The Jug Is Up

Can you tell me how to make a catfish jug?

Jug fishing is a very old method of covering a large area of water with bait, and catch a lot of fish quickly. It is very low-tech, and easy enough for anyone to learn quickly. It is not uncommon to catch your limit of fish in a very short period of time, using this method. A jug rig is simply a floating plastic jug with an attached running line, hooks, bait and weight. They are placed in the water and pulled in when a fish bites. That’s it.

There are two types of jug rigs: Free-Floating and Stationary. Free-Floating rigs are allowed to drift with the wind and current across likely spots, with the fisherman following in a boat. When a fish hits one of the rigs, it is pulled in. The Stationary Rig has a heavy weight that anchors it to the bottom so that it doesn’t drift. Both are very effective.

The very best bait I have ever used for jug fishing is a live bluegill, but it may not be legal in your area so check the regulations first. Cut shad also works well. Chicken livers are great, if you don’t mind an occasional turtle (they get ate too, in my house). My next favorite bait to live bluegill is Danny Kings Punch Bait. This stuff is almost magic at times, and stays on the hook very well.

You can make your own jug rigs, but frankly, there are commercial ones available that are so cheap and well-made that it’s not really worth the trouble. Even Wal-Mart carries jug rigs, ready-to-fish, for a pittance. But if you really want to make your own, it isn’t all that hard. You need some white jugs (don’t use clear Coke Bottles…you won’t see them on the water). I used to use empty (and well rinsed) Chlorox bottles. Plce some aquarium gravel on the jug, about 3 inches deep. Now, super glue, or epoxy the cap onto the neck. It has to be waterproof, or your jugs will eventually sink. Next, attack some heavy monofilament, 30 pounds or more, to the neck. You can also use nylon ‘squiding’ line, if you’d rather. You’ll want about 15 feet of line of more on it. You can adjust the depth by how much line you unroll. Now, just rig a hook and sinker to the end and coil it around the jug. Make 5 of these, and that should be plenty. Any more and they get hard to keep track of on the water. Many states have requirements for your name, address and phone number to be on the jug, so it’s a good idea to write that on the jug with a permanent marker. Another good idea is to number the jugs in large dark letters. This is handy if your are baiting each one with a different bait initially. When you catch a catfish, you can tell by the number what bait you had on it, and can re-bait the others to what is working. I never fooled with stationary jugs, because it’s easier just to run a trotline.
To fish with the rigs, simply unroll the line to the desired length, bait the hooks and drop the rig in the water. Shake the gravel to the side so that the jug floats on its side. When a fish hits, the gravel will slide to the cap and the jug will stand up, and the jug will take-off. This means there is a fish (or turtle, gator, or snake) on. Catch up with the jug, but keep an eye on the others. It can get crazy sometimes, when several fish hit at once. Pull the line in carefully until you know what’s on the end. If is is a desirable aquatic denizen, remove it from the hook, place it in the creel, and return it to the other jugs. You can then re-bait it and toss it back in. If it is is an undesirable creature, try to remove it from the hook as uninjured as possible, and allow it to go on it’s way. If the hook cannot be safely removed (large snapping turtles, snakes and gators take a dim view of having a hook in them, and would like nothing better than to take out their frustrations on the nearest thing they can reach, which in this case is….you), cut the line as close as safely possible, and leave the area quickly. For Free-Floating rigs, follow them in your boat and watch for strikes. For Stationary Rigs, you can go off and come back to check them later. It’s a good idea to wear gloves when running the lines. It’s not uncommon to hook some very large fish, and it can get ugly. Don’t use more than 2 hooks per rig, because it gets too dangerous with more.
Jugs will last a long time if cared for. Check the line often and replace it when needed. Check the hooks for sharpness and sharpen them when they get dull.

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.

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