predator in low-light situations. It feeds on minnows, small fish, and any other bottom-living organisms.

Flathead Catfish

The flathead catfish Pylodictis Olivares is nearly as large as the blue. This large predator can reach as high as 61 inches in length and 123 pounds. Its feeding habits are similar to the channel cats.

Flatheads prefer to hunt live prey than scrape the bottom. Their diet consists mainly of fish and aquatic insects.

Catfish fishing tips

Here are the myths that get discredited.

Catfishing is a sport that many anglers do at night. They throw a chunk of chicken liver in murky water and then wait. Then they wait for the big cat to take their bait.

Catfishermen may take this method to the next level by soaking hotdogs with Kool-Aid, garlic, and skipping the liver.

They are on the right track.

This blue is perfect for eating!

Flatheads, channels, blues, and channels rely more on smell than sight. All three are low-light predators. It is smart to fish at night, dawn, and dusk.

But, and this is a huge but —Blues and flatheads prefer live bait, particularly fish, over a smelly lump of meat at the bottom. Furthermore, You won’t catch as many cats if your bait is buried in silt or the mud.

Use the Right Line

You can get a good idea of the size of any fish you are fishing for if you know what species it is.

However, this is not the case for kitties!

I have seen tiny hooks being thrown by monster cats, so it is worth having your back ready for any fight.

Your line will be tested by a big catfish, which prefers to eat all kinds of debris. The line can withstand a shock and hold a knot as if it were a long length of the line.

What’s your pick?

Monofilament nylon, specifically Trilene Big Game.

Berkley Trilene Big Game, Green, 30 Pound Test-1760 Yard

Big Game is my favorite catfish line.

You can choose from 8-, 15 or 20-pound, 25- and 30- pound weights.

My favorite Big Game test is the 15-, 20, and 25-pound ones. But, I will take up to 40 if I feel I am preparing for a great fight. It’s reassuring to know that I can handle a heavyweight fight for trophy kitties.

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Big Game knots are very easy, hold tight, and casts well.

Important: Hook Selection

Cats have tough, strong mouths and require sharp hooks to catch them. Every serious catfisherman knows how to break a standard hook. I know of no one who is comfortable with less than 4X, which is a measurement of the thickness of your stock from which the hook was formed.

It is also important to choose the right size hooks, but as I said above, big fish have taken small hooks and vice versa.

There is little disagreement about hook size. The most common sizes are 6/0-10/0. The latter size is reserved for the truly mighty. Some prefer the 6/0 while others prefer the 8/0. Most people reserve the 10/0 for trophies.

No matter what size you are, I love high-quality circular hooks such as Gamakatsu’s Strong Octopus Hook 4X. You should not let a cat get to this hook if they can.

Gamakatsu Octopus Circle 4X Strong Hook (25 Piece), NS Black, 5/0

Look at the strength of this hook!

TripleThreat’s combination circle hooks are also my favorite. They are specifically made for catfish and are strong, sturdy, and just the right size to catch catfish’s lips.

You should look for the strongest hooks possible to win trebles.

Gamakatsu’s 4x triple and Mustad’s 4x triple are my favorites; they will not let you down!

Mustad Classic 4 Extra Strong Kingfish Treble Hook (Pack of 25), Black Nickel, 1

Ideal Beefy hooks such as this Gamakatsu 4/0/4X are great.

For Blues and Flatheads: Forget the Stinky Stuff!

Stinky baits may be popular, but they are more about catching anglers rather than fish.

Instead, think of baitfish such as perch, shad, and other fish that are allowed in your area.

Always verify the law and know what is legal to use for bait.

When hooked to create excitement, shad can be magical. Four solid methods produce shad time after time, all taking advantage of the natural feeding behavior in blues and flatheads.

  • Tail hooking –You can allow minnows to swim and kick by running your hook along the tail about 1/4 inch below the fins. This is a great way to keep them happy and healthy.
  • Dorsal hookingYou can also run your hook through the minnow’s back, just below its dorsal fin. This will allow it to twitch its head and tail by not reaching its vital organs.
  • Lip hooking –This technique involves running the hook under the minnow’s neck, and through the lips. This will cause the tail to kick furiously but it kills the minnow faster than other methods.
  • Hooking the snout –This is a modified lip hook. In this instance, the hook is run down the front of the minnow’s head and out its mouth. This allows the minnow to move freely like lip hooking but doesn’t kill them as fast.
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You can also use cut bait, which is a great choice as fresh fish and blood are like ringing the dinner bell for flatheads and blues!

Channel Cats: Make Your Own Sponge Baits

Channel cats are easy to attract with their stinky smell. One popular method is to use dip bait worms or sponge baits on a triple hook. The worms are then covered in prepared catfish bait such as Triple S’s bloodbath, which absorbs the smell and flavor.

However, prepared hooks can quickly become expensive so it’s worth making your own.

This allows you to adjust the height of your bait so it is not too high but still close enough to the bottom.

You can also use premium hooks to ensure that you keep the monster on your line.

You can find our complete guide to catfish rigs here!

Drop Shot with a Dropper Loop

Although catfish will often hug the bottom to find prey, it is not a good idea to bury your bait in the silt.

While some anglers resort to tricks such as a Worm Blower to blow air into their wrigglers, I find that a simple drop shot system works better and requires less effort.

Drop shot rig suspends the hook above a weight that bounces on the bottom. It’s a simple idea that has profound consequences. You can save your line and prevent snags. Your live bait will be presented at the perfect depth to maximize its action and scent.

This rig is very popular for surfing fishing but works great for catfish!

However, unlike the rigging of this amazing set-up for bass, you cannot simply tie your hook to the line with a Palomar Knot. You need to make sure the catfish have enough space by trailing your hook through a dropper loop.

Andy from CoastfishTV is the best way I have seen.

This allows you to adjust the height of your bait so it is not too high but still close enough to the bottom.
You’ll be able to catch a minnow that is struggling and keep it alive on your hook in no time.

Last Thoughts

It’ll be easier to catch catfish if you have a better understanding of the differences between species. You’ll be more successful next time you go to the water if you are prepared with the right line and hook, live bait, as well as the proper techniques.

These tips and tricks will help you catch more catfish. We’d love to hear your feedback!

Leave a comment below

Lewis Mark is a vastly experienced fly fisher. His encyclopedic knowledge of fly tying has led to start blog on fishing. He also review Fishing equipment based on his knowledge and experience.