Posts belonging to Category Techniques

Winter Time Catfish Tactics

February in Kentucky is one of the best months for tying onto one of monster cats along the Ohio River and its tributaries. They will spend most of their time where the conditions are most favorable for them. Finding locations throughout the river system that will provide some sort of thermal relief from the extreme temperatures is the key to finding trophy blue catfish. Another factor is to finding huge catfish in the winter months is locating the food source or ideally, where they can find both comfort and the food source. Once you figure out where the cats preferred winter areas are in any given river or lake, you often can find fish in the same general areas day after day throughout the winter.
catching catfish in the winter

Catfish will frequent certain areas of water ways for one of three reasons.
1. Food source:
Locating schools of bait fish will help determine where you should fish for catfish. This could be in deep open water or a shallow point.

2. Cover:
Catfish are attracted to cover within the structure and deep water lairs. Wood log jams, boulders or manmade elements, all attract bait fish and allows the catfish to rest and wait for an ambush of unsuspecting prey.

3. Navigation
Catfish will use underwater structure contours such as ledges, channels and ditches to navigate throughout a body of water. Think of these types of structures as under water highways.

Seasonal patterns will often help determine locations as well. Winter is probably the most predictive time to locate catfish.
In rivers, the deep winter holes are often along outside bends or old river channels that run alongside a hard bottom bank, in reservoirs, look for the old creek and river channels. Channel confluences where the creek channels meets with the old river channels also tend to have deeper holes associated with them, run-ins or ditches will also provide some deep water habitat or HOT SPOTS.

Learning how to analyze the seasonal patterns, structure and cover to find the best winter time opportunity is the key to catching a winter trophy blue catfish. Here are three TOP HOT SPOTS to start looking for your trophy blue cats.

1. Channel bends:
A Channel bend is just simply a turn in direction of the river flow and usually associated with hard bottom and deep water as the current flow is constantly cutting the structure contour of the bottom and ledges and undercuts are formed, giving these trophy blue catfish a comfortable environment to take up residents. Channel bends will also get cluttered with big trees and logs that get washed down river and deposited over the years during high water periods, which gives the blue cats just one more reason to hang out. Now there’s a Hot Spot! Look for the cover that has lodged in the channel bends along the deep water ledges. Finding the spot within the spot is golden and will increase your chances of catching a trophy blue catfish.


2. Holes
Holes are most often going to be associated with current of some kind. Look for holes around the channel bends, below dams, around the mouths of tributaries and current breaks such as points and manmade structure like barge cells or bridge pilings. Current breaks will create scours holes down river of the break which is attractive to the big blue cats, as it makes an ideal spot to hang around and wait for food to flow by. Use your depth finder to locate the head of the hole and start there. Set up on these spots by anchoring above the holes and casting your baits back into the deeper water. Deep water holes of any structure type are always a good spot in the winter because catfish seem to stack into the deep water wintering holes making them easier to locate.

3. Mouths of tributaries
Tributary mouths are pretty much a year round hot spot. They provide many elements throughout the catfish’s seasonal patterns from staging to ambush and feeding areas. But in the winter months, the catfish will relate to the deep water at the mouth where it intersects the main river.
Bait fish along with several other species of fish will gather in these deep water areas to over winter and feed on what is washed out, in turn attracting the catfish to also take up residents for the duration.
catfishing spot

There are many structure elements that that make up a tributary giving the catfish some options in the winter months, current breaks or ledges allows them sit and wait comfortably on food to pass by out of the current.
The Deep holes associated with the tributaries provide a place to escape the current with some thermal comfort. The shallow points along the tributary will warm up on sunny days attracting the blue cats to the baitfish that have moved up on the point to the warmer water.

The best bait to use for a trophy winter time blue catfish is cut bait. Big baits equal big catfish. Use shad; skip jack herring, sunfish-bluegills, suckers and chub minnows. The best bait size for blue catfish really depends on how big the fish grow in the waters where you are fishing! But it’s not uncommon to use a 1-2 lb piece of bait cut in half or used whole.
catfish bait

Big Shad and skip jack is the popular baits among trophy blue cat anglers, but cut or whole pan fish will also work well. In the winter months you can obtain shad and skipjack around hot water discharges found around factories on the Ohio River.
But most anglers will anticipate the winter time trips and will catch these baits in the fall and freeze them for the winter time use.

The Three way slip rig is great for fishing in current. It is one the most common catfishing rigs used for winter time catfishing for a few reasons. 1. Easy to tie up.
2. Versatility
3. The slip feature allows the catfish to take the bait without detecting any resistance from the weight.
4. The sacrificial sinker feature

This rig is very versatile for catfishing a number of different situations. one feature I like about this rig is the sacrificial sinker. It allows you to pull the rig free from most snags, saving the hook and swivels which saves time and money.
This rig is great for catching all three species; Channel, Blue and Flathead catfish.

