A few proven methods exist for targeting catfish, however in different water conditions, certain styles of baiting will be more effective than others.
Some proven and simple methods for catfish targeting are as follows:
1: Setting up your bait – Rig your hook as you normally would, and use some very thin string (specifically known as bait floss) to wrap around the bait and line, this will keep the hook in place and allow your bait some room to run. As a still and sunken bait is best, you may also wish to add a middle rigged sinker to hold the bait in place. The leader from the weight to the bait should be no longer than 60cm.
If you prefer not to use a leader, you can avoid running a leader all together, and simply attach your sinker to the line, then rig the bait following this. The weight will be able to shift, but if you tighten your line and place the rod on a holder, keeping it tight but with just enough slack to run if a fish inhales the bait will often keep the weight closer towards the bait. The benefit of a running sinker (slipweight) is you can keep the line fairly tight, but if a catfish inhales and runs, it will have just enough slack to both let the fish run and also alert you to the fact of a strike.
The less weight the fish feels the better, some prefer a loose line with a fixed position sinker, others prefer a running sinker, in the end it’s upto you, but I do tend to prefer a running sinker as a personal choice
Multiple baits on the one line is also a great way to target catfish, all you need is a sinker attached to your line, and after the sinker attach a three way swivel, the centre is normally where the main line attaches, and the two free ends are used to tie up two baits on a 50cm leader line. These do have a tendency to tangle at times however, but it is a very basic way to get more out of one or two fishing rods.
2: Types of bait – The most common baits used for catfish are raw shrimp from the supermarket, or chicken livers. Shrimp should be entirely shelled and fed through a size 6 hook, once fed through the shrimp you can bring the line through and double back to tuck the barbed end just underneath the tail flesh to keep it in place. If you have bait floss this is also very handy on shrimp to keep the hook in place. Feeding the line through the central part of the shrimp means that even if the hook comes loose, it should not be able to completely remove from the hook.
Chicken gut as a bait is an even more simple process, all you need is a baitholder mesh bag or some womens stockings (pantyhose). feed a few livers in and tie up a very small ball so that the bait is secured, you can then feed your main line through the pantyhose a few times to keep it secure, then attach a size 1/0 hook or size 2 treble hook underneath. Some other baits you can use in this method apart from chicken gut is breadcrumbs or cheap ready to eat fish fillets from the supermarket / grocery store.
3: Chumming / Berley – Throwing a mixture of breadcrumbs, flour and water into the waters where you are fishing is usually a good method of attracting catfish to the region you are fishing. If you are using chicken livers instead, you can even throw some of these in to get the fish started, adding your bait source to the waters near where your sunken bait resides is a great way to get the fish feeding, normally once they have had a free meal off your chumming / berley, they will seek out all other bait in the waters, until they find your hook.
4: Tackle – No special tackle is needed for regular sized catfish, these can be caught on a basic spinning reel and spinning rod of around 6 foot length. For waters where very large catfish are found, such as the giant blue catfish around Texas, then you would need much heavier weight and professional equipment. For the regular varieties of 50cm and under found throughout the USA, then a regular spinning rod and reel, even a cheap one, will do the job.
Ensure you don’t forget essential fishing items such as fishing pliers for removing the hook from a fishes mouth, they also come in handy for rigging your line. Catch and release fishing is recommended!