Catching Catfish: Santee Cooper Drift Rig

The Santee drift rig is a catfish fishing rig that is gaining popularity in the catfishing world, when targeting blues or channel catfish in lakes and some rivers when the current is very low to non-existent.
It’s a great go to rig to catch catfish and is very easy to do. The catfishing rig acquired it’s name (Santee Cooper rig) as it gained popularity from it’s use by catfishermen in the 90’s on the Santee Cooper chain of lakes in SC.

There are a number of different variations but here are the basics.
To make one of these for catfish fishing you are basically using a slip sinker rig with a longer leader and adding a float. Weight – Use a 1-2 oz. egg sinker or other types of slip sinkers such as the slinky weights or the one i prefer the pencil weight, but to be honest i will use what i have on hand. The 2 oz. sinker will generally get the job done in most all situations but amount of weight you use is going to depend on how deep you are fishing, the amount of wind and your line resistance as you drag the rigs through the water. If you are not sure what size weight to use start with one ounce and you can work your way up or down in size from there.

Swivel – Tie a barrel swivel onto your mainline below your slip sinker weight, just like you would with a slip sinker for catfishing a Carolina rig.

Leader – Cut a length of 50 pound monofilament leader line at roughly 24 in. use your favorite knot and tie one end of that line to your swivel. the most common leader lengths are anywhere from 18 to 36 inches. I have used leaders shorter and longer and didn’t see and advantage one way or the other on the length leader used.

Peg your Float – The peg float is used to hold the bait some what off the bottom of the contour to reduce snags and to raise your bait a little higher in the water column as you drag your baits across the bottom contour.

Hook – Tie your hook on the end after you have slid the peg float on. If you are fishing for smaller Chanel cats i recommend you use a number 3/0 or 4/0 circle hook. I like the eagle claw brand.
If you are fishing for trophy catfish (like big blue catfish) then go with a bigger hook like a number 8/0 to 10/0 circle hook. i like the 8/0 gamakatsu hook for my rigs. Once you have tied on your hook, go back and slide the peg float anywhere from 3 to 6 inches from the hook and insert the peg back into the peg float.

Now your ready to start fishing for catfish with a Santee Cooper setup. Don’t be afraid the spice it up a little and experiment with different weights, different sizes of hooks and different leader line lengths and determine what works best for you when catfishing and you can make modifications from there, I’ve just given you the basic tools and solid information to get started, you can always improve on anything, tweek it for the way you fish.


Once you determine where you will pull your drift, just throw your baited rig behind your boat at different lengths of main line. i normally sling my first rod out far behind my boat and the second one a little closer than the first and so on, keeping them staggered at different lengths. The idea here is to (drift with the wind), draggin your baits across the contour of the bottom or (pull your baits) across the contour using your trolling motor. Although drifting with the wind will produce catfish, i prefer to control my (pull/drift) and target more precise contour structure, such as humps and ledges. Draggin your baits through a more likely lair, will pay off more times than not, increasing your chances for a trophy catfish.

The Santee rig is good method to search out feeding catfish, at the same time learning what your bottom contour is like and discovering new pieces of structure, however in the process you will get snagged and loose some rigs. (Dont get discouraged), it just the way it is. Ive fished places before where I’d lose 20 rigs a day and Ive fished others and never gotten hung up. It is a fish catching rig.


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