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Secrets to Catching Huge Catfish

Updated on September 16, 2017
mgeorge1050 profile image

Alan is a veteran of the US Air Force, a master electrician, and a long-time hobby farmer.

My oldest boy caught this 20lb cat on a jug at 5 years old!
My oldest boy caught this 20lb cat on a jug at 5 years old!

Grew up fishing....

Growing up fishing at small farm ponds and lakes around our town was common in my neighborhood. My dad would wake me up early and we would sneak over to our honey hole. Just a quick hike through the empty wooded lot across the street and we were lakeside.

Most of my childhood memories of fishing include thrashing my rod around in the tangled brush while my dad "whisper yelled" at me to be quiet. There was one trip when I hounded him relentlessly to use a new rubber worm with built in hooks he had gotten at the store earlier. He finally gave in to shut me up and tied the worm on my line. After a few thrashes, I was able to execute the most perfect cast you can imagine a five year old making. Just a few turns of the reel and......BAM!!

He was a beast of a fish! He jumped and pulled...but I held the rod tight. Upon the realization that I had a live fish on the end of that line, my dad bolted up and began shouting instructions like some crazed fishing guide. I reeled...and the fish pulled....and so on, until at last the fish was landed by my dad in the knee deep shallows with me at the reel. A fierce one and a half pound largemouth bass that any five year old could be proud to call his first. I was 'hooked' for life....

37 pound blue cat, Labor Day 2012  Weiss Lake
37 pound blue cat, Labor Day 2012 Weiss Lake

Couple of babies....

30lb Blue Cat-Weiss Lake AL 2009
30lb Blue Cat-Weiss Lake AL 2009

Favorite Bait

Of course when I was a kid, my favorite setup was a Zebco 33, a plastic bobber, a split shot weight, and a small hook. On the hook I would add a delicious minnow or earthworm. Maybe even a cricket if there were some bream under the dock. Now that I'm grown, my adult friends make fun of my bobber and minnow setup. They all use fancy lures and artificial baits. I've tried the classic rubber worms with some success. I've tried all the lures, plugs, and stink baits. I just have better luck and catch more fish with my childhood favorite. So I fish like a big kid....so I like it and I'll stick with it.

I began to expand my fishing efforts around 2006 when my uncle introduced me to jug fishing. The basic principle is quite similar to my ole Zebco setup, using inexpensive equipment and free bait. I love the idea of having multiple baits in the water, and this method really works!

Huge buddy makes this fish look tiny, but you can see it is longer than my son.
Huge buddy makes this fish look tiny, but you can see it is longer than my son.
75lb stringer-Weiss Lake 2009. Try not to be distracted by my sweet tan.
75lb stringer-Weiss Lake 2009. Try not to be distracted by my sweet tan.
Kingfisher-West Point Lake GA 2008
Kingfisher-West Point Lake GA 2008
Small eating size
Small eating size
Me with a couple babies
Me with a couple babies
Turkeys, look at that ole struttin Jake
Turkeys, look at that ole struttin Jake

Jug Fishing 101

Some folks call this a lazy man's way to fish, but they have never tied and baited 50 jugs in one night. The jug fishing method is basically setting a baited hook out with a big bobber tied to the line. I use two different jug rigs, weighted and free floating. I normally use weighted jugs, as they are somewhat stationary. I do enjoy using free floating jugs in good weather, with little wind.

The free floating jugs can be exciting when you are chasing a swimming jug across the lake.You can use old milk jugs, soda bottles, or really anything that will float. I prefer those foam swimming noodles for our free floaters, as they are much easier to store when not in use. To make some noodles, just cut the noodles into 18 inch lengths. Use a roll of nylon string to make some 24-36 inch lines. Tie a line a couple times around the center of each noodle. Tie a hook on the end of each line. Use some big trot line hooks with eyes large enough to handle your string. Bait your hooks with fresh cut shad. Just cut them in half and use one half per hook. If you cannot catch shad, use large live minnows. Chicken liver and stink bait can be used, but you will catch smaller fish. Find an area of shallows (2-5 feet) near a deeper channel. Troll across your spot and throw the baited noodles overboard. Now you will have to wait for one of them to start swimming. I use this waiting period to set my jugs. You want to check your noodles often, however, because they will float away.

Weighted jugs will not float away, which is one advantage to this method. However, fish are able to get off the hooks easier, as they have a weight to pull against. These are easy enough to make with old milk jugs. Tie a brick to a roll of nylon string and drop the brick to the bottom. Cut the string above the water, and tie it to your jug. You can then place hooks anywhere along this 'set line' using trot line clips or by simply tying them on the line. Bait and wait. Check these every two hours as the fish can easily pull away from the hook if the brick gets stuck.

Here's a few tips that may help:

> Always use fresh bait that you catch live in the same water you intend to fish. You can get a cast net and catch bait pretty easy.

>Shallows that drop off to deep channels will produce larger fish. Fish use the channels like highways, and often move into the shallows to feed on smaller bait fish.

>New and full moons will always produce more fish.

