catfishing in lakes

Catfishing In Lakes: Bait, Tackle, and Location

Many factors play into catfishing success on lakes, including the water level, barometric pressure, water temperature, and the time of year. Whether you prefer to fish from the bank or from a boat, adopting a few basic strategies when it comes to catfishing on lakes will up your chances of success.

Catfishing Tackle

carolina rig

One of the easiest catfish rigs to start with in lakes is a slip sinker rig. It is a multi-purpose rig that can be used from a boat or from the bank. It goes by several names including “Carolina rig” and “sliding rig.”

The slip sinker rig setup consists of your main line (12- to 20-pound test line), a no roll or egg sinker, a swivel or slipshot weight to serve as a stopper, then a leader line attached to your hook. Circle hooks (1/0 to 5/0 range), Kahle hooks, and heavy-duty hooks like the Mustad 2X Strong Octopus Hook are good options.

This rig works by keeping your line weighted on the bottom of the lake, but allows the bait to move freely in the water. When a fish strikes, the line moves through the sinker, minimizing resistance so the fish can run with the bait. This is best used with the bait clicker engaged on the reel. If you are drifting or if there are snags on the bottom, this may not be the best setup. Use a float rig instead.

Catfishing Bait

catfishing bait
You can never go wrong with cutbait like shad anytime of the year. The scent of freshly killed prey is always attractive to feeding cats with their exceptional ability to detect scent. Fresh is always better than frozen. If you are fishing for long periods of time, consider keeping a product like Team Catfish Dead Red Blood Spray on hand to add fresh scent to your cutbait.

Stink bait is another option that catfish anglers prefer because it attracts several species of cats and there are so many ways to use it. Stink bait is any concoction of ingredients like chicken, cheese, blood, fish parts and liver that you let brew in a jar or bucket for several days. You can thread chunks of stink bait onto your hook, or use it as a dip for other bait like nightcrawlers.


finding catfish maps
Catfish are generally not active fish, therefore they find refuge in locations that provide them shelter and position them to strike at passing bait. This matters in lake fishing because it gives you a starting point for where to throw your bait. Catfish are almost always found near structures or in holes. Look for locations with logjams or bridge abutments where there is a break in the current.

Pre-plan your catfish outing by researching the maps of the lake you plan to fish. You can do this with tons of fishing apps. The Fishidy  App has specific information on fishing hotspots, underwater structures and species information. The Navionics phone App has nautical and sonar charts that enable you to plot locations just like on a GPS.

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