How to Catch Big Catfish With a Fishing Rig

How to Catch Big Catfish With a Fishing Rig
Catching a big catfish can be a thrilling experience. Blue and flathead, or shovelhead, catfish can weigh over 100 lbs. with routine catches in the 50-lb. range. Channel catfish are often caught in the 30- to 40-lb. range. To catch big cats, set up your gear with the mindset that a big catfish is the goal. The fishing rig and bait can oftentimes greatly impact the size of the catfish catch.


Difficulty: Moderate

Things You’ll Need:
  • 7-foot medium-heavy to heavy rod with matched reel
  • 20-lb. test monofilament fishing line
  • 30-lb. fluorocarbon fishing line
  • 2 oz. egg weight
  • Bead
  • 2/0 crane swivel
  • #1 treble hook
  • Scissors
  • Fresh shad, chicken livers or other bait
Step 1
Fish waters where big catfish hang out and feed. Rivers with sharp bends, high bluffs and deep pools are often favorite feeding spots for big catfish. Deep ponds with holes along the bank and lakes near dams and below spillways can also be good locations for trophy-sized catfish. Unless you know big cats are present, do not spend too much time in one area. Instead, cover as much water as possible by foot or by boat.
Step 2
Fish with heavy-duty quality tackle that is capable of playing and landing a big catfish. Avoid light to medium rods and instead choose medium-heavy to heavy rods in the 7-foot range. A baitcast reel is a good choice because the direct line-to-reel setup provides more torque and power for fighting large fish.
Step 3
Install a minimum of 20-lb. test monofilament or braid line on your reel. Set up the line by sliding a 2 oz. egg weight onto the main line followed by a glass, plastic or metal bead. Tie the main line to a 2/0 crane swivel with a uni knot. Form the uni by passing several inches of line through the eye of the crane swivel. Bring the free end up alongside the main line, forming a double line. Turn the free end down toward the swivel, creating a loop, and wrap the free end around the double line and through the loop four times. Pull the knot tight and trim excess with scissors.
Step 4
Attach a 3-foot length of fluorocarbon line to the opposite end of the crane swivel with another uni knot. This will serve as a leader for the big cat rig. Tie a #1 treble hook to the free end of the leader with a Palomar knot. Form the Palomar by passing several inches of line through the eye of the hook. Turn the free end back and feed it through the hook, forming a loop on one side and a double line on the other. Tie an overhand knot with the loop and double line, pull the loop around the bend of the hooks, and pull tight.
Step 5
Place fresh 18- to 20-inch shad, chicken livers or other bait on the treble hook. Keep in mind that larger catfish will often be more attracted by larger bait. Also, select bait that is appropriate for the species of catfish you will be trying to catch. Flatheads, for example, are territorial and will attack live bait fish, including shad and blue gill. Channel cats, on the other hand, are content to bottom feed and may be attracted to chicken livers, catfish baits and even hotdogs.
Step 6
Maintain a tight line while catfishing and watch the line for signs a big catfish is taking the bait. Allow the catfish to mouth the bait for several seconds and begin to take it in before attempting to set the hook. Setting the hook on the first several line taps can result in pulling the bait from the mouth of the fish.

Article Written By Keith Dooley

Keith Dooley has a degree in outdoor education and sports management. He has worked as an assistant athletic director, head coach and assistant coach in various sports including football, softball and golf. Dooley has worked for various websites in the past, contributing instructional articles on a wide variety of topics.

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