How To Catch Catfish – Rigs, Bait & How To Land Them

Cat fishing whether in the UK or abroad is both very challenging and very exciting, and will provide memories and tales of a lifetime.

I caught my first Wels catfish in France at Beausoleil 2 ½ years ago, it weighed 47lb and was quite a challenge to fit it into my 42” net!

My best thus far weighed in at 82lbs and as I was fishing alone I had no option but land it single-handedly, at night, which takes some doing I promise you.

I have since seen many attempts, successes and failures at landing our 80lb+ catfish. Whatever size of fish you’re targeting or type of water you’re fishing, I believe you’ll find these tips useful.

Catfish rigs

Whether you’re targeting catfish for the first time or not, I still believe that it’s hard to beat a really simple strong rig with a razor sharp hook. I’ve seen a number of catfish anglers try all sorts of fancy rig wizardry at Beausoleil, usually to no avail. Let’s face it catfish are not difficult to hook, difficult to land yes, but not difficult to hook. The catfish rig I use and recommend has caught many catfish and is up to the task of tackling catfish up to 100lbs.
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At a glance it may look like a completely standard knotless knotted braided rig but the secrets to its success are hidden inside the lead.

By replacing the standard insert with an anti tangle tube, the lead acts as a semi fixed rig that converts to a running rig when the catfish picks it up.

This dramatically improves bite indication, when angling for riggy fish, and prevents them from using the lead to throw the hook.
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It’s very important to tie very good knots when fishing for catfish. I’ve seen anglers using blood knots to connect the mainline to the swivel more times than I can remember.

This knot is not up to the job. There are only two knots you should consider for the mainline: the Palomar knot or the 5-turn grinner.

Hook sharpness is critical as Wels catfish have very tough mouths so I still hand sharpen every hook when cat fishing.
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My hook link of choice is Kryston’s 45lb Quicksilver (it’s actually designed as a snag leader but makes a very tough hook link).

Catfish bait

In my experience, catfish will eat anything!

In the rig photo above, I used my homemade 22 mm Blue Oyster baits.

Much as specialist catfish anglers might object to the concept of using boilies to catch catfish, the fact of the matter is that boilies are highly effective for catfish

If you are at a venue with both carp and catfish, the secret of catching catfish with this rig rather than carp is the way you use it!

When the catfish are actively feeding, you just need to bait heavily with boilies and pellets and you’ll catch catfish and not carp because the carp will not come anywhere near feeding catfish!

If your chosen lake only has a few catfish then I’d up the bait size to avoid pickups from carp. 40mm bait is a good size.

Large catfish pellets are readily available nowadays but personally I prefer to hand roll my own using the Blue Oyster mix. When using larger baits I’d also up the hook size to 3/0.
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How to land big catfish

Getting a big catfish to pick up your rig is one thing but landing them is something else!

We’ve had anglers towed round in the boat for hours and many incidences of mainline failure. If you’ve experienced mainline failure, it can be due to poor knots, inadequate mainline, failure to check your line for cuts or simply, your line was cut by the very sharp cat pectoral fin.

To protect the line when catfishing, I always use 2-3ft of anti-tangle tubing and super glue it next to the swivel to prevent it sliding up the line during the fight. Then, you have to make sure the rest of your tackle is up to the job: I always use a size 4 heavy gauge hook and mainline of 0.40mm diameter minimum.

Nowadays I use my 5lb TC spod rod for the catfish and anything other than a well built bit pit style reel is crazy. I’ve seen small lightweight reel literally disintegrate! I use my old Shimano LC as my catfish winch.

During the fight it’s very important to keep the catfish away from any known snags. One of our clients managed to spook a hooked cat away from the lake bridge by plunging a landing net into the water from the bridge. If you’re able to get into a boat, you can also spook the cat back away from the danger area.

It’s not necessary to go out and buy a dedicated 50”+ landing net just to fish for catfish but they are very useful if you have one.

A standard 42’’ net can net quite large catfish, tail first. If you’re struggling with the net or its size is inadequate then your only option is to glove them out.

Always use protective gloves when doing this as catfish can make a real mess of your hand. It may take several attempts and the catfish will try to kick your fingers out with its lower palate. Once you get a good grip the catfish will stop struggling. For very large catfish you may need a friend to help you!
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I hope these tips help you bank a few more catfish.

About Matt Collins 8 Articles
My passion is fishing for carp, and I am also the proud owner of Beausoleil French Carp and Cats. An exclusive carp fishing holiday venue in North West France where you can fish for big carp and monster catfish. I also love photography and I like nothing more than sharing pictures and videos of this stunning carp fishing venue and its residents!

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