Catfish & Channel Cat Fishing Tips

Channel catfish are known worldwide for their fighting spirit. Add a little current and you have a combination that will destroy poor quality rods and reels. A medium action 6-7 foot rod with 12 pound test line will land a large channel cat but be prepared for a lengthy battle. You have a good chance of breaking your line, rod or reel and losing a trophy fish. We recommend using a medium-heavy 7-9 foot rod with a good quality baitcasting reel or spinning reel spooled with at least 20 pound test line. Reels should have a good drag and large line capacity.

Channel cats are gray in color with some having a brown tinge along the back. The sides of catfish can be an olive color with small black dots.

Average length is about 80 cm (32 inch) with a few going 100+ cm (40 inches). Average weight is 5-9 kg (11-20 pounds). Most catfish take ten to twenty minutes to land. Aching muscles are the usual result.

Tie Up Tips For mono lines the cinch knot is easy to learn and has good holding capabilities. For lines over 10 pounds the cinch knot is able to hold up to 95% of test weight before breaking.

Clinch Knot

The snell knot is one of the best knots to secure a hook to the line. The snell knot pulls from the shank of the hook and not from the eye of the hook.

Snell Knot

Slip Sinker Rig

The most common catfish rig consists of placing on the main line a 2-4 ounce flat sinker and a bead before attaching it to a large swivel.

The bead is placed between the sinker and the swivel to prevent line damage. A flat disc type weight will not roll on the bottom like a bell or pyramid sinker and will result in fewer snags.

Attach a two to three foot piece of 20 pound test line to a hook using a snell knot. Attach the other end to the large swivel. The hook should be an offset hook from #3/0 to #5/0 depending on what type of bait your using.

Slip Float Rig

The slip float is best most effective rig for shallow water that has a lot of rocks and snags on the bottom. The float rig consists of a large float, a bobber stop, some split shots for weight and a snelled hook.

Once the depth is determined the bobber stop is added and adjusted as needed. Split shot is added so that approximately 3/4 of the bobber is submerged. The amount of weight used will depend on how large a float you use.

Three Way Swivel

In areas of deeper water or strong current that have a rocky bottom and lots of snags a three way swivel is a good choice. Attach the main line to one swivel and a 2-3 foot snelled line with a #3/0 offset hook to the second swivel. On the third swivel tie on a 1 foot piece of light line (about 10 pound test) and a 2-4 ounce sinker. You will still get snagged but most of the time you will only lose the sinker.

Bait Channel cats can be caught on a variety of baits. The most popular ones are cut baits (pieces of goldeye, tulibee or suckers), raw shrimp, chicken and beef liver and hearts, frogs and nightcrawlers. All baits work well but on some days one will work better than another so it best to bring more than one type with you. Fresh cut bait works better than frozen and most anglers will catch some goldeyes before trying for cats. A float rig with a small hook tipped with a piece of nightcrawler and some split shot for weight is an effective way to catch some goldeye.


In order to keep catfish fishing at its current level catch and release is practiced by most anglers. Using a large net with soft fine mesh bag will ensure the fish is not harmed. Unless you are going to take pictures, it is best to unhook the barbless hook from the fish while he is still in the water to minimize the damage and stress on the fish. When taking a picture, handle the fish with care and put back in the water as soon as possible.