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No Boat, No Worries: Catching Catfish From the Shore

By Keith "Catfish" Sutton

Catfish anglers fish from boats significantly less than crappie, bass and, walleye anglers. In some areas, 70 percent or more fish primarily from shore. If you are among them, these tips can improve your catch.

First, pick a bank-fishing site near prime catfish holding areas: perhaps a shore clearing near a river’s outside bend, a spot beside a pond levee or a gravel bar adjacent to a deep hole in a small stream. The best sites have flat, brush-free banks where casting is easy. Ideally, you should be able to walk from one good bank-fishing spot to another. Fish for 15 to 30 minutes at the first spot, and if a bite isn’t forthcoming, move to another. When hungry cats are nearby, they’ll quickly find your offerings.

If you’re confident trophy-class cats inhabit the water you’re fishing, it may prove beneficial to remain in one locale and fish longer. Cast to the best-looking spot you can reach, place your fishing combo in a rod holder, put the reel in free-spool, flip on your bait clicker and relax until the action starts. This technique may not produce lots of catfish, but it’s excellent when targeting often-roaming heavyweights.

The best gear for this type of fishing includes a long rod for longer casts and better line control, and a high-line-capacity spinning reel with a low gear ratio, which also facilitates lengthy casts and provides power for cranking in big fish. The Mitchell AvoCat combo is a great match for these needs. The 8-foot composite rod with six stainless-steel/ceramic guides can be loaded on the backswing for powerful casts to distant offshore hotspots and is long enough to allow the line to be lifted off the water for better rig control. The 6000-size spinning reel comes spooled with 150 yards of fluorescent-orange, 20-pound-test Stren Catfish Mono, or can be respooled with up to 200 yards of 20-pound-test braid. Its powerful 4.9:1 gear ratio tames even heavyweight cats, a must for anglers who can’t chase their quarry in a boat.

A great bank-fishing spot is in tailwaters below big-river dams. Government agencies often provide concrete walkways for easy-access angling, and the huge congregations of catfish that often gather in these food-rich environs are suckers for a chunk of fresh shad bait, a live minnow or sunfish, or other enticements. To catch them, cast a weighted rig toward the dam into a groove of slackened water between open gates. Then let the rig sink and remain in one spot 15 minutes. If no bite is forthcoming, raise your rod tip high to lift the weight, let the current wash it downstream a few feet, then let the weight down again and repeat. This allows covering lots of bottom from a single bank-fishing spot.

With a long rod to keep your line up off the water, you can become adept at steering the rig past catfish holding areas without hang-ups. Drift one side of a hole, then down the other and finally right down the middle. If nothing happens after you’ve worked an area thoroughly, move to another spot and try again. Sooner or later, if catfish are actively feeding, you’ll hook one.

Carry some chairs and drinks, and bring your friends on your bank-fishing forays. Build a campfire, kick back and chew the fat. The camaraderie and relaxation are what make this form of fishing so much fun. Catching cats is just a bonus.

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