catfish gear

Catfish fishing gear

Fishing for catfish requires patience and intestinal fortitude.

And a full cooler.


They may look kinda slow but catfish actually have some smarts to them, especially those channel cats. Gotta recognize that. You have to have a healthy respect your prey.

Rod and Reel Fishing

You can get all the fancy gear you want – high tech reels, high-strength alloy lines, electronic GPS radar-enhanced catfish detecting gizmos. But if you don't use it in the right place, it's all for naught.

You have to get into the mind of your prey. Now if I was looking for my brother-in-law on any given sunny afternoon, I'd start looking in the shade – outside under his veranda, or perhaps inside on the Lazy Boy. Apply the same line of reasoning to catfish. If you were a lazy, overweight bottomfeeder, you'd probably wanna hang out during the day in areas not in direct sunlight, preferably in deeper pools with big rocks or submerged logs – any place that will offer cover.

Catfish come out to feed after dark, especially in the four or five hours after dusk, and that's generally the best time to catch them if you don't mind putting up with all the other critters that come out after dark.

Keep sharpening your hooks with a hook file. Replace them periodically but don't forget to sharpen the new ones before using them as well. If your hook isn't laser sharp it's going to slip right off the mouth of a catfish just like the feeding tube of a mosquito slipping off a rhinoceros buttocks.


Catfish detect food by smell so you need a bait with some stink to it. Folks around here use chicken livers, turkey livers, worms, shad, skipjack, mooneye, sunfish. Some swear by frogs. I could tell you my favorite, but it probably wouldn't change your mind.

Stinkbait is commonly used in these parts. This is an odoriferous mixture which may include cheese, dough, blood, liver, garlic, or a hundred other ingredients – everybody has their own special mix. Don't ever pin someone down on their stinkbait recipe – it's considered poor etiquette. Friend of mine from the lowlands uses a stinkbait recipe handed down to him through four generations of catfishermen. He'd rather sell his pickup than tell anyone what's in it.

If you don't mind using yourself as bait, you can try noodling, but be careful – almost lost a thumb that way awhile back.

Burton's Top Catfishing Tip

Two coolers – one for bait, one for beer. Suggest you use the cleaner of the two for beer.

I sometimes use octopus as bait. I don't understand the first thing about the physics of osmosis and permeability and stuff like that, but I do know that somehow octopus smell manages to go right through an aluminum can. If you've tasted beer with hint of rotting octopus once in your life, it's too often.

Burton's Next Most Important Catfishing Tip

When you're night fishing and you get home early in the morning all tired, don't forget to take your catch out of the truck. It's best not to let a 13 pound channel catfish lying around on the front seat in a sweltering hot pickup with the windows closed on a summer day. Don't ask me how I know.