21 Catfishing Tips To Help Fill Your Next Trip
It doesn’t matter who you talk to… the first time someone hooks into a big catfish, they’re hooked for life and there is no cure. The only solution to the ailment?
Catching more catfish!
Without missing a beat, ask any angler that loves pulling heavyweights up from the depths and they’ll tell you the first thing they think about when they get home from one trip is how soon they’re going to get to go out and do it again.
Since we can’t all live on the water (our families miss us from time, to time), the best we have is consuming as much as we can before we get out on the water again.
At Tackle.org, we’re not one to ever hold you back from your missing, which is why we’re bringing to you the 21 Best Catfishing Tips To Help Fill Your Next Trip.
What’s better than catching -a- fish? Catching more catfish.
From blues, to bullheads, channels, and even in the salt, this often overlooked species puts up an amazing fight — and some even taste great fileted and deep fried — so if you’re new (or you know there’s always more to know) check out these tips…
And make sure to report back when you use them!
Here are 21 time-proven catfishing tips and answers to the most common questions all anglers can use, whether you’re fishing from the bank or off the boat, they’re guaranteed to help you land more of your favorite trophies!
#1 – What are the best catfish species to eat?
This is, by far, the biggest question that comes through any time people figure out they are practically surrounded by catfish, finding them in nearly every body of water around them.
Which are the best catfish to eat? Which ones should we throw back?
- Flatheads: Nearly zero mud / catfish taste. Amazing.
- Blues: Distinct taste, commonly eaten for food.
- Channels: Firmer than most, stronger fish-y taste.
- Sailfish: Salty taste, not usually recommended.
- Mudcats: Taste like the bottom of the lake.
- Hardheads: Avoid at all costs. Very strong taste.
In general, the most common types of catfish you can buy from a restaurant or the grocery store are going to be flatheads. They have the least fishy taste, take seasons well, and taste great either baked, pan seared & blackened, or deep fried.
This isn’t to say you can’t eat the rest… some people prefer them over flatheads but we have to say when it comes to ease of cleaning, cooking, and a light flavor, flatheads are hard to beat.
#2 – Which is better? Catfishing from a boat or land?
This is an age-old question that comes down to which do you prefer?
If you have a boat you have access to a wider range of waters but you’re going to spend most of your time looking for fish.
However, if you’re fishing off the dock or from the bank you can let the fish come to you… and they’re usually always going to come to you. As far as we’re concerned, fishing from the dock or bank is the best way to catch catfish.
With that being said… you’d be a fool if you didn’t want to hit deeper waters to find those massive trophies that hang out on the bottom and barely move. They’re the type that lets food come to them, which can be hard to do when you’re stuck on land.
Here’s how we look at it: if you’re going for dinner, fish from land and make a trip out of it. If you’re hunting for trophies, you’re probably going to want to grab a boat and head out to deeper waters.
#3 – How do you avoid losing fish all of the time?
If you’re constantly breaking off fish (especially bigger catfish), you know the frustration of losing money and watching your trophy or your dinner swim away. There’s a few reasons this happens and they usually rely on you and your catfish gear.
The first thing you can do is learn how to tie a proper knot. By far, one of the best knots we’ve ever found for catfishing is the Palomar knot. (See the video below)
Next, you’ll want to make sure you’re treating your gear better than most anglers. If you’ve never re-strung your line, checked the first few feet of your line for knicks and cuts, or done anything more than toss your gear in the back of the truck when you’re done… it’s time to change.
The biggest cause of losing fish is improperly rigged gear and gear that gets used, abused, and then tossed aside until the next trip. If you’re having problems losing fish it might be time to restring your line and spend a few more seconds checking before each cast.
This is especially true for you trophy hunters — quit losing big fish!
#4 – Do I need a ton of tackle to go catfishing?
While you might see some anglers load up the entire back of their truck before they head out on the water, the gear that you actually need to catch catfish is relatively minimal.
