When fishing for catfish, something keeps stealing my bait! How do I prevent this?

When fishing for catfish, something keeps stealing my bait! How do I prevent this?

There is probably nothing more frustrating than sitting on a supposedly set line for an age, quietly exercising your best fisherman’s patience, only to finally pull your hook in, and realize that you’ve been had…. your bait has been stolen, and for who knows how long, some sneaky, finny beast has been having a great laugh at your expense. Sadly, the fish are not going to change their criminal ways. However, you can combat this, with two main changes to your processes, during fishing. First off, the hook-up: your bait needs to be very thoroughly hooked onto, and yet, the hook cannot be too obvious to the fish, and must also still be in a position to snag a biter right away. Ideally, use a solid, firm bait, such as a whole, small bait fish (smelt is a good call, here), matched to the size of your quarry. A four or five inch smelt is tempting for even a very large Blue cat, with smaller versions of this more suited to smaller cats. Thread the hook in through the mouth, out one gill and into the belly or side of the bait fish, so that the hook comes up and sticks out just a bit, near the middle of the back. This hook-up method makes the bait fish float in a streamlined fashion, and makes it virtually impossible (but never say never) for a catfish to take the bait, but not the hook. If you are using other baits, like chicken livers, for example, try nylon pantyhose netting, or some other fine mesh bag, to contain the soft bait, so it can’t be nibbled away in bits. Patience is not a catfish’s strong suit. The second thing is, fish using a slipweight, or drift fish, and keep your line tight to the slipweight, or nearly tight to a free-floating drift bait, so that you will know right away, if there’s an investigator at the business end. Finally, let the fish take the bait, unimpeded, so that it will grab on and swim away with it for a bit… resistance will make it crush, damage, and then spit the bait out, whereas a few seconds of freedom will give it time to start to swallow, and then, you’ll have your catch where you want him. A lot of bait spits will eventually lose you a lot of, or all of, your bait.


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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