By Mark Fleagle –
Catfish have a very tuned sensory system that allows them to taste catfish bait from sometimes 15 ft away. They can smell and taste very small concentrations of your catfish bait when it dissolves in the water and can detect them from some distances away. This is definitely an advantage on any waters where there is a current because the smell and taste drift down stream. It is also a distinct advantage in murky waters where sight is impaired.
There are many catfish anglers who prefer prepared baits, and there are many fishing situations where they do work very well but our article will only concentrate on natural catfish baits.
Cut baits work great as catfish baits in rivers, lakes, ponds, and reservoirs because most catfish such as blue catfish and channel catfish feed on dead fish as part of their diets. Also cut baits work well because they immediately release small particles into the water and create a smell and taste trail for any blue catfish or channel catfish in the area. During the summer flat head catfish will normally only feed on live bait that is near their area such as shad, yellow perch, pan fish and other forage fish in the area, but during the pre-spawn time right after ice out they will feed aggressively on dead catfish bait such as cut bait chucks. An excellent cutbait for blue catfish and channel catfish are oily forage fish such as skipjack herring, and gizzard shad. Mussels also make an excellent catfish bait fresh or seasoned in sour milk for a few days.
There are some basic cut bait fishing rigs that work well for different fishing situations. The types of catfish rigs we will mention are quick hit rigs, three way swivel fishing rigs, a basic slip sinker rig, modified slip sinker rig, and a basic slip bobber fishing rig.
A quick hit fishing rig is used a lot to fish for flat head and blue catfish. To make a quick hit rig you will need two number 2 to 1/0 treble hooks, a three way swivel, and a bell sinker large enough to keep your live bait close to the bottom In shallow water areas a 1/2 ounce will usually work but if you are fishing for blue catfish in current or trying to anchor your catfish bait for flathead catfish you will need much larger bell sinkers typically from 3 ounces to 8 ounces. The size you select will be determined by how large your bait is and how strong the current is.
First tie on the three way swivel to your main fishing line, then tie on a 6 to 24 inch dropper that has your bell sinker attached. Then tie on the quick hit rig to the last open eye on the three way swivel.
To make your quick hit fishing rig tie the lead treble hook on to a 12 to 30 inch leader using an improved clinch knot. Next, tie the second treble hook about 4″ away from the lead treble hook using a snell or uni-knot. You will want to use a gizzard shad for your catfish bait in the 8 inch to 10 inch size range. Insert just one of the hooks of the lead treble right behind the shad’s head in the upper flesh area. Next insert just one of the hooks of the lead treble behind the dorsal fin in the top flesh area.
To make a standard three way swivel rig first tie your three way swivel to the main line. Next tie your dropper to one of the open leads of the three way swivel. The dropper rig should have a bell sinker 1/2 ounce for shallow water or 3 ounces to 8 ounces if you are using large size catfish baits foe blue catfish and channel catfish. The leader should be 6 to 24 inches long with a 5/0 to 7/0 hook.
To make a basic slip sinker rig slide an egg sinker on your line then tie on a 5/0 to 7/0 hook. Then clamp on a split shot sinker up the line 6 to 24 inches from the hook. This type of slip sinker fishing rig tend to hang up quite often and many fisherman use the modified slip sinker rig instead, because of this reason.
To make a modified slip sinker fishing rig slide a 1/2 to 4ounce bell sinker up the line. Next tie on a two way swivel. The tie on a 6 to 24 inch leader with a 5/0 to 7/0 hook.
Well that concludes my article on catfish baits and fishing rigs. Have a nice day and we wish you the best of luck on your next fishing trip.
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