Here’s what we recommend taking, so you know you’re never going to get caught in a situation where you’re unprepared, but you’re also not lugging in more gear than you need:
- Rod: Rippin’ Lips Super Cat Casting Rod w/ Glow Tip (7’6” MH)
- Reel: Pflueger President SP20X Spinning Reel
- Net: Cumings Salmon & Steelhead Net
- Holder: Croch Bank Pole Stand Rod Holders
- Hooks: Catfish Sumo Heavyweight Catfish Hooks
- Baits: Magic Bait Catfish Original Liver & Cheese Big Bite
- Pliers: Piscifun Aluminum Pliers & Hook Remover
The rest comes down to your rigging.
Some anglers are using Carolina rigs, others are using Texas rigs, and some even figure out dropshotting a live bait is an amazing way to pull trophies up from the bottom.
#5 – Do catfish stink baits actually work?
Do trees fall in the forest?
Of course they work! But not for the reasons most people think…
Most anglers (and beginners) assume that catfish -need- the stick in order to bite, because they’re garbage hunting scavengers that will eat anything you put in front of their face.
That simply isn’t the case.
With catfish being bottom feeders (for the most part), they have weakened eyesight but have developed other senses they can use to find food. The biggest (and most important) is their swim bladder… it feels vibrations in the water, essentially ringing the catfish’s dinner bell.
However, if you’re trying to attract fish -to you-… stink baits act like chum in the water and, yes, they do work. Sometimes they’re all a big fish will want to eat — a stinky, bloody piece of something that resembles food.
If you’ve never tried a stinkbait on a treble hook for catching dinner, give it a shot. Below is our #1 recommended catfish stinkbait that’s been proven to work and stay on the hook.
|1||Cjs catfish shad punch bait 1 gal.||$34.99||Amazon|
|2||Catfish Charlie Dough Bait, Full Stringer, 14 oz tub||$13.99||Amazon|
|3||Mr. Whiskers Cheese Catfish Punch Bait - Pint||$19.88||Amazon|
#6 – What is the best line for catfishing?
This is an age-old debate, and there really aren’t any “right” answers. What we can say is this… catfish have sandpaper for lips and if your line isn’t up to snuff, you’re going to lose fish.
There’s a few ways to fix the problem. The first is to use a higher poundage test line, usually 5-10 pounds over the weight of the fish you’re planning on targeting. Fluorocarbon completely disappears, but monofilament has a bit more give in it.
We’ve figured out that spooling with braided line saves space on the reel and helps us maintain that “firm” attachment to the hook so we can feel even the slightest ticks — while also being able to fish in the thicker stuff.
We’ve also figured out that catfish tend to avoid braided line attached to a hook. That means you need to use some form of leader and learn to tie line-to-line knots that won’t slip. It is a bit more advanced, but “hiding” the last 2-3 feet of line increases your hookups.
Hiding the last few feet of the line has another effect, too. Since fluorocarbon line wants to float, using it for your leader will help add to the buoyancy, keeping your baits up off the bottom — right in the zone a big cat can come through for a quick snack.
Here’s the best 3 lines for catfishing we’ve found:
- Braided: Power Pro Spectra Fiber Braided Fishing Line
- Monofilament: Shaddock Super Power Mono
- Fluorocarbon: Seaguar Blue Label Fluorocarbon Leader
#7 – What are the best catfishing hooks to use?
There’s two schools of thought on this one — either circle hooks or treble hooks. Which you pick depends on what you intend to do with the fish after you catch if.
Are you planning on catching dinner? Never leave home without a treble hook on your line.
Going on a catch-and-release trip? Do the environment a favor and use circle hooks. They help!
Treble hooks are almost guaranteed to never lose a fish (because of their design) but do tend to lead to more hangups, snags, and can be a royal pain to take out of a fish’s mouth that you intended to release after you caught it.
Circle hooks grab the fish in the corner of the mouth (for easy catch and release) but tend to have a harder time holding onto your baits once you cast. Big, chunky catfish baits like having the full treble hook to grab onto.
