Catfish taste great and in many parts of the United States like the American South, they consider catfish a delicacy. With that said, how do you catch the big catfish? Let’s have a look at some of the things that you can do to crank in some of the bigger catfish.
Setting the Correct Scopes
A lot of people don’t even realize that you have three different species of catfish. You have channel catfish, flathead catfish and blue catfish. To get a big catfish, you will want to target the blue catfish because these are some of the bigger fish. The biggest blue catfish ever caught reached 150 pounds or 68 kilograms.
Their typical length will be anywhere from 25 inches up to 46 inches, and these fish have the ability to live for up to 20 years. Catfish will continue growing throughout their lifetime, and the bigger catfish will usually be older.
Pick the Right Equipment
If you haven’t seen my article, “Catfish Bait: Baits to Hook the Big One,” check it out to get some further information about the different types of catfish. In this article, we’re going to primarily target blue catfish because that’s the species of catfish that gets the biggest.
When you go to pick up a fishing pole, you will want a bigger composite or e-glass rod between 7 to 12 feet long. Adding length to this will help you have a higher load and greater flexibility. In addition, a larger fishing pole absorbs some of the blow back from the thrashing fish and the river current. In addition, longer rods let you cast farther out.
Going to buy a fishing pole, you also have to look at the reel too. You want a large and conventional reel with a good drag system as a must and a lot of spool for line. Most likely, you will go river fishing, and that’s why you want a good drag system. Especially if you plan to go after a monstrous blue catfish, you should use at least 20 to 30-pound test.
Location, Location, Location!
As I’ve said in previous articles, you can drop the perfect bait in the water for the catfish, but if you don’t have any nearby, you won’t find them. The main places you will find monstrous blue catfish will be in the big river systems. For example, the Mississippi River has been known to hold some giant catfish.
You can also find blue catfish in larger lakes, but I personally, the river system will be your best bet. In all the time that I’ve gone fishing, I’ve only rarely seen catfish on lakes.
When you go looking for that perfect location, check for a rocky or sandy riverbed and check for deeper water with a current.
Aggressive Fish Species
One of the awesome things about the blue catfish comes from how they eat constantly. It’s not uncommon to crank one in and find that it has gorged its stomach with tons of shad and other baitfish that it likes to go after. Blue catfish love to eat, and they will eat a variety of things.
They mainly hunt by their sense of smell, and they have been said to taste their surroundings. Many times, blue catfish will hunt at night, but they often follow the schedule of their stomachs. They will hunt at any time when hungry.
What Do Blue Catfish Feed On?
One of the favorite baitfish of blue catfish is the shad. You can’t buy this at the baitshops, however, because shad have an extraordinarily low survival rate. In fact, many have been to die after only one day. Instead, you will most likely have to catch your own shad if you want to use this, but this can help you to put a bigger blue catfish on your line.
Some of the other things that blue catfish feed on include:
- Freshwater mussels
- Skipjack herring
- Threadfin shad
- Gizzard shad
Lucky for fishermen, blue catfish are highly opportunistic predators. This means that they eat just about everything–dead bait or live bait, it doesn’t matter.
Usually, I’d recommend that you either use skipjack herring or shad. Shad is their favorite, which is why I’d recommend it if you want to catch them.
You could also choose to cut the bait for catfish, such as doing it with the following species:
Blue Catfish Prized by Anglers
In general, blue catfish have become a popularly targeted fish because of their size and abundance in the waters. Unlike with flatheads, you can catch a lot of them. Flatheads, on the other hand, you will be lucky if you catch one or two in a single fishing session. You have to have the patience of Job to go after flatheads.
On the other hand, blue catfish are easier to catch, and they put up a fight that you won’t forget when you hook the right one.
You also have two rarer types of subspecies within the blue catfish category. First, you have the Mississippi White Catfish. This catfish has been called the unicorn of the cat fish water, and while they’re white, they basically classify as a light blue catfish.
Second, you have the high-fin blue catfish. Another unicorn catfish, high-fin blue catfish have high fins, and they don’t differ too much from your typical blue catfish.
Gear Matters but Don’t Overdo It
Many times, I see a lot of beginner catfish anglers overdoing the aspect of getting secret gear that will leave the catfish jumping into your boat. Sorry to say, this just doesn’t happen. To be clear, you have a few things that you will need to get a bigger catfish like stronger line, but a lot of the time, it comes down to being in the right place at the right time.
Some of the real essentials to catching a catfish include good hooks to strong line and understanding the basics of a catfish rig.
