How to Fish for Catfish – River, Lake, Pond and Night Fishing Tips

How to Fish for Catfish

Catfish are popular because they are delicious and are one of the most caught fishes on the planet. Catching catfish can be fun. They are good fighters and willing biters. You can catch catfish from shore or by using a vessel. In this guide, we’ll be giving you hints on how to fish for catfish.

The best and simplest way to catch catfish is with the help of a slip-sinker. Simply include a float above the weight on a slip-sinker rig, move the bait gently via wood-rich catfish habitat or over weed without getting it hooked on the bottom or any cover. Drifting a float also help cover an extensive area of water. A jig head tipped with bait is another effective method of catching catfish.

Catfish is an awesome sport fish. Due to its prominence and the fact that catfish meat is delicious, you’ll find several anglers eager to catch this fish. Catching catfish is a headache for some anglers, while for others, it’s a walk in the park. To be a pro in catfishing, you have to know how to do it right with the best techniques and tackle. In this guide, we’ll be filling you in on how to capture catfish in a lake, river, pond and at night.

If you would like to know the best time of day to catch these species and much more, all the information is provided in other article about cats.

How to Fish for Catfish?

Catfish are one of the most undervalued fishes in the country. Not only is this fish delicious, it can grow big, and they are amazing fighters. Some anglers out there are familiar with the name catfish, however, they are don’t know that there exist more than one species of catfish. And for every type of catfish you encounter, you may have to use a different fishing tactic because their difference vary slightly.

How to Fish for Catfish

There exist three major types of catfish that are targeted in the U.S. and they include, Blue Catfish, Channel Catfish, and Flathead Catfish. These variety of catfish can be seen in the same water hunting for similar prey, however, they are different. With that being said, how do you fish for catfish?

There are 4 main methods of catching these fishes, which are:

  • Drifting
  • Strolling
  • Doodlesocking
  • Slip Corking

Drifting method:

The drifting method is one of the most common catfishing technique. This method is about casting baits out one side of the vessel (usually with several rods) and pulling baits along the bottom while the wind propels the boat. This catfishing tactic helps you cover a good area of water. If you are a beginner, this is a good tactic for you. It will definitely help in your quest on how to fish for catfish.

In your quest to capture catfish, ensure you adopt reels with baitclicker (if interested, the best options available on Amazon are provided in this article) especially if you like to multitask. A baitclicker is like an alarm, it will alert you when a fish is on the line.


The strolling tactic is similar to the drifting method. However, the main difference between the two tactics is that, for the strolling, rods are usually run off the back of the boat instead of the side. In addition, the boat is not propelled by the wind, rather, it is propelled with the aid of a trolling motor.


This method is mainly used to capture channel catfish. Doodlesocking involves releasing baits in and around rocks including rip rap shores to catch spawning channel catfish. This is a good tactic to use for capturing catfish in the summer months.

Slip Corking:

This method involves the use of slip bobbers to catch catfish. The slip corking technique is common for catching channel catfish.

River Fishing for Catfish:

Catching catfish is a thrilling adventure and experience. Most anglers often look forward to the fascinating fight and the happy moment when they eventually land their catch. Catfish can be caught in lakes, rivers, and ponds. Mind you, catching catfish in these bodies of water requires separate technique and approach in general. Let’s start with river fishing for catfish. How do you catch catfish in a river?

To be successful in catfish river fishing, you must be equipped with the right knowledge and skills. Forget about the skills used in other forms of catfishing as they may be ineffective. Rather you’ll need to learn and adopt a whole new different approach. It isn’t difficult, trust me.

Below are some helpful tips:

Location is very important:

River Fishing for Catfish

Indeed, when it comes to capturing catfish in a river, your location matters, a lot. You need to find catfish before you think of capturing it, right? Of course. That is why you need to be in the right location, unless, you may end up searching that river day and night with little or no result.

Even if you decide to try the popular drift fishing, you still need to drift fish in the right location to stand a chance. So where do you look at?

