When it comes to ol’ fashioned rod and reel catfishing, make sure you’re armed with the proper catfish fishing tackle.
An excellent catfish rod is heavy-action, white in color, with a strong, solid bait-cast reel. The color white will show up better at night. It doesn’t really matter the length of your catfish rod, just make sure it’s heavy-action. A quality bait-cast reel makes the ease of reeling in those big uns less of a chore. Twelve to twenty pound test is a great line strength.
Egg sinkers and split-shot sinkers are weights of choice for one of your three kinds of bait to take with you during your trip. If you know you’re going to fish in heavy current, these weights are great for the #1 catfish bait of choice: Dip Bait! Dip bait works great in water with current.
This type of bait is similar to peanut butter. There are rubber worms designed for dip bait. They are worms with ridges in them to hold the dip bait better. A treble hook comes equipped at the end of these specially designed worms. Do not—and I repeat—no not buy the plastic bell shaped devices for dip baits. They won’t last and you’ll wind up missing a lot of catfish when they bite. The design is all wrong. They’re bulky and the hard plastic they’re made from won’t collapse when the catfish bite them; thus, the treble hook can’t pierce. Always go with the dip worms!
All you have to do once you’ve got the catfish dip bait: Rig your line with an egg sinker (or two, depending on the current) and place a couple or three split-shot sinkers below. These sinkers will stop the egg sinkers from sliding all the way down the line. You’ll want to have your egg sinkers roughly ten to twelve inches above your bait.
Whip up your dip bait with a stick to stir up the ingredients, drop the worm in the bait, and use the same stick to spread the bait onto the worm. Don’t be stingy–glob that stuff on there!
Once you have the desired amount of bait stuck to the worm, you’re ready to cast. It shouldn’t take long to get a bite if catfish are in the area and they’re hungry. The bait will send a trail of scent down stream.
Be sure to bring a hand towel to clean your hands and a pair of pliers to help get the hook out of the catfish’s mouth.
Another great catfish bait is fresh, unfrozen chicken liver. Unfrozen chicken liver will stay on the hook better than frozen, plus, the blood scent will be stronger. Be sure to use special designed catfish hooks with this bait. These hooks are designed not to bend so easily and are shaped to help hook the catfish better once they bite. You can use this bait in current, lakes, and ponds. Remember, turtles and perch really like this stuff, too. Be prepared to snag a few of these “pests” when catfishing with chicken liver.
The next bait you’ll want in your arsenal is simply real worms. Nightcrawlers are best. Just remember, everything else bites real worms as well. So if you’re only wanting catfish and no surprises, you might want to use this bait last, or, on a secondary rod.
Don’t forget a good quality net to help land your catfish. A net really does come in handy when you need the extra help, especially on the larger catfish. I’ve had many a catfish escape because I didn’t have a net.
A strong fifteen to twenty-five foot catfish stringer is a must if you’re not in a boat with a live-well. Forget the small type stringers or the chain type stringers. Get a stringer especially designed for catfish.
You might want to take a pair of gloves with you for handling the catfish. They can be quite ugly with their horns. If you get horned by a catfish, it hurts pretty darn bad.
The best catfishing is done at night, so be sure to take a light source with you. A simple flashlight should do just fine.
That should be about it. Your catfish fishing tackle should be complete if you use this list of items. Of course, you can travel lighter than this if you wish—I just like to be prepared.