Pay attention to the length of your fishing pole handle because this does make a difference. Especially when you want to crank in a monster trophy fish, you want a longer handle because it will lend you more control as you battle with the catfish to bring it in. If you have ever caught a catfish on a fishing pole with a shorter handle, you will learn the differences fast.
Use Bigger Bait
You want to catch a bigger blue catfish, and the secret to doing this comes down to using bigger bait because bigger catfish will gulp down bigger bait. In fact, it will also keep you from getting some of the unwanted smaller fish because they won’t have the ability to eat this fish.
Change Your Fishing Line
One of the keys to catching big catfish comes down to making sure that when the opportune moment strikes, you don’t lose the fish because he snapped your line. Nothing can be more disheartening and entertaining than the story of the big one that got away–you know, that fish that grows 2 inches every time you tell the story.
In general, I’d recommend that you swap out your fish line once every six months to a year, depending on how much you use it.
You also have to stay alert to how UV rays can have a negative impact on your fishing line. As the line gets exposed to UV rays, the line will start to break down, and this makes it more susceptible to snapping. Don’t store your fishing line in the sun for an extended period of time.
Go to the Hotspots
One of the ways that you will catch more catfish and increase your chances of getting a big one comes from going to the popular hangouts that never fail to yield a catfish. You have some places where you will always find catfish.
Outside a river bend has become a likely place where you will find hungry cats. Rivers tend to follow the path of least resistance. If the bottom obstructs the flow, then the river will bend another direction. You will learn to love checking the river bends because of how this spot has developed a reputation as a catfish honeyhole. You won’t always necessarily find blues here, but flatheads like to hang out in this area.
Next, check the river holes. In some cases, you may have a hard time spotting it, but river bottom holes have become a spot where the bigger catfish love to hang out. It provides them with a place to rest, and you will find everything from blues to flatheads to channels in this area.
Sometimes, you can find a big river hole right beneath a dam. You could also find this near a tributary mouth. On the sunnier days, cats will usually hide in the river holes, rather than sun themselves. When the skies cloud up, they tend to go on the hunt in shallower waters.
Looking for a trophy cat? Then you might want to hear the advice of this next one. With some of the lakes and rivers, you will have a prominent bottom channel. With this, you will see an area where trophy cats hide.
Trophy cats like areas like this because of how main channels serve as a super highway for one part of the water to the next. In general, you will usually find trophy cats in the deeper part of the waters, and some of the places to look for include cuts in the bank, brushpiles and adjacent humps.
Beware of Ornery Catfish
One thing that you should never underestimate is the orneriness of a big catfish. When you’re handling them and getting them off the hook, they can thrash around, and this can be one of the most dangerous points. When you handle catfish, you should use lip grips to handle them. They can tear at your hands in a way that makes you think twice about putting your hands in their mouth again. With lip grips, you make it much easier to handle and release them.
Don’t Target Blues with Stinkbaits
One of the biggest mistakes that you can make as a new angler is to assume that all catfish species will be exactly alike. In fact, the species we’re targeting here is blues. That means that it doesn’t make much sense to use stinkbaits. Don’t get me wrong–you can catch a lot of channel catfish with stinkbaits, but channels aren’t as big as blues.
In general, even when I go after channels, I try not to use stinkbaits because I don’t like my hands smelling bad for three days after using them. Not mention, you can catch them with other baits, so it isn’t entirely necessary to do this. Know the species of catfish that you want to target. You won’t catch blue catfish or flatheads with stinkbaits because they each have their own personality quirks.
Baiting the Big One
Baiting blue catfish is fairly straightforward because the main baitfish that the catfish like to go after are the shads. They always seem to produce a blue catfish. You can use some of the alternative baits that I previously mentioned, but in general, I will always recommend that you start with skipjack or shads. You might throw some alternatives into the mix when you see that the blues aren’t biting.
Another important thing to understand with catfish: Almost always, they will prefer fresh baits to frozen. Fresh means that you caught it within the last 24 hours. You can catch blues on frozen baits, I have found more success with using fresh baits.
Understand the Blue Catfish’s Personality
Through understanding the personality of a blue catfish, you can understand how to provoke a big one’s reaction. In addition, you will learn what they like and don’t like. I’ve already highlighted much of the personality of blue catfish. These fish like to hunt through ambushing their prey.
After you understand the personality of a blue catfish, you can influence them more easily.
The secret on how to catch big catfish comes down to keeping your line in the water as much as possible. In addition, you have to strategically learn how to use bait. You could have one of the most attractive baits, but if you use it in the wrong place with no catfish, you won’t catch any. Finally, it comes down to understanding the behavior of your specific type of catfish. Don’t make the beginner’s mistake of assuming that every catfish will be the same because the species differ from one to the next.