During daytime, search those deep holes, deeper waters, and concealed structures. They are the best places to look at when in search of catfish in a river.

There are some exemptions to this, however…

In some locations of the river, you can locate catfish in shallow water or water that isn’t too deep. But, for the most part, simply adhere to the statistics.

The use of proper tackle is important:

I’m very sure you must have heard this countless times. However, i will keep on emphasizing on this because it is of great importance. To catch catfish in a river, you need a strong tackle that can withstand the aggressive nature of this fish.

You can leverage technology:

Don’t fail to consider technology when targeting catfish, especially if you plan on fishing in a river. Technology, just as it has always done, will always enhance your efforts in hunting and detecting the ideal location of catfish.

Trust me, catfish are clever, and sly. They are also good hiders, especially when they perceive danger, no matter how little. With the aid of the right technology, you can find this creature even if they are holed up in a structure of a deep hole. You can make use of sonar and fish finding technology to help in your effort to locate this fish. This technology won’t just help save your precious time, it will save you the effort as well.

To be successful, fish at night or early morning:

Just like location, time is also an important factor when it comes to catfishing. If you fish at the wrong time, you may end up coming back home with nothing but frustration written all over your face.

By fishing at the right time in a river, you can aim at those catfish strolling more shallow water in search of their daily bread. If you are fishing with the aid of a vessel, you can scout even the deepest river with the help of technology like a fish finder. On the other hand, you can make use of your instinct. Adopt the necessary tools including this technique to your benefit.

Using the right bait is crucial:

Bait selection is important regardless of the type of fish that you are targeting. It doesn’t matter if it is a redfish, a bass, etc., you must ensure that you adopt the right bait.

There are a variety of baits out there so the first step to take when selecting a bait is to determine the size of catfish you intend to catch. If you are considering a catfish of more than 10lb, you should make use of live and cut bait like shad. On the other hand, if you are targeting the total count and your aim is to catch as many catfish as you can (regardless of the size), then you can make use of any bait.

Understand water movement:

To be a skilled angler, you must be able to read and understand various water movements. The same applies to river fishing for catfish.

This strictly apply to those who aren’t technology fanatics. If you don’t have a taste for technology, you should be read to learn the art of reading water movements.

In rivers, sometimes you can keep an eye out for the left and right moving current. At the end of such current where the water seems to be still, can signify a deep area of a good “catfish hole.”

This fish cherish residing in these locations of deeper water at the sides of the current and where mobile water flows.

Where the turbulent water concludes, is the perfect spot for catfish; remember this.

Consider those river bridges:

Bridges are present in several rivers. Of course, they can be an annoying place to search for fish. However, they offer catfish the cover they need to hide themselves. You will definitely find some catfish hiding near bridge including other structures or covers. But if you don’t, then you can go ahead and curse your luck because that happens in very rare occasions.

Always consider drifting fishing:

Drift fishing isn’t just popular as far as catfishing is concerned, it is as well effective because it can help you catch lots of catfish. If you maintain a steady controlled drift and adopt the right piece of cut bait, you can end up with a huge catch.

Remain patient and ensure that you operate slowly. Adopt sonar and fish-finding gadgets to assist in your search.

Where the log jams and woods are, is where the catfish will be:

Like earlier said, catfish love structures because it protects them from impending danger like human and other fishes. The more structures you see, the better your chances of fishing catfish in that area. This fish are known for their affinity for structures and coverings such as log jams, brush, including other types of wood.

Thus, the task is very simple. If you locate these areas on the river you are fishing on, you will likely return home smiling.

Clicking drag on your baitcaster is a must:

If the reel you use isn’t equipped with a clicking drag, purchase a kit and install it on your reel. This can make a difference in your quest to catch catfish on a river. A clicking drag will notify you when a catfish hits your bait or is playing around it.

Make use of the right fishing line:

This will vary based on the fishing method you decide to adopt. If you decide to go with the popular drift fishing, a mono-filament line is good. However, a braided line is more effective. It will help prevent snags including other underwater components.

