How to set up your channel catfish rig

Catfish Rigs

There are many different types of rigs that can be used for catfishing. Each is suited for different conditions. Some are better for fast water. Some are better suited for heavy cover, and some are best for deep-water tighlining.

There are a few things common to all rigs. They all must be able to withstand the evasive maneuvers of a large, ticked-off Siluroformes.

You should use the best line you can afford. Stick with proven name brands like Trilene, and Stren, both of which have an actual breaking strength in excess of the rated line test . And change your line on your reels at least every year. Cut off any abraded sections. Your line is all that keeps you connected to the fish. For catfish, who are not particularly line-shy, use nothing less than 8 pound test line, and, depending on the conditions, all the way up to 20 pound test line. Any heavier, especially in current, and the extra drag the line causes off-sets any strength advantages.

The next thing to consider is what type of knot to use when joining your terminal tackle. It is a proven fact that more fish are lost due to poor knots, than from any other reason. When tying knots, be sure to wet them with saliva before tightening them, because monofilament is very sensitive to heat, even friction-generated. Mono has a very low melting point. And with a very few exceptions, any knot will have a lower breaking point that the rated line test. A few examples are:

Improved Clinch Knot-60% This means that with 10 lb. mono, the knot will fail at around 6 pound pressure.

Blood Knot-60%-70%

Nail Knot-70%

The two exceptions are:

Trilene Knot-> 100%

Orvis Knot-> 100%

Dropper Loop-100 %

I use the Trilene, Orvis and Dropper Loops most of the time.

There are three rigs that I use 90% of the time. These three will cover almost any fishing situation.

The first is the Fish-Finder rig. It can be used casting from shore, but really works best when tightlining straight down, from a boat, pier or drop-off. It is the rig used by most commercial Long-Liner fishermen. They use as many as 5 or 6 hooks, fishing as deep as a thousand feet deep, or more. For catfish, two, or maybe three hooks are plenty. Start by attaching an appropriate weight of bell, pyramid or Lindy sinker to the end of the line. If you want to fool with swivels that’s fine, but I seldom do. You can attach two hooks, about 18″ above the sinker, and the next 12″ above that, either with 3-way swivels, or just use dropper loops. Dropper loops are much faster to re-rig if you lose the terminal tackle to underwater obstacles. To use the rig, just cast it out gently, or drop it straight down. Then, take the slack out of the line until the rod tip just starts to bend. Now, set you rod in a holder, and just wait for a catfish to bite. You can reel it up a foot or so if you need to. This rig can be modified for slow trolling, or drift-fishing by using a very light sinker, and baiting each hook with a different bait. If fishing in heavy cover, rocky bottoms of if you want to drift it with the current, swap the bell sinker for several split-shots just pinched directly on the line. Keep the slack out of your line during the drift, and if a sinker gets hung, just pull it off and keep fishing.

The next rig is referred to as a Grouper-Rig, by commercial fishermen. It is best for fishing off of the bottom while tightlining from a boat, or pier. Attach a hook to an 18″ leader section of line. Make an end loop in the end. Now, thread a slip (egg) sinker on your line, and attach a swivel to the end. Them attach the end of the hook leader to the swivel. The swivel keeps the sinker from sliding all the way down to the hook. This rig allows for very precise depth control, and is great for fishing heavy cover. To use, drop the rig all the way to the bottom, and take the slack from the line. Now, reel in 1-3 reels. This will suspend your bait 1-3 feet from the bottom, or right above cover. Now, just set your rod in a holder, and wait for a bite.

The last rig I want to discuss is one of the best for shore fishing. It is the Slip-Bobber rig. A Slip-Bobber is a hollow float that allows the line to ‘slip’ through the float. Your depth is set by placing a bobber stop, which can be a plastic bead and rubber band, or anything that ‘stops’ the line from slipping through the float, on a section of line that will suspend the bait at your desired depth. This is best used with a bait-casting, or spinning reel, and rods with very large guides, so that the bobber stop can be reeled into the reel, and will not hang up on the guides. You can fish as deep as you need with this rig, up to around 30-40 feet, comfortably. To use, just cast it out and let the line go until the bobber-stop halts the line. Now, just keep most of the slack out of your line, and be ready to set the hook when the float goes under.

These three rigs will catch catfish for you under most conditions. With a little practice, you will learn which ones work best for you.

Happy fishing.


Dan Eggertsen is a fellow catfish fishing enthusiast to the point of obsession. :) He's been providing solid advice on catfish fishing since 2004.

© 2011 Ask Catfish Fishing. All rights reserved. Sitemap
Proudly designed by TotalTreasureChest.