If there’s one thing that separates novice catfish anglers from the pros, it’s rigging. Good rigs are designed to present live bait attractively, keep it put in a strong current, and control the depth of presentation to a tee.
For blues and flatheads, that’s essential. Unlike the scavenging channel cat, they hunt their meals and much prefer a tasty, live shad or minnow to stinking punch baits or rancid chicken livers.
But to make live bait work for you, you need the right rigs--so keep reading!
Table of Contents (clickable)
You’ll need some basic supplies to create catfish rigs, and with this list in hand, you’ll be prepared like a pro.
We’ve reviewed catfish hooks before, and if you want the whole scoop, take a look. Our favorite circle (or octopus) hook below a size 8/0, the Gamakatstu is an amazingly strong, scary sharp 4X.
Guaranteed, it’ll lock a monster blue or flathead to your line.
If you need a big hook, Catfish Sumo is the same to trust. Available in 8/0 and 10/0, these bad boys are the trophy cat-man’s best friend.
Egg sinkers are essential for catfish rigging, and these are available in a variety of weights to suit your conditions.
Plastic beads are an important component of Slip and Slip Float Rigs. In addition to arresting the movement of an egg float, they add a bit of color and vibration to the mix.
Float stops are essential when you run a slip float.
Barrel swivels are a great way to attach a leader to your main line, and lots of rigs use them. The largest offering from Riptail is rated to 155 pounds, so there’s no question if they’ll hold!
Ideal for giving your live bait a little lift from the bottom, these oval floats won’t deaden a minnow or shad’s frantic action.
Among my favorite catfish floats, South Bend’s option is easy to see and just as easy to use.
These arrive with a string-style stop, but you’ll eventually want silicon stoppers.
Big cats demand strong swivels, and Cotank’s got you covered. Their #1 is rated to 100 pounds, so you don’t need to worry about them holding up to a monster.
Available in 1-, 2-, 3-, and 4-ounce options, these disc sinkers really stay put in hard currents and allow you to cast a Three-Way Rig a country mile.
The Slip Sinker Rig is a close relative of the Carolina Rig, an awesome largemouth bass option that you’ll see fished on the tournament circuit.
For cats, it works wonders. That sliding sinker allows you to cast it well, and it doubles to keep your minnow or shad where you need it, even in heavy current. And if you give this rig a tug or two, that sinker will slap the bead, creating some attractive vibration.
With sufficient leader in tow, your live bait has room to run frantically, and the Slip Sinker Rig will keep it up out of the muck.
To tie a Slip Sinker Rig, follow these steps:
Experienced cat-men know that blues and flatheads prefer live bait, and rather than scavenging, they actively hunt.
The Slip Float Rig is an ideal way to present a live minnow or small shad, and it allows you to control depth really easily. You don’t want your live bait buried in the mud and muck on the bottom; it needs to be swimming erratically a foot or two above that.
Easy to cast and easy to rig, this is a killer option when you’re after large fish.
To tie a Slip Float Rig, follow these steps:
The Santee Cooper Rig is essentially a Slip Sinker Rig with a twist.
By adding a float to the leader, it buoys your live bait further from the bottom, acting something like a Slip Float Rig in reverse.
By varying the length of the leader and the float stop, you can control the height of your presentation, and for water that’s too deep for a Slip Float Rig, this is just murder on big cats.
To tie a Santee Cooper Rig, follow these steps:
The Three-Way Rig has been adopted by legions of catfish anglers, and it’s a great option when you’re fishing in current.
Using a heavy sinker to keep it put, while running a leader that holds live bait down-stream, it’s won its reputation as cat-catcher.
Just be sure to run a robust three-way swivel: it will take a beating from a big flathead!
To tie a Three-Way Rig, follow these steps:
We hope this article has helped you learn a new rig or improve an old one, and as avid fishermen ourselves, we know the value of a solid tutorial.
If this article has helped you, we’d love to hear about it.
Please leave a comment below.