Posts belonging to Category Catfishing Rigs



Where to find and catch Shad for catfish bait

Shad is one of the most abundant forage fish in the south so it only makes sense to think the catfish feed heavily on the shad too. Well you would be right in thinking that as shad is on top of the list for most consistent for catching catfish of all sizes and species.  Whether you use it live, or cut it up shad will attract the more mature cats available in the waters you fish.

What do shad look like?

Shad come in different species and sizes but most are appear silverfish but are generally dark colored on the back and top of the head, with bits of bluish green silvery tints and white sides, sporting a black dot on their sides just behind their gills.

live shad for bait

Shad is a good catfish bait

Shad is good catfish bait

These thin bodied forage fish are very distinctive, having small mouths with big eyes and a forked shape tail.  Both the gizzard shad and threadfin shad are abundant in lakes, reservoirs and rivers throughout the country and both species are great for catching catfish.

The Gizzard Shad is the bigger of the two and can grow in lengths of over 12 inches, which makes them great as cut bait and are generally referred to by catfish anglers as, cutters. The Threadfin Shad are much smaller and will normally only grow to around 6 inches.

How do you catch Shad?

 A cast net is the best way to catch shad for catfishing.  My favorite size cast net is 5-6 footer, but sometimes it don’t matter what your favorite size cast net is, as in reality the size of your cast net will ultimately  be  determined according to each states netting  and fishing regulations. Some allow 10 footers while other states only allow 3- 4 footers. Be sure to check your states regulations before you cast your nets.

How to find shad?

Look in these types of places for shad.

Bay’s…. Look in the back of the shallow bays, large cuts, coves or feeder creeks on lakes.

Marinas…  Shad can be attracted to the Marinas because of their food source, algae and other microscopic creatures that grow on the docks and boats and other marina related structures.

Creek mouths…  Check in the mouths of feeder creeks shad will often gather around fresh water and also to find refuge from heavy current.

Bridges pilings……. will often attract the shad because of algae growth again and or a current break.

Water discharges……….. You can find these types of areas along the  many of the rivers in our country.   Factory’s  will pull river water within their facility to cool equipment and will discharge a continuous flow of water back to the river and these discharges are an excellent place to look for shad. Some of the factory discharges often produce hot water which will attract many shad and other bait fish to these even in the winter months.

Pockets and Eddy’s … Eddy’s are good place to search when current is present. The Eddy is a result of a current break of some kind like a point or a cut in the river bank creating some slack, still water next to the main current which makes a good place to look for shad at times.

Now these are some of the top spots or habitats to start looking for shad but I would like to just add that catching shad is just like fishing, in the since that weather can affect the outcome to some extent.

Most days you can cast your net  a few times and have all you need  but other days you will have to throw the net a hundred times only to catch a few. Sometimes we have to work for the best baits but shad can literally be anywhere but these top hot spots mentioned in this article have a higher percentage of producing shad on a regular basis.

When fishing new water and don’t know where the bait hot spots will be, Ive always turned to google earth for the answers. You can locate these types of areas just by zooming in on the area you will be fishing and seeing where the potential places are located even before you touch the water. This will save a lot of time and also somewhat familiarize you with this new area.

 

How to use shad as catfish bait?

The smaller shad can be use whole or cut them into sections as illustrated or just simply cut the shad in half.

How to cut shad

How to cut shad for cut bait

Cutting Shad for catfish bait

The size of your cut bait you use will really depend on what size catfish you are targeting but generally as a rule the bigger pieces of cut bait catches bigger catfish and smaller pieces for the small and medium catfish. But I will add this, I have also seen that general rule turn completely the opposite of said rule and have caught huge catfish on small pieces of cut shad and small cats on large pieces, Its fishing and anything can happen.

Another popular piece of cut shad is the fillets. The fillets can be attached to the hook in the same way you would a night crawler be sure to leave the skin on it for a tougher cut. The last cut I will mention on the shad is the guts.  And the best guts come from the large gizzard shad. They are used mainly for catching channel catfish.

Using Live Shad

Using shad live is a little more challenging as the shad can be difficult to keep alive in bulk without the help from  a good bait tank.

You can use shad live to catch all species of catfish but predominantly it is used for catching big Flathead or blue catfish. The Flatheads diet consist primarily of other fish like shad, carp, pan fish and even other catfish  so your chances of landing a large Flathead catfish goes up when you use live shad as catfish bait.

I would recommend the larger shad 6 to 8 inches because they just seem to stay alive on the hook longer than the smaller shad do. The more lively and active your bait is the better chance you have of success.

How to hook a live bait.

How to hook live shad

Hooking live bait for different methods of catfishing

Hooking Live Shad for catfish bait

When fishing in current I prefer to hook the shad through its nostrils and through the dorsal area when I’m in no current such as low flowing rivers or lakes. These are the two most popular places to place your hook for the best results. Hooking it in other places sometimes can cause the bait to hook back into its self which will cause a lost fish when that phenomenon happens so be sure to pay attention when your experimenting with hook placement.

The same goes with hooking cut bait pieces, be sure to hook it in a way that it will not hook back into itself. Here is how I like to hook my cut bait.

hooking cut bait

How to hook cut shad

Rigs used for catfishing with shad.

The two rigs I would suggest using with shad is the 3-Way or the Carolina rigs.