We’ve found two brands that have worked flawlessly, don’t bend on big fish, and don’t get dull after you hit a few snags here and there.
|Gamakatsu Circle Offset Point Octopus Hook-Pack Of 25 (Black, 7/0)||$13.38||Amazon|
#8 – What makes a good catfishing reel?
When it comes to catching catfish there’s only two things you need to worry about — how much line you can stuff on the reel, and how good the drag system is.
While big cats don’t tend to run the length of a football field to get away, they do run hard from time to time. That means your drag needs to be able to withstand the punishment without bumping and jarring, potentially snapping your line and losing the fish.
There’s more than a few dozen different reels you can choose from, which is why we’ve put in the work to help you uncover only the best catfishing reels available.
From our research, the best reel you can use is one with a high bearing count, aluminum or titanium internals, a carbon drag system, and able to hold 150+ yards of line, comfortably.
Fitting that bill?
Click here to check out the best of the best catfishing reels available.
#9 – What are some good catfishing rods?
In general, a “good” rod, or the “best” catfishing rods are going to be something in the 6ft to 7ft length, with a medium or heavy power and fast action. This gives the rod plenty of cushion to absorb bigger fish and avoid breaking them off.
You want a rod that can handl 15-25lb test lines, guides that are smooth (usually titanium) and a 1-piece design. Big fish can easily break a rod where the sections come together if you haven’t cinched them down perfectly.
Think about the weight of the “lures” (stinkbaits and livebaits) that you’re going to be throwing because some typically weigh over an ounce — and that puts a ton of stress on your rod.
Click here if you want to see the best catfishing rods we’ve reviewed in 2019.
Or take a quick look at 3 of the most highly rated rods below.
|1||Rippin Lips Super Cat Casting Rod with Glow Tip, 7-Feet 6-Inch/Medium-Heavy||$39.99||Amazon|
|2||Ugly Stik Catfish Casting Fishing Rod||$39.95||Amazon|
|3||Abu Garcia VENGC76-7 Abu Garcia Vengeance Casting Rod, 7'6" - Heavy||from $43.72||Amazon|
#10 – Are catfish scavenger hunters, eating whatever?
This is a common myth and one that tends to fuel the stinkbait industry.
Anglers around the world have been perpetuating the belief that catfish are scavenger hunters, like sharks, and will eat just about anything you put in front of their face.
While it may seem like that’s true, it simply isn’t.
Even though the best way to get their attention is with a bait soaked in blood or fish oils, catfish have a highly refined diet and won’t just accept everything put in front of them.
Colors, vibrations, the look (and feel), as well as the scent all play a role in getting a catfish (especially a big trophy that’s been around the block a few times) to take what you’re trying to offer them up for dinner.
So even though it seems like you can use just about anything, there are a handful of proven catfishing baits and lures that keep you from guessing — or looking around the kitchen pantry for stuff you can take out with you.
#11 – Can you catch catfish with your hands?
Believe it, or not, there are parts of the world (primarily the deep south in the United States of America) where some anglers prefer to catch catfish with their hands…
It’s called “noodling” and it’s just as insane as it sounds.
Picture this… you’re on a big river or lake, you know there are trophy catfish hiding along the banks, and you set out to find their holes. Once you find them…?
…you shove your hand down into it and hope it’s a catfish you grabbed and a snapping turtle doesn’t grab you.
Check out the video below for more proof that noodling and hand-fishing for catfish is one of the most insane “sports” on planet earth. Pass the beer when you’re done.
While we don’t necessarily recommend you do it (and can’t be held responsible if you reach in and grab the wrong species, or animal altogether), we can’t deny that it’s a pretty unique way to nab some of the biggest trophies of your life.
#12 – Where are the best places to find catfish?
Reading the water (even when you can’t see under it) is a skill that we recommend every angler learn how to do — but very few will do it successfully.
Catfish are like every other predator species once they’re big enough to eat other fish, and like every other prey species until they get to that point.
Stop and think about how smaller baitfish and preyfish react, where they like to hide out, and what it is that’s giving them the security they need to feel.
