I get a lot of questions from first-timers to the well-seasoned who love to fish for Iowa’s #1 fish of choice for many anglers in the state, the catfish. Believe it or not, when I owned a bait shop for many years, the most lucrative and consistent anglers to cater to were the catfish crowd. My business was 95% catfish, 4% panfish, and maybe 1% bass. You named it, we carried it. I can remember having at least 20 different types of stink baits and live baits from the bizarre, like squid and salamanders, to regular old night crawlers. Some guys were quite successful on a regular basis at getting a good mess of catfish every time they went out. Others, though, would struggle and get quite frustrated with the whole deal and come back in to the shop for more info or questions on what they were doing wrong. There is an old saying that I use: “Right bait, right place, right time.”
Not to discount the world of YouTube and Google, but if you go to the vastness of the internet to try to find the answers, you’re going to be more confused than when you started. Some info out there just doesn’t carry over. You might have a video of a guy in Texas, North Carolina, Canada, or wherever fishing their peak times or water systems, and their videos look awesome and produce epic numbers of sizeable catfish, but their methods yield poor results around here when you try to duplicate what they did. Environment, water temp, natural bait sources, and depth are all factors you need to take into consideration when you read info that is submitted from different geological locations. In a nutshell, you need to research your prey, research your fishing grounds, and research the patterns or behaviors of catfish in this area. And above all, get that hook in the water as much as you can. If you want to be a concert pianist but yet you only practice once a month, you’re probably not going to get too far.
Now, with all that being said, let’s see if old Jerry can help you out. When you watch bass fishing shows, they are always preaching about technique and presentation. Well, the same holds true for catfish. For the next few articles, I will be talking about catfish rigs. If that term is foreign to you, let me put it this way: it’s how to arrange your terminal tackle (sinkers, swivels, floats, leaders, hooks) in different configurations on your fishing line. I will go into great detail in the upcoming articles to try to take the headache out of the hows and whys of figuring it out on your own. Now, when it comes to catfish rigs, they can be in the range of the most complex to the very simplest. In my next article I’ll dive into the first one in the series: the slip / sliding sinker rig or, as bass guys like to call it, a Carolina rig.