Both of these rigs are effective at present the bait in many different situations but I prefer the Carolina rig for my cut bait presentation and the 3Way rig for my live presentations when I’m anchoring  but when I’m drifting with live shad I prefer the Carolina rig..

Sometimes bait catching can be as challenging as the catfishing itself but when you get the right bait, it’s all worth the time and trouble spent by experiencing success but these are some of the most likely places to find your catfish bait. Good luck and be safe on the water.

Flathead catfish: The Fresh water freight train

Hooking into a flathead catfish should be characterized as the title refers. “The Fresh water freight train”. The shear brute strength and fight these fish give are challenging to say the least. Keeping the fish from taking you to a snag or jagged rocks once hooked is the challenging part. A forty pound flathead does what it wants, so using good equipment to turn and control the fish is a must.
big catfish
One of Kentucky’s least talked about flathead Catfishing river systems that actually hold our state record for flathead catfish is the green river. Not the lake!

But the river system, that stretches over 360 miles through central Kentucky and joins the Ohio River near Henderson Kentucky. I believe there is a 100 pounder waiting to be caught between Central City and Munfordville Kentucky.

Targeting and catching a flathead catfish is a little more time consuming than fishing for the channel cats or blue catfish. I would categorize targeting flatheads as more of a stalk and hunt, understanding there patterns and feeding habits much like deer hunting, figuring out where and when to intercept them.

Flatheads are loners and very territorial and their habits of ambush feeding is somewhat different that other catfish species however they are also an opportunist when it comes to feeding as is all catfish, but their appetite tends to be a bit more finicky than the other catfish species.
flathead catfish

Most folks think flatheads can only be caught at night but for the guys who chase the flatheads will tell you different. Flatheads can be taken in the day; you just have to put the bait in front of them where they hold up during the day which is generally heavy cover. Flathead prefer live bait over the dead bait, however they will take a piece of fresh and I mean fresh cut, still bleeding piece of cut bait.

A flathead catfish will take up residence in or around a good baitfish attracter such as rock piles of log jams and protect and ward off any competing flatheads, generally the bigger fish calls the shots.

Other good ambush points are tributaries that feed the main river, scour holes, drops and ledges along the river channel, flathead will lay tight against the ledges and wait on an unsuspecting prey to pass by for the ambush. A drop in the contour of the river bed as small as 1 ft. can hold a forty lb flathead.
flathead catfish

Flatheads will tolerate current but prefer some slack water. I will generally target eddies, current breaks and current seams in the spring and summer when there is current flow. These types of places allow the flatheads to rest and take advantage of the food that washes by them in the current.

But this time of year the green river is pretty much void of current which makes anchoring on a hole or brush pile a little more difficult. A double anchor technique will be required to fish these spots efficiently.

The equipment required for targeting these fresh water freight trains is a medium heavy seven foot rod, either a bait cast or spin casting combo which ever you prefer, spooled with at least 65 lb braided fishing line. The heavy pound test will help you pull the flathead away from cover or possible snags.

I use a 50 lb. mono leader with a #9 Mustad demon circle hook. If I do get snagged the leader will break before the mainline keeping me from having to retie the whole rig again, I just replace the leader and hook and I’m fishing again quickly.

The best rig for search for monster flatheads is the slip rig /Carolina rig, it allows the flathead to take the bait and feel little resistance. I like to use a short leader and at least a 4 oz egg or no roll sinker, the heavier weight and shorter leader helps keep the lively baitfish from swimming of into nearby cover getting you tangled up.
catfishing rig

The bite of the flathead is not at all like other species of catfish, and I think this is why a lot of anglers miss them.

The first indication of a flathead bite might be a short subtle pull of the rod and a pause if the fish is interested after that you will get another slow pull with a shorter pause, this is when you should carefully pick up the rod and get ready.

As the fish takes the bait and you feel a strong steady pull as if he’s just swimming off which it is, this is when you just start reeling, slowly putting pressure against the fish and let the circle hook do its job and hook up. Setting the hook while using a circle hook is not recommended, you will lose the fish every time if you pull back hard and to set the hook.

The bite may even be more subtle if you happen to put your bait close to one that is tucked in cover. A lot of times when that happens the flathead will move out take the bait, you will see that initial pull down and that’s all, giving you the indication that he didn’t take the bait.

But you have sit on that spot and had no action and you decide to move to another spot, you start reeling in your rods and the one that got that subtle bite but no commitment you thought, has a fish on the other end.

What happens is, you have put your bait close to where it’s laying and it eased out took your bait and just backed back into the cover only moving a bit, the flathead is the dominate fish and is at the top of the food chain and doesn’t have to swim away from home with the bait like other species do.

Usually the fish that you catch like that has swallowed the hook.

The best baits for flatheads are shad or pan fish. I prefer the pan fish because they are easy to catch and will stay alive on a hook a lot longer than shad. Hook the bait in the tail portion at the top near the dorsal fin. Sometimes I will cut the bait to make it bleed and create a scent trail.

In the summer months I will target the flatheads at night simply because of the heat factor, fishing shallower water around cover but as fall rolls around and the water begins to cool I will target them in their deep water lairs throughout the day.

The bite of this freshwater freight train will be subtle but the fight will absolutely be powerful and full steam ahead.