Catching Big Catfish – Let’s go!

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I love those all nighters ! Sitting back with the lanterns lighting up my rod tips and just can’t wait to see what picks that hook up and takes off! Catching big catfish is about as exciting as it gets ! I actually enjoy it as much as any other outdoor activity, maybe more !

Cat fishing may be one of the more wide spread forms of angling enjoyed around the world! Anyone can do it and be good at it. It doesn’t take a boat load of money, and in fact you don’t even have to have a boat. Some of the biggest I’ve ever caught came from right there on good ole terrace Firma ! I will admit that I caught tons of cats on the tried and true chicken livers , but usually channels and a few small blues. Never anything really big. Nowadays the big boys are what I’m going after. I love catching fish of any size really, but something about those bait clickers at2:00 am and knowing you have a big old Flathead or blue cat on is exciting !

Let’s talk about getting started and what is needed without getting too technical too fast !


Rod and reel needs for going after freshwater monsters

The tackle needed for big cats is simple. A medium heavy or heavy action rod with a lighter, more sensitive tip is the ticket ! I love to see that rod tip bouncing and knowing that I’m getting a bite ! But when old big boy bows the rod over and he is on, you need some backbone to fight him and steep him to your net. No super secret here. There are blogs and reviews promoting specialized $200 rods, but that isn’t important. You can get good catfish rods for much,much less!

My favorite reels are the bait caster variety. I’ve heard so many people say they can’t cast a bait caster because of the monstrous bird nest backlashes. But in fact if you set the reel up as the indtructions show, you wont have a problem. The spool brake is the key. I have accumulated 9 ABU Garcia Ambassaduers over the years and they are my favorite reels for pretty much any big, freshwater fish. I set them up with the bait on the rig so that the weight is pretty close to what you will be using .

Turn the spool brake all the way so that it is tight and the bait will not fall when you press the cast button. Then slowly loosen the spool brake until the bait begins to fall. Whe you set it up,you want it to fall about 12 -24 inches slowly and stop. That’s perfect! Go fishing !

You’ll find that a rod with a good backbone and sensitive tip with a bait caster mounted on it is a great combination. Another good bait cast reel is the Daiwa Millionaire line of reels. They are less expensive than the Ambassaduers, but well made and will last for years.

Spinning reels are great too if that is your choice ! The key to any reel is a good drag. It might be a little extreme, but I tie a 20lb dumbbell I have had forever to the end of my line and adjust the drag where the spool barely starts to turn. I usually use 20 lb line so then I know the drag will slip before my line breaks. Sometimes I give or take drag on the fly while fighting a fish, but as a general rule I set it and forget it.

Want a secret? Those larger bank fish I have caught were earlier in my life when raising small children and didn’t have the budget to line up $500 worth of rod and reels on the bank. (I usually fish 3 rods from the bank) The rods I was using were spinning reel combos I bought at Wal-Mart for about $25 and still have them today.

Getting started is the key. Build your gear little by little as you go, if you want.

My best peice of advice !

The best peice of advice I can give you when you are starting a big boy only fishing venture is likely the simplest of tips!

Use only circle hooks. See that was simple! I use a 6/0 circle hook when going after the big ones. You can’t go wrong with a snelled or Palomar tied circle hook! When you get a fish on, he will either come to the bank or break off. It is seldom you will lose a fish with a circle hook.

The coolest thing about the circle hook is the bite! Whatever you do, don’t set the hook! Let the fish bend that rod over and not come up. Then grab it and reel him in. If you try to set the hook on the bite with a circle hook,you’ll likely miss the fish because of the design of the hook. Just let the fish hook himself. If you want you can do a few little jerks to make sure you have a deep hook set, but by in large when that rod bends over and doesn’t come up, you got him!

A 6/0 or 8/0 circle hook is great for live bait and big enough for large cut baits. You will hear the age old false myth that the bigger the hook, the bigger the fish. While that is true for some species I have never seen evidence of that with catfish.