If you can locate those areas (pretty much any change in scenery when you’re on the water, or changes in the bank structure if you’re on land) you can find fish 100% of the time. Points, flats, humps, mounds, weeds, random stickups, you name it — if it’s different, it will attract fish.
#13 – What is the best bait for flathead catfish?
Flatheads, for the most part, are known for eating just about any type of live bait you can stick in front of them — from sunfish, to bluegills, creek chubs, and even other catfish.
Some anglers prefer to use a ball of earthworms wriggling and wiggling on the hook or gizzard shad hooked through the dorsal fin.
As you can see, the best bait you can get for a flathead is going to be alive and well… right before it gets eaten. So what can you use if you’re not a fan of live baits but still want to chase your favorite trophy flatheads…?
Pretty much any stinkbait you can get in front of them with these flavors (fish oils, especially) are going to attract the big flatheads. And remember: the bigger the bait, the bigger the fish.
Here’s our favorite stinkbait for flathead catfish:
#14 – What is the best catfish bait for bullheads?
The bullhead catfish is a unique animal in that it will eat almost anything you put in front of it, based on where you can usually find them — in some of the most polluted waters on earth.
Flathead catfish don’t mind high toxin, low-oxygen environments where other species tend to go off floating belly up. That means the baits you use to fish for them need to be similar to what they can already get — other bullhead catfish.
You heard that right.
Swimbaits or actual live / cutbait bullheads in the 4” to 6” range are some of the best baits you could ever use for large bullheads.
If you’re searching for the smaller ones? A hotdog soaked in strawberry koolaid and garlic or some chicken livers doused in garlic are two of your best options — and readily available.
When you want grab and go? Believe it, or not, but the Gulp! Alive! Saltwater shrimp make amazing bullhead catfish baits. And you can recharge them when they lose their stink.
#15 – What is the best bait for channel catfishing?
Channel catfish are some of the most plentiful and easy to find but that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re easy to catch!
Just kidding. Channel cats will eat just about any foul-smelling, wiggling and squirming piece of chunkbait you put in front of them.
Dip baits, stinkbaits, and cutbaits are all preferred go-to’s when you’re chasing big channel cats because they simply work. Since channel cats tend to eat on the move, you want something stinky enough to get and keep their attention as they’re passing through.
This means you want a bait that leaks out the smell, and slowly breaks apart, while still maintaining a tight ball on your hook — to give the cat something to munch on.
|Triple S (Sonny's Super Sticky) Channel Cat Bait - Blood 45 Ounces||$39.99||Amazon|
#16 – What are the best catfishing fishing rigs?
When it comes to rigging your baits to stay in a catfish’s strike zone, there’s only one rule to follow (and one myth to debunk): keep your baits off the bottom.
It’s a timeless myth and one that never seems to stop getting repeated… that catfish are bottom feeders and spend their time mowing along the mud waiting for something to fall into their lips.
This isn’t the case.
While they do feed on the bottom, the food they eat is rarely found -on- the bottom. In other words, they smell something, then they see it floating around, and they go get a better look.
That means your rigs need to be weighted, so they stay on the bottom, while also making sure that the bait, itself, is able to flow 6” to 24” above the bottom — where the catfish see your offering and don’t have to waste energy searching for it.
Leaving your bait directly on the bottom can catch fish, but once you “float” it above the bottom you’ll wonder what other mistakes you’ve been making.
The best rigs, by far, are pre-rigged Carolina and Slip Rigs. Carolina rigs are great for covering large areas and Slip Rigs are perfect for bringing the bigger fish to you.
|10pcs Fishing Carolina Ready Rigs with Brass bullet weights||$20.90||Amazon|
#17 – What is the best time of day to catch catfish?
There’s only one rule of thumb when it comes to picking the best time to go catfishing — if you put the dinner in front of their face they do not care what time of day it is.
But, there’s a caveat.
Fish typically look upwards for their meal — which means if the sun is shining high above them (during the noon hours) you’re going to have a hard time getting them to look up — they’ll get blinded by the light.