Look out for live bait:

Catfish like to loiter in areas close to their prey. So the trick is to find these areas. You can do this with a sonar or other effective fish finding tech.

Look for a school of shad or other live bait using your sonar gadget. If you can get the location of this baitfish then you will definitely find one or more catfish lurking by.

Lake fishing for Catfish:

Just like river fishing for cats, lake fishing for catfish requires a whole different approach. Catfish are present in several lakes across the United States. Depending on where you decide to fish, a lake may harbor huge catfish or little ones. Flatheads, channel, and blue are known as popular lake residents, including their smaller bullhead relative. In fact, it might thrill you to know that the world record brown and black bullhead were actually caught in a lake.

To record success in lake fishing adventure, you must know how to lake fish for catfish, and here is how:

Several factors are responsible for your catfishing success on lakes. These factors are: barometric pressure, water temperature, including the season. Lake fishing for cats can be easy if you know what to do. It requires techniques deigned for this type of water body and the use of the appropriate fishing gear.

Lake fishing for Catfish

Adopt the appropriate fishing gear:

When fishing for catfish in a lake, it is important that you are armed with the right fishing gear. Have it in mind that catfish are aggressive eaters so ensure that whatever gear you are choosing is strong enough to withstand their aggressive bite. We have made a good list of the gears you should be using when searching for cats in a lake.


A good hook can enhance your chances of catching catfish. When considering a hook, ensure you go for heavy gauge hooks of size 2 or 4. You can also decide to use a hook as big as 6/0.

Hook links:

Do not use a hook link lighter than 25lb. If you are after catfish or you are worried about an assault from the catfish, you can consider using a hook link of 45lbs. If you are very keen on capturing big catfish go for heavier hook links.


According to most fishing rules, you are supposed to use 15lb mainline. However, this rule has been branded “ineffective.” In the year 2016, the minimum was increased to 30lbs. Using heavier or bigger mainline wouldn’t hinder your chances of landing a good catfish, of course not. You see, fishing with strong gears is the best way to fish.

Rig tubing:

Rig tubing is very important as it helps safeguard the mainline near the lead due to the rigid structure of male catfish. This sharp bony structure which is located on the top sides of a male catfish pectoral fins can slice through an unprotected mainline during a fight.

To ensure that the rig tubing can’t move up the line during a brawl, make use of a short piece pole elastic to secure the rig tubing. Doing so keeps the rig tubing in place and also doesn’t affect its functionality.


The rod you’ll use depends on the size of catfish you are after. If you are after a big cat, you should consider a rod of at least 3lb. However, if you are very keen you can go for higher fishing rods, such as those of 6lbs.


To capture a fish as stubborn as a catfish, you will need to equip yourself with the best reel. One of those strong penn reels should do.

Bait to use:

The best bait to use when targeting catfish in a lake is a cut bait like shad. The savory smell from a newly killed prey can entice cats who have a great sense of smell. Fresh is more effective than frozen. If you feel like you’ll be out in the lake for a prolonged period of time, then keep a product like Team Catfish Dead Red Blood Spray ready to include fresh scent to your cutbait.

Find the ideal location:

Cats are not really regarded as an energetic fish, thus, they find shelter in places that conceal them and enable them strike at their prey. As far as lake fishing for catfish is concerned, this important as it helps you understand where to cast your bait. You can find cats around various structures and holes. Keep an eye out for places with bridge or logjams where there is a minimum water flow.

Before you hit the lake, carry out an in-depth research of the area you want to fish. This can be easily done with the aid of several fishing applications like Fishidy or Navionics.

Catching Catfish in a Pond:

A pond, though smaller than a lake and a river, harbors the famous catfish. Catching catfish in a pond requires the use of different tactics and gears. Though a pond may seem like an easy place to catch cats, however, if you lack the right insight on how it is done, you’ll fail. I’ve put together a guide on how to effortlessly capture catfish in a pond.