I bought some huge kayle hooks once and rigged em up. These suckers must have been 10/0 or 12/0. They were big! That night I caught a bunch of 3-5 pound channel cats and one 8 pound Flathead. The catfish has a huge mouth even if it’s a smaller fish.

Bank versus Boat

Catfishing from a boat does give you some advantages you don’t have from the bank. The biggest 2 are deeper water and location. You can fish anywhere on the lake or river you want with a boat and you are usually limited on options from the bank because of access to certain areas. But that doesn’t mean you can’t catch big fish from the bank! Just find a bend in a river, or a deep drop off on a point at the lake and scout out ways to get there and set up.

Boats give you the option of drift fishing, anchoring on a ledge, fishing deep cover and a lot of other bonuses. But a little searching and you can find great spots to fish from the bank on almost any body of water. And another tip if you really want to get serious about it. You can buy GPS maps made just for fishing and some are specific to catfish. They show deep spots in the bend of a submerged river run and people mark way points where you can fish from a boat. With a little ingenuity you can use these same GPS maps from the bank.

The things arguments are made of, bait.

Catfish can be caught on a variety of things ! Chicken livers are popular, but are messy, hard to keep on the hook, and rarely catch big fish. Depending on where you are I much prefer to use Shad, Herring, or Bluegill. I have most of my blue cat catches on larger cut baits, and Flathead on live bait, but either can bite either bait. My favorite and go to bait is freshwater drum. The freshwater drum is fun to catch by themselves, and a decent size one can make several big cut baits!

I have friend who fishes many tournaments every year. He has a bait made of raw chicken marinated in pancake syrup and ketchup. Sounds nasty but he always has at least one rod fishing his secret bait. Well I guess it ain’t a secret now! Sorry Jim ! But the fact he does well on his chicken bait is just another evidence that you can catch catfish on many baits. I caught a 18-20 pound Flathead once on a vienna sausage ! I wouldn’t pin my hopes on a vienna sausage, but who knows.

Maybe you will discover your own secret bait one day! But a winning place to start is a medium size bluegill head on a 6/0 circle hook. And one more tip? Use a rattle bead or 2 on your rig. Put it above the hook. Maybe behind your swivel so that it doesn’t get on your hook. I’m finding lately that catfish seem to be drawn to the rattle noise. You can also Google Santee Rig. Tie that one on and you have a deadly combination! .

Catfishing is something that will stick with you!

This post has been a very simple starting point to go after some fresh water monsters! I just touched on a few things to get you started, and this post could go on and on. But there is enough info here to get you started and catching some big fish! There will be more information coming. Along with a deeper look into European style carp fishing which is one of my most passionate fishing pursuits! Yes I said carp.

Will you do me a favor? Post a comment below with your suggestions on how to improve this post or any post I have put up. Over time, I plan to do more advanced versions of these posts, but this one is a getting started format for those who want to get started and don’t know where to start.

If you have any comments or questions,I would appreciate it if you comment below.

Have a great day and See ya in the great outdoors !









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  1. I love how you started this article. Made me want to close my eyes, sit back and picture being on the water on an all-nighter 🙂 And great tip about the circle hooks. That’s a keeper for sure! Thanks for the great post!

    1. Thanks for the kind words Eric ! There will be a lot more coming as I break down some of my posts into
      more dedicated posts on each point . If you have any questions or I can help you please let me know that’s what I’m here for !
      Have a great day !

  2. Excellent post. I did not know cat fishing could be that easy. Just might try this myself. I was not interested in fishing until this post. You make it seem fun and inexpensive. I hope you participate in some of those fishing tournaments, Mike C. Would love to see a pic of you and a first place trophy.

    1. Thank you for the post Latricia! I’m glad you liked the post!
      If I can help you or answer any of your questions just let me know!
      P.S. I’ll put thise pictures up soon !

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