However, if you’re trying to go fishing in the dark you’re going to need another way to attract them to your baits. There’s all sorts of gadgets and gizmos to help out, but we’ve figured something out most won’t let you in on…
If you want to catch trophies, avoid the noontime hours. If you want to catch a mess of smaller fish, going in the afternoon works great. For true trophy hunting, though, you’ll want to wait until the sun goes down and all the other fish start getting active.
That’s when big cats eat the most.
#18 – What is the biggest catfish species ever caught?
We all know catfish grow to enormous sizes, but how big can they actually get?
As big as a shark, in some areas. A man in Thailand recently nabbed a Mekong River Catfish that weighed in at more than 640 pounds, making it the largest freshwater catfish ever caught.
At nearly 9 feet long and as big as a small grizzly bear, the giant Mekong River Catfish was a sight to behold. While you may not necessarily encounter any Mekong River catfish in your local waters, don’t let that discourage you from hunting the trophies.
#19 – How to catch catfish from the bank in a lake.
If you’re stuck on land (or you prefer relaxing by the water instead of on the water), catching catfish doesn’t have to be any harder. You just have to stop and smell the roses.
Here’s what we mean.
Every bank that you fish from is going to be different, and every “small” species of creature you can find on that bank is going to be different, too.
For instance, one bank may contain a large number of frog tadpoles and mudpuppies (baby salamanders). When this happens, you want to fish with one or the other.
For other waters, you may only find small sunfish and frogs. You can safely assume that any catfish you’re targeting from that bank will primarily feast upon sunfish and frogs — and you should match your bait to their hatch. So to speak.
Fishing from the bank requires you to get creative — some anglers actually use plastic swimbaits and lures coupled with stinkbaits to attract the true trophies from the depths… without ever leaving the comfort of the bank.
One of our favorite baits for fishing from the bank is Gulp! Lures. You can find them to match just about any “hatch” you want to duplicate.
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#20 – How to catch catfish in rivers.
If you’re hunting the biggest and the baddest, you’re going to have to go deep in some of the biggest rivers around the countryside. Big trophies didn’t get that way by being lucky!
This single factor is what drags so many catfishing enthusiasts down to the riverside, only to realize that fishing for them is completely different, too. Finding big fish in flowing rivers can be some of the most frustrating — and rewarding — experiences in your life.
To find them quickly and easily, you’re going to need to examine the shoreline or use a depth finder. Depending on whether you’re fishing from the bank or a boat, the amount of time you spend exploring will vary dramatically.
If you’re on the bank, you can walk along until you come across something different — a piece of land that shoots out into the water, a set of sunken logs, a big hole where the current changes direction or the top of the water looks different.
If you’re on the boat? Turn on your fishfinder and start scanning until you find those deep holes where the big boys (and girls) spend their days laying around waiting for a meal to show up.
|Garmin Striker 4 with Transducer, 3.5" GPS Fishfinder with CHIRP Traditional Transducer||$99.98||Amazon|
#21 – How to catch catfish in a pond.
This is, by far, one of the most relaxing ways to catch catfish — and a whole bunch of them!
Whether you’re going for trophies, for the evening, or to load your cooler, small ponds, creeks, lakes, tributaries, and rivers are amazing for getting out of the house and loading up on stories for days.
Catching fish from the bank is easy to do, but requires more patience than having a fishfinder on the boat with the ability to move from deep hole to deep hole.
The best way to increase your chances? Use multiple rods and reels, and take a few baits with you when you go. Give them some choices and you’ll figure out which one works best that night.
All you need is a good chair, a cooler, a rod holder, and your rod & reel. A good book, your radio, or a show on Netflix, and you’re ready to go.
|PORTAL Lightweight Backrest Stool Compact Folding Chair Seat with Cooler Bag and Shoulder Straps for...||$34.99||Amazon|
|ENGEL Cooler/Dry Box with 4 Rod Holders - 19 Qt - Tan||$69.99||Amazon|
Have any catfishing tips of your own?
Even though this list is massive, we know every angler is different. Spread the wealth!
If you have any tips of your own you think we (and our readers) can use, feel free to share them by leaving a comment below!