Catching catfish in a pond can be easy if you know the tricks. Below are some helpful tips:

Get the appropriate location:

This doesn’t just concern fishing in a pond, it cuts across all types of fishing. Finding the right location is key to your success. In ponds, cats are known to navigate deep areas so keep an eye out for holes. If you see a rock, a pile, or a dam, there is a huge possibility that the fishes are in such location.

Move like a thief:

Cats are very sensitive creatures. This means that, to capture them you have to ensure that you aren’t noticed. You have to approach them like a thief, slow and gentle without making much noise.

In all you do, even when organizing your bait and rod, ensure that you are quiet. If you aren’t discreet enough, you may scare the fish away.

Hunt at the right time:

The appropriate time to target cats is usually at night. At night, catfish can be seen easily. If you are ok with coming out at night to fish, ensure you come prepared. Get a flashlight or any other good light source so you can navigate your way in the pond.

Adopt the tight line tactic:

With the tight line technique, it needs to affix a little weight to the line. This helps you send the line deep into the pod where the cats are chilling. By using this tactic, you should be able to know when the catfish pulls off your line.

Be ready for a fight:

Catfish are very strong creature. Once this fish grabs a bait, the fish may put up a fight and you need to be ready for it. Drag your rod hard when you spin the reel.

Get the right bait:

Baits remains an important component as far as fishing is concerned. The bait you use may be difference between capturing several catfish and catching none. When selecting a bait, you need to go for one that has a strong smell. This is because catfish have a strong sense of smell and like most fishes, they are drawn by smell. Baits that fits this description are crawfish, chicken liver, chad, including night crawlers.

Select the right reel and rod length:

If you don’t use the right reel and rod, your bait will be ineffective, regardless of what you use. When considering a reel, you must look at its size. The size of fish you aim to capture will determine the reel size.

If you plan on fishing for smaller cats, you can use those lighter duty reels. If you are after the big cats, you would definitely need the heavy duty reels. However, if the cats in your area are of diverse sizes, play safe by using a heavy duty reel.

Catching Catfish at night

Catching Catfish at night:

When most anglers are busy dreaming on their cozy beds, a few anglers are out there capturing cats. According to some reliable publications, night is the best time to capture catfish because they seldom hide. At night, every is calm and most fishes come out to play or feed. The tactic adopted in hunting cats at night is different from the technique used to hunt catfish in the day. With that being said, how do you capture cats at night?

Catching catfish at night requires patient and the use of the right tackle. The bait, reel, and rod you use has to be spot on. You’ll also need a good source of light, and headlamp if possible.

Below are some helpful tips:

Be prepared to fight:

This is actually a metaphor. However, get prepared physically and gear-wise before you hit the water. Gather the necessary gears, check for any damages so you don’t end up being disappointed.

Be patient and quiet:

Don’t assume that because everywhere is dark and quiet you can easily sneak up on a catfish. No. You see, at night, catfish are still sensitive. Simply put your bait out there and relax. Be patient. The bait will surely bring the fish to you and you’ll do the needful.

Use the appropriate gear:

This is very important. As you know, the gear you use can make or mar your fishing goals. Always remember this: the fishing gear to use will depend on the type of fish you intend to catch. For instance, when targeting a fish as aggressive as catfish, do you use a feeble rod or reel? Definitely not! You are required to go for a durable gear, one that can help you win the battle with a catfish when the struggle begins. Remember catching catfish at night is fun only when you use the right tackle.

Don’t forget the bugs:

At night, bugs are very active. These bugs can make you quite uncomfortable, especially those that bite, like the mosquitoes. You wouldn’t concentrate if you are busy warding off bloodsucking insects, right? So the best thing to do is to be prepared. Purchase a bug repellant and take it along with you to keep the bugs at bay.

Purchase a bite alarm:

If you don’t have the money, you can ignore it; it’s not a big deal. However, if you can afford it, you should get it. A bite alarm will notify you when a fish is playing with your bait. This is cool because with a bite alarm, you can multitask. You can decide to press your phone with no worries because as soon as a catfish dabble with your bait, you’ll be notified.

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