>If the wind is blowing hard, do not set your free floating jugs/noodles out.

Maybe some of the information here will help. These are some interesting approaches that can be fruitful. If you need more information on jug fishing, please follow the link below to my jug fishing article.


Top Five Tips for HUGE Catfish

Ok, here are the tips I normally don't share with other fishermen. Some of these things may seem simple or obvious, but it took me years of trial and error that you may be able to avoid. These five tips will improve your catfish catch immediately:

1. Get a cast net and learn to use it for catching bait. I would consider bait the most important factor in catching larger fish. The best bait you can use is fresh bait fish that you just harvested from your target's own back yard. These bait fish are what catfish feed on every day! The cast net takes a little work to learn, but then it's all the free bait you can use. All the fish in my pictures were caught using fresh cut bait.

2. Cut your bait fish. I try to catch the largest bait fish the law allows, then I cut them in half. I put one half per hook. I have experimented with both cut and uncut bait, and I feel like the fresh cut bait works a little better for me. Always cut the bait fresh.

3. Use proper sized tackle. If you are trying to catch a 50 pound catfish, you better have the right equipment. This doesn't mean you have to spend a fortune...on my jugs I use 313 pound trot line string, milk jug, half a brick, and a 6/0 trot line hook...one jug setup costs me about 40 cents. Keep in mind that in deeper water you can use more than one hook per jug if you laws permit.

4. Know all your local fishing laws and use them to your benefit. Where I normally fish, I am allowed one hundred hooks in the water at any given time. For a big fishing trip I will set fifty jugs with two hooks each and play the odds. It is also important to know the limits on bait fish, so you don't have too many or over sized bait.

5. Run your jugs often. I try to check my baited jugs every two hours. Also, I always bait them before I turn in for the night. If you leave them overnight, be sure and check them as early as possible the next morning. Run the jugs as much as possible, even during the daylight hours. A lot of fishermen will tell you the catfish bite best at night....that may be true, but the two biggest fish in my photos were both caught during the mid day heat. When I caught that 30 pound blue in the photo above, it was twelve o'clock in the afternoon and 98 blazing degrees.

Weiss Lake Alabama

A
Weiss Lake Alabama:
Weiss Lake, United States

get directions

This is a great big lake with a major river system running through. A great example of a lake capable of growing massive catfish.

Huge catfish!
Huge catfish!

Favorite Bait

What's your favorite over all bait?

See results

Key to Big Fish is Free Bait

I consider bait the number one key to catching larger catfish. I recommend investing in a cast net to anyone that is serious about catching big catfish. You can get them at wally world for about thirty bucks. Get out in the yard and practice throwing the net using the included instructions. A little practice and you will be catching free bait in no time. This bait you catch at the fishing hole will be fresh, lively, and a common forage food for predator fish! Try to throw in shallows where the bottom is clear of debris. Snagging your net on a rock can easily tear a hole, which precious bait will use to escape.

Nice blue catfish
Nice blue catfish

I grew up under a rock and have never been fishing...

You've never been fishing!! Well go to the store and get a basic rod and reel combo. Get you some bobbers and hooks. Go to the old bait store and get you some worms or minnows. Maybe you would rather try some fancy looking lures and rigs, lots of folks catch tons of fish on those. Now find some water...lake, river, creek or mudhole. Take a kid along whenever possible, and have fun.

Catfish Trophy Photos

Weiss Lake catfish, July 4th weekend 2014
Weiss Lake catfish, July 4th weekend 2014
Big catfish returned to the lake.
Big catfish returned to the lake.
Catch and release only for the big cats.
Catch and release only for the big cats.
16 pound catfish caught at Weiss Lake 2014
16 pound catfish caught at Weiss Lake 2014
Nice catfish
Nice catfish
Weiss Lake catfish 4th of July weekend.
Weiss Lake catfish 4th of July weekend.
Weiss Lake catfish 2014
Weiss Lake catfish 2014
We release all catfish over ten pounds.
We release all catfish over ten pounds.
Nice flathead, Weiss Lake Alabama, 2015
Nice flathead, Weiss Lake Alabama, 2015
20 pound blue catfish, Weiss Lake 2015
20 pound blue catfish, Weiss Lake 2015
Weiss Lake, Alabama, nice catfish...summer 2015.
Weiss Lake, Alabama, nice catfish...summer 2015.
22 pound catfish, Weiss Lake, AL   2015.
22 pound catfish, Weiss Lake, AL 2015.

West Point Lake, GA

A
West Point Lake:
West Point Lake, United States

get directions

Another great example of a lake that could grow monster catfish.

Anybody got more big cat tips?

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    Post Comment

    • mgeorge1050 profile imageAUTHOR

      Alan 

      4 years ago from West Georgia

      Thanks for your comments DDE, sorry it took me so long to reply. I have been really busy preparing for the upcoming fishing season.

    • DDE profile image

      Devika Primić 

      4 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      Incredible! Your ideas to catching big fish looks very successful and this shows your professionalism in fishing. I like the photos.

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