How to Catch Catfish

Archive / Fishing Guides / April 3, 2017
Catfish are one of the most popular fish around to catch. Why? Well they’re a common species that can reach from 50 to 100 pounds. They’re excellent table fare and they’re fun to catch. They’re also easy to find, making their home in most all major and minor waterways around the US.

We’ve got all the info you need to catch some catifsh you can brag about

How to Catch Catfish


Blue, Channel, and Flathead are the most common types of Catfish. Easily recognized by their whiskers, they don’t have scales like other fish. They’re also not a fish to be trifled with due to their various spines, one on the top dorsal fin and one on each pectoral fin.

The Environment of Catfish

Catfish are classified as warm-water fish. They prefer water temperatures in the 70s to 80s. They live in almost every body of water imaginable, except for portions of the west. Most of them can tolerate muddy and unclear water but despite the popular myth, they don’t survive well in low oxygen or polluted waters. Each breed spawn in the late spring or early summer, just as water temperature levels reach the desires 70-degree mark. During these times, look for catfish near holes or sunken logs or boulders.

What Do Catfish Eat?

Another popular myth is that catfish like to eat dead or rotting meat. They point to the success of stinkbait as proof. However, while not incorrect, its not entirely true. Catfish much prefer live or fresh meals to a dead rotting one. In their normal diets, catfish rarely each rotting flesh.

Where to find Catfish

Where to find Catfish In Rivers:

Shallow backwaters where catfish can create spawning sites. Fish for carfish in cavities in rocks and ripraps are great areas to find catfish. Tail-waters below dams where catfish collect because of the concentration of forage fish is one of the best places to catch massive catfish. Any other deep channel or hole is likely to hold some nice sized catfish.

Where to find Catfish in Lakes:

When fishing for catfish in lakes, look for them in the remnants of timbered flats. Creek arms extending into larger bodies of water before the spawn are sure fire spots. Deep channels or open water is also bound to hold catfish.

How to Catch Catfish

Catfishing takes many different forms. Simple catfishing might utilize ultra-light tackle with 3 to 3-pound line, bringing in a 1 to 2-pound catfish. While more serious intense catfishing utilizes 80-pound braided line and aims to bring in state news worthy 100+ pound catfish. The most fun aspect of catfishing, is that you never know just how big your next fish will be. Generally, catfish bite best when the water temperature is 70-degrees or so.

Still Fishing

Still fishing is the most obvious way of catching catfish. Due to the strong sense of smell possessed by the catfish, most anglers can cast and wait, allowing big cats to come to them. They utilize strong smelling baits, or stinkbaits, letting the scent draw the fish in. Slip-sinker fishing is one of the most common techniques. It allows a catfish to mouth the rig without feeling any tension in the line, allowing a clean hookset before the fish can detect the hook in the bait. However, when fishing in cover that easily produces snags, it is prudent to keep the bait snubbed closely to the hook so the cat can’t swim around and tangle it in cover. Most big cats don’t mind a little resistance, smaller ones certainly do though.

Drift Fishing

Drift Fishing is more effecting than still fishing, especially when catfish are spread over a large area. Drift fishing is when anglers rig a few rods on the edges of each gunwale of a boat. Each rod is rigged with a small sinker and a live (or cut) bait with the sinker allowing the bait to float just off the bottom. Using 8 or 9 foot rods should give you the ability to cover a 30 foot breadth of water.

Best Catfish Bait

The best catfish bait depends on how you plan to use it. If you plan on still fishing, you’re going to want the a bait that gives off some scent (not rotten scents). Active fishing would require more of a crankbait. Each type of fishing has its advantages and disadvantages.


Gulp! Catfish Dough is great catfish bait for still fishing. It is designed to with big chunks of a natural bait scent and flavor. It disperses scent effectively over a wide area of water. The chunks help create an ever stronger and larger scent field than normal dough. Its molded into mid-sized nuggets, making it easy to rig on treble hooks or other catfish style hooks. Sometimes the Gulp! Catfish dough breaks apart. If you simply dip some in a little water and press it against the hook, it should remold against the hook well enough to work just fine.

Catfish Bubblegum is also a great Still Fishing bait for catfish.  One of the great things about this Catfish bait is it doesn’t make your hands stink.  It also tends to stick to the hook right out of the can better than other stink baits. You can also freeze it to make it last longer, so it wont go bad if you can’t make it out to the lake for a few weeks.


Alternatively, in order to use chunk/stink baits more efficiently, learn how to tie an Egg Loop Knot to better hold the bait. Egg Loop Knots have a special line loop which tightens the bait directly to the hook, allowing for better hook ups and better bait retention.

Active Fishing Lures

The Rapala shad is a common suggestion here at Tackle Reports. Its catches everything. The balsa wood construction enhances the legendary wounded minnow action already present in Rapala lures. The slip natural baitfish profile tricks catfish in to biting more than other lures. This lure is excellent for casting or trolling. It is designed to be fished at ultra slow speeds to super fast speeds.

Berkley Gulp Alive! Jerk Shad Soft Bait works well for catfish. Most anglers use them to target big bass, but don’t count them out for catfish. the great action and trademarked Gulp Alive! scent and flavor concoction always attracts fish who rely on scent, like catfish. 

Final Thought

Get ready for some good fishing and some good eating. Catfishing can be a sport to pass along to generations to come because it is an opportunity to fish, relax and spend time making memories. Catfish are a part of many fishing stories and now, with the information above, you can create your own. Happy Fishing!

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