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.

STEVE DOUGLAS CATFISH TOURNAMENT

THE RIG

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.

WHERE TO DRAG BAITS

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.

HOW-TO

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


CATFISHING TOURNAMENTS: How to Enter a Catfishing Tournament?

Catfish tournaments are gaining popularity among sport fishermen throughout the US and are steadily progressing in recent years. Anglers have become conscientious about the resource and practice catch and release and promote the sport through catfishing tournaments. If you like to catfish and have a little bit of a competitive edge, catfishing tournaments may be just what you’re looking for.

1st step is to find a tournament in your area or region. You can accomplish this a few different ways.
1. Google (catfishing tournaments in your state or region)
2. USCA has active and up to date information by state. Find local events in your state.
3. American Procatters has up to date information on regional and national events.

Once you have found a tournament that may interest you, call the tournament coordinator and get a feel for the type of tournament they will be conducting. There are three types of tournaments that you can find in most states throughout the US. Depending on your level of interest, there is a tournament for you.

1. Local buddy tournaments/ throw togethers: These tournaments are often started by a group of local guys that like to fish tournaments but there was nothing in their area to fish.

The local buddy tournaments are pretty laid back, when you arrive at the tournament location you may be just looking for a couple guys standing around there truck or boat with clip boards taking registrations. These tournaments are great starter tournaments but can be just as challenging and competitive as any other tournaments. The entry fee on these tournaments is usually under 100.00 and can be a great learning experience if you plan on stepping up a notch. Depending on the interest in your area, these local tournaments you can expect 10 to 30 participants or boats.

2. Regional and annual events: Once you arrive at the tournament destination you will probably notice that other anglers are showing up also, look for a place to park your rig and begin looking for the registration location. Most well run regional tournaments will have a very noticeable designated area with a table set up along with sponsor banners for registration and information. These tournaments are generally ran by organized clubs that are actively promoting the sport of catfishing and holding events on several bodies of water throughout a certain region. Members will follow a regional trail to compete for points to recognize top anglers for angler of the year bragging rights. A good regional trail will draw 20-50 boats or more and the entry fee can exceed 100.00

3. National tournaments: you approach these well organized catfishing tournaments a little differently than the other tournaments. The concept is the same as any tournament, but the registration and entry is handled a different way because of the large number of anglers that will follow the trail from one area of the country to another on several bodies of water throughout the US.

National trails will require some travel time, hotel time, and some practice time for those who haven’t ever seen the tournament waters. Anglers fishing these national events will start pulling in to these towns 2-3 days before the tournament to get familiar with the body of water and find a pattern or method that will catch quality catfish that will allow them to compete with some of the best cat anglers in the nation. Entry fees for these events can exceed 200.00 and can be pre paid with a check or credit card in advance, however they will accept entries the night before the event at the mandatory captains meeting at a designated site, generally it will take place at the host hotel.


It will not matter which type of tournament you fish, all tournaments large or small will have a waiver attached to the entry form exempting them from any mishaps that may occur during tournament hours. This waiver must be signed when registering.

After registering you will receive a boat number, this number will indicate the position in which you will take off. The number you received will indicate the number in which you registered. First come first served. The tournament director will call out numbers for the tournament morning blast off in a timed order from number one to whatever, until all the boats are released. When your number is called your free to go fishing.

Live well check: Once you’re registered in local and regional tournament you will need to get a live well check, which most all tournaments will require this before you launch your boat, a flag or sticker will be placed on your boat as a confirmed check. Be sure you have one. This just keeps everybody on the up and up. The national trails will very seldom require a live well check because they will give polygraph test to the top finishers along with some ransoms.

Live well requirements: most all catfishing tournaments are catch and release.

Whether they are at a local or national level, they will require all fish to be alive at the time of the weigh-in. a proper live tank is essential to maintain five healthy fish for a long period of time.

Your live tank should be able to accommodate the size fish you will be catching. example … if your fishing in waters that just support channel cats you can get away with a 40-60 gallon live tank, if your fishing in waters that trophy blues inhabit you will need a much bigger live tank, 80-125 gallons. The live tank should be equipped with a recirculation pump and a spray bar for aeration, other products on the market that go above and beyond a spray bar, sporting features such as filtration, purification and aeration.

Blast off:
Once you’re registered and have had your live well checked, you’re ready to launch your boat. Anglers will be hovering around the launch site awaiting their number to be called at the official tournament start time. You are free to go fishing when your number is called.

Weigh in:
Just as there is an official start time there is also an official stop time also. Anglers must be in the weigh-in line or launch site by a certain time to avoid disqualification. All fish to be weighed must be alive and is compliant with all state and local laws, meaning size limits. When it’s your turn to weigh your fish, tell the tournament director your boat number and start off loading your catch in the designated weighing containers provided. In most local and regional tournaments the weight is documented and the fish are returned back to your live tank to be taken back to the body of water and released. The national tournament trails will have someone to return the fish for you. Once the last angler weigh’s in, the weights are reviewed and a winner is determined by the most weight.