Fishing & Hunting Tips

Top 5 tips on How to catch catfish in rivers

Every angler has caught catfish whether intentionally or accidentally. But it did happen. At least to us regular ones. Today we are gonna focus on some tips on how to catch catfish in rivers. Because the method varies slightly for different types of water.

Did you know that catfish are bottom dwellers? But in a catfish farm, they eat out of floating pellet which is of course against their natural instinct.

You can also grab some of the best catfish rods and reels with a fraction of a price. We all know how frustrating it becomes to determine the best tackle set up. Because any incompatibility between these components will result in a bountiful or wasteful fishing trip.

Did you know catfish tend to crawl into holes during fall and winter times? And later in the summer, they will move up to upstream or back downstream to hang out.
This article is filled with little yet useful facts like these to let you know everything about how to catch catfish in rivers.

How to catch catfish in rivers ( Top 5 tips )

You can easily catch some catfish in waters like lakes, ponds, and reservoirs. But catching them in a river presents a unique experience. And for successful compilation, you gotta follow some rules to tame these channel catfish. It depends on everything, from the right positioning of the bait to a suitable line. Come along now. Let’s follow these 5 golden rules.

1. Cast at the bend

Catfish is more available at the end of the river rather than in a straight river pattern. So, look for the sharpest bend at your intended river for a trophy size catfish. Ar the bend, the current is powerful, and the depth is higher.

These curves combined with strong current render a natural camouflage in which the catfish await for its next prey. For a more successful hunt, start by the upstream and work your ways to downwards. Hopefully, you’ll hook something big.

2. Look for the covers

Catfish love to hide under any covers. From dead trees, branches, to the rocks, anything that provides a cover above water. Look for such elements at the bend. Apart from protection, this debris provides Eddie’s that also acts as a food source for the channel catfish.

Did you know that when you cast your bait at the upstream, the current carries the smell towards downstream and get the attention of these channel catfish?

3. Cast from the bank

The reason I’m suggesting this because it can eliminate the need for a boat and save you some dollars. Unless you own one. Besides, if you move upstream at the bend, you’ll find it downright impossible to steady the boat or anchoring it for a stable fishing condition.

And you also run the risk to scare off those channel catfish with the sound of the boat’s engine. Unless you have a Tesla boat, lol. Also, certain parts of shallows and debris won’t be accessible with a boat. So it’s better to stroll these terrains via feet for spot advantage.

4. The right line

Line selection depends on your targeted fish size and the condition of the river. You can pick the line strength from 15 lbs up to 80 lbs. Enough to land a massive Catfish. Also, when fishing close to debris, it’s wise to choose a braided line.

Monoline might get snapped and frayed as there will be pulling from the catfish across the rocks and woods. The strength of the braided line is also ideal to absorb the backlash of the catfish.

5. Bait with stench

I would’ve named these dogfish. Because their sense of smell is incredible. This amazing power alerts them of any potential prey in their habitats. They also stay protected from any foreign objects and other harmful chemicals.

It’s a smart strategy to use their power to our advantage. Use that stinky bait, oh yeah. Catfish will jump on to those live fishes, worms and crawfish. If you don’t want to go through the trouble of juggling live baits then do what I do. I occasionally use rotten meats and even bad smelly cheese to get their attention.

Just make sure to cast the bait right on the upstream. The current will carry the odor hence attracting nearby catfish.

5 must have baits for catfish

No matter how much techniques and knowledge you implement on how to catch catfish in rivers, the most important thing is bait selection. This very choice can make or break your day. Let’s find out the top 12 great baits for catfish below.

1. Chicken liver

One of the most widely suggested and used bait for catfish across the US. The key reason is the unmistakable smell. Once you cast chicken liver as bait, the smell draws attention from a wide range of catfish. Catfish just can’t pass them by.

One drawback though, don’t expect a huge catch with chicken liver. Because you’re more likely to get a bite from a channel catfish up to 10 pounds. Nonetheless, it’s better than nothing, right? Besides, you can get your hands on chicken liver at any local grocery store easily.

But with great convenience comes with greater concerns. You’re more likely prone to lose the chicken liver bait once you cast upstream. These slimy elements tend to slide off the hook easily. You just have to be in control for a while and let the bait get toughen up in the water. And make sure to prevent the hook get ahead of your bait.

To keep the chicken liver attached to the hook, use a treble hook with small pieces of liver wrapped around it. Loft the hook into the water rather than faster casting. Remember, chicken liver loses its natural appeal within 15-20 minutes after casting. So re-bait once in half an hour for better response and present bait in new spots.

Don’t cast the liver bait in the strong current. And be patient. In times, you’ll get bites from either channel catfish or smaller blues.

2. Dip baits

Many 3rd and 4th generation anglers use dips produced by themselves. These blends are secrets. A secret that is well protected from generations. But don’t get disheartened. For us, there are commercially manufactured blends that are available in stores.

Regardless of the type you use, it’s all a gooey brew of stink, which catfish can’t resist. You must have a protein or cheese based element present in your goo for getting the cat’s attention. And make sure that your dip baits are consistent enough to hold up in raging currents.

3. Shad

If you are hunting for a trophy-sized cat, then your bait size should be big too. A big catfish likes to have a big bite of shad. Use a big chunk of it or better yet, a live one is more likely to do the trick.

A big adult flat head likes to hang around the river channels more often. They feast on live fish and a live shad is a very important part of their food chain.

Even channel catfish as big as 10 pounds wouldn’t hesitate to prey on these live fishes. So using a shad will increase the odds of getting a trophy-sized bite all the more possible.

4. Crawfish

Don’t underestimate the power of a crawfish. Flathead Catfish that is large as 20 pounds feast on these munchy snacks as well the rest of their species do. Use a split shot rig or add a bit much weight with attaching a crawfish tail and bounce the bait near the bottom stream.

If you use dead ones then you’re more likely to end hooking channel catfish and large sized live ones will score you a trophy-sized Flathead catfish. If you are intent on hunting a big flathead then cast the bait close to those thick covers and get ready to pull with everything once you get a complete bite.

5. Nightcrawlers

Nowadays, modern anglers skip the simplicity of hooking a worm and use it as a bait. But little do they know that catfish will surely bite on a nightcrawler. You could say that it tastes like prime rib for those catfish. A natural filled with nutrients, a strong part of their diet.

Now let me put this as simply as possible, try to use big nightcrawlers. There’s like a 100% guarantee of a bite, big or small. But it’s okay if you can’t manage bigger sized nightcrawlers. Simply impale two or three on a single hook which should present a good bite for any catfish.

how to catch catfish in rivers

In the end

Wherever you hunt for catfish, whether it would be in lakes, rivers, ponds or reservoirs, you’ll always end up with a unique angling experience. Nonetheless, I hope you have managed to pinpoint the core idea about how to catch catfish in rivers by now.

Before I draw the end, I have quick advice for you folks. Those who are just starting out, remember, fishing is just not all about catching a fish. It’s much more than that. You will feel more relaxed and focused each time you are in a session.

Like my uncle used to say, “fishing builds characters. You can become a patient person or a ruthless one.” I still don’t know why he said that, but if you have any idea, feel free to let me know in the comment section below. And as always, cast away people.

Nicholi Wyto

Hey I'm Nicholi Wyto is a professional sports fisherman and hunter, love to enjoy spending time in Michigan’s rugged northern forests. I love to explore my experience and help others who are interested in fishing and hunting.

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