Bounding down is the best technique for locating and patterning winter time blue catfishing, Once you’re anchored on a spot give it 30-35 minutes, to see if you get any takers, if you get no bites it’s time to move but you don’t want to go far, the idea is to keep a scent trail for the catfish to follow, so bounding down is the best method, what this means, is pull your anchor up and move your boat down and re-anchor where you last placed your baits on the previous anchor, and cast them out again, keeping your bait in the same scent trail just a little further downstream. Because some of these areas can be up to a half mile long, you may need to bound down 4-5 times until you find the fish.
tTechnique for catching catfish

Winter time is a great time to land some huge trophy blue cats and there fun to catch but they are also kind of vulnerable this time of year as they are easily patterned.
Please remember to keep conservation in mind and put the big ones back after you’ve snapped some braggin pictures. Keep the smaller cats for fryin! Selective harvest works.

Steve Douglas

Draggin the flats, a fall season tactic that pays big!

The drought conditions and lack of current the rivers in the south east has created a different environment for cat fishermen in this 2012 fishing season.

Current plays a big role in where the bait and catfish will be located but with the lack of current; the rivers become more like a lake and the bait and blue catfish will become scattered throughout the river system, constantly roaming the vast stretches and depths in search of food rather than congregating in key spots that otherwise the current may have produced.

catfishing tips

Anglers who can adapt to this lake like conditions on the rivers can still catch good catfish but they will need to change the way they approach the existing low water conditions and employ a different technique and rig.

When most catfish anglers think of catfishing, they think of a simple slip rig and anchoring up on a spot and waiting. This is a great technique when the bait and catfish are congregated on key spots because the current has put them there.

But in this low water condition we are facing now, it becomes more of a search method and to be successful, the bait is plentiful but also scattered throughout the system just as the catfish are, so you need to keep your baits in their faces and be on the move constantly because the blue catfish are doing that same exact thing.

They are roaming the still water in search of their next meal, and you have a better chance of running into an active fish that is searching for food when you’re on the move, rather than sitting on a spot waiting for one to finally run into your idle bait.

Dragging baits along the river bottom, searching for active bluecats is a very effective way to put catfish in the boat when other anglers are struggling in these low water conditions.

This technique works and has paid off very well for me this season, placing 3rd place in the Cabelas King Kat National Classic in Selma Alabama on the Alabama River in October.



This modified 3-way rig pulled along the contour of the bottom of a lake or reservoir with the use of a trolling motor, also some anglers who do not have a trolling motor will let the wind carry them over the contour. However I prefer the use of a trolling motor to precisely keep me in a good strike zone such as along ditches or drops and ledges.
3-way rig for catfishing

Items needed for the basic 3-Way rig

Keep in mind item specs listed below will change according to the size fish your ‘re targeting.
Example below is a good all around combination of tackle required. It’s what I use to target trophy size catfish but is also effective on smaller fish also.
65lb braided or mono main line. (I prefer braid)
3- Way swivel
50 lb mono Leader line
20 lb mono drop line
#8-10 Circle hook
Bank sinker
*(Santee option- 3 inch peg float)

Tip: Notice the break rating on the drop line is less than the mainline. This is one option you may want to take advantage of to save tackle and time when fishing with any 3-way combination. It’s called a sacrificial weight, meaning it will break before the mainline when hung up on structure, keeping the rest of your rig intact so all you have to do is retie the drop line and weight instead of the whole rig, this saves a lot of time and frustration.


One of my favorite types areas to look at first is, the flats, meaning the bottom contour has no special features, just a consistent depth and a flat bottom with little or no contour change.

The flats can come in many shapes and sizes, whether it’s a shallow point that extends out to the main channel in a lake or a muscle bed in thirty foot of water in a river. Although the flats are featureless with little or no structure, they do attract catfish because of a flats ability to produce large amounts of algae and other crustaceans and invertebrates, attracting the shad or baitfish to the area which feed on the algae in turn creating a buffet for the catfish and other species as well.


Once you determine where you will pull your drift, just throw your baited rig behind your boat at different lengths of main line and place your rod in your Monster Rod Holder and begin to. 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.
3-way rig for catfishing

The idea here is to drag your baits along the contour of the bottom 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 flats, humps and ledges. The drag speed will be determined by the catfishes activity level the size sinker you are using; the heavier it is the faster you can drag. After cold fronts and low activity levels I prefer to start with a 2 oz sinker and keep my speed at about .5 mph. but if the catfish are active I will use a larger sinker and speed my drift to about 1 to 1.5 mph.

Dragging your baits through a more likely lair will pay off more times than not, increasing your chances for a trophy catfish.
CAUTION- The Santee dragging 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. (Don’t get discouraged), it just the way it is. I’ve fished places before where I’d lose 20 rigs a day and I’ve fished others and never gotten hung up. It is a proven fish catching rig.

This is also the rig and technique I used to place third, in the largest catfishing event in Kentucky this past October. The 3rd annual Monsters on the Ohio Catfish tournament will draw anglers from as many as 14 states from around the south east region to the Ohio River to compete for big bucks in Owensboro Kentucky.

And this method of dragging not only put me in the money in this event; it also enabled me to catch the biggest catfish of the tournament. Setting the new Monsters on the Ohio big fish record on biggest fish caught of 53lbs.
catfish tournament, Steve Douglas