There are likely as many good catfishing tips as there are fishermen who go after this species. There is, of course, a good deal of advice given that is not all that useful, but it you heed the tips of experienced fishermen, you could become an expert at the sport rather quickly. Here are a dozen things worth knowing when pursuing catfish. You don’t necessarily need to remember all of them, but practicing at least a few can make a definite difference in the amount of luck you have while fishing.
1. Get the bait close to the fish. These fish are scavengers and opportunistic eaters. They are not apt to travel from one side of the river to the other in search of a meal, but will wait until something floats or swims by. They aren’t particularly picky eaters, but a good tip is to find what species of smaller fish frequent a given body of water. These are the species a catfish would most likely eat, and the most likely to take when used as bait. There’s nothing wrong with experimenting with different baits, though, and it often pays to bring more than one type along.
2. Learn how to follow seasonal patterns. What works for you in the spring may not work for you in the fall or winter. In addition, you’ll usually have better luck if you fish early and late in the day and not during midday. This rule applies to many species of fish, whether they are bottom-dwellers or not.
3. Use enough weight to keep your bait on the bottom. A flat sinker is best since it’s more current resistant. You won’t read anything about fly-fishing for these fish as they are bottom-dwellers and scavengers.
4. Fish the current breaks when fishing in rivers. This is where the fish are most likely to hang out. These fish prefer quiet or slower moving waters to fast flowing streams. In fact, your chances of catching one in a swift-moving river are virtually zero unless you locate a quiet spot. This may be one reason why fishing in channels is more popular and generally more productive. On the other hand, you do want to be fishing where there is at least some current, as these fish often rely on the currents to bring their meals to them. Some of the best catfishing tips you can receive are about learning to read the currents in a river or channel.
5. Fish with others. If two or more in the same boat are fishing with different baits or techniques, it can be quicker and easier to tell what the best method is. Also, if you fish with others, you tend to learn more about the sport, especially if you’re with someone who’s been catching these fish for years. There’s something to the belief that fishing and wisdom somehow go together.
6. Use monofilament line if you are just getting started. The pros often prefer a braided line, but monofilament can work in your favor, as it stretches. This often results in fewer lost fish. These fish can put up quite a fight and can fray a line quickly, but as you learn how to play them, your fishing lines will experience less wear and tear.
7. Select the right type of hook. You want a hook the fish can’t easily shake out. A circle hook is a very good choice and perhaps the best choice in this respect. The size of the hook can be important as well. Preferences vary, and it might be in your best interest to ask a few locals what they use.
8. Don’t set the hook right away. As far as hooking one of these fish is concerned, you need to be aware you aren’t fishing for bass or trout. Catfish don’t strike at a lure. They tend to mouth the bait. They start to pull away only when they’ve been hooked. If you try to set your rod or pole the instant you see the tip move, you’ll probably lose your fish.
9. Practice casting. This is especially true in windy conditions, which are often the norm when you’re out on the water. You want to position your casts to give the best presentation of the bait, which often means you need to make a precise cast in difficult situations. It can help to have a good supply of extra leaders on hand.
10. Learn which type of bait to use. Some species will strike on cut bait, while others are more apt to be attracted to live bait. Stink baits works too, as most any experienced fisherman will tell you.
11. For a different experience, try jugging. With jugging, the bait and sinker are on one end of the line and the other end is tied to a plastic gallon jug, which floats along the surface. This is a method used by many on long, straight stretches of slow-moving rivers. When a fish takes the bait, the jug takes off as well, usually downstream. The goal then becomes catching the jug rather than attempting to land the fish. Jug fishing only makes sense if you’re fishing from a boat, unless you don’t mind crashing through the brush with a long pole while trying to hook the jug. A larger fish will likely pull the jug underwater, but it can’t keep it there indefinitely. You may, however, have to exercise some patience.
12. Don’t limit yourself to one pole. Just as you are not limited to a single jug when jugging, you shouldn’t be limited to a single pole it you try bank pole fishing. The term fishing pole takes on what was perhaps its original meaning, as opposed to fishing rod. When bank pole fishing, a number of poles are placed along the bank of a river or channel. A line is tied to the pole and the bait, and the sinker is tied to the other end of the line. The tip here is to be in good physical condition, since you will be moving back and forth quickly in the event you begin to see some action. If you want to combine fishing with exercise, bank pole fishing is about the best way. If you don’t want to put up with the hassle of planting poles in the mud, which is usually the best way to firmly secure them, you can try a variation of bank pole fishing. It’s called limb line fishing. Simply tie your baited lines onto the branches of trees or shrubs that grow along the bank.
Of these catfishing tips, the most valuable one of all is fishing with someone who has experience. This is usually the quickest way to become consistently good at the sport. One more piece of advice worth considering is not to spend a fortune on your fishing gear. A long stick placed in the mud or a gallon milk jug can be as effective as a $100 rod and reel.