Ground Game for Catfish

Bank Fishing Strategies for Boatless Anglers

story by TF&G Staff with Chad Ferguson

Anglers bound to fishing for catfish or any other species from the bank have limitations. Let us be honest here and recognize there are certain limitations to fishing without a boat.

This does not however mean bank anglers cannot have consistent, productive fishing action, whether they wade in for trout on the coast or fish from a pier in an inland state park.

The following tips will make a gigantic difference in your pursuit of catfish from the bank.

Water Levels: Paying special attention to water levels and movement is crucial for anglers fishing from the bank. By virtue of fishing from shore, you are fishing across the very shallowest areas and that can be a problem.

Inland anglers should strategically position themselves in areas with enough depth to get solid fishing action. The tip of piers like those at many of our state parks and at private docks throughout the states are great spots. Another simple step is walking out toward points that extend into a lake or river. This offers a big advantage over simply setting up at a pretty spot on the bank.

Catfish can certainly be caught in the shallows, particularly during the spawning period, but if all of your fishing is in one to two feet of water you are missing out on many opportunities.

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Precision Catfishing

THE USE OF “LURES” FOR catfish might seem different but it can be highly effective.

Products like the Little Stinker Large Kat Lures allow for an efficient way to fish commercially prepared baits. These teardrop plastic lures are made in bright colors with tiny pores to leak out scents to attract catfish. These lures are similar to tactics used in Europe to catch that region’s giant catfish—the Wels.

Simply insert the tip of the bait into the slit of the Little Stinker Teardrop Lure and squeeze. The scent of the bait will milk out of the lure attracting big cats. The bait remaining inside the lure will satisfy the fish as it strikes. The weedless design allows for fishing in and around brush, rock and structures where big fish hide. This system lures fish with both scent and taste.

Injecting these lures gives anglers a mess-free option for a style of fishing, not exactly known for cleanliness. Plus, it still has plenty of stink to lure in ol’ whiskerface.

Little Stinker Large Kat Lure in Red.
Little Stinker Large Kat Lure Chartreuse.
Little Stinker Large Kat Lure in Yellow.
Little Stinker Large Kat Lure in Glitter.

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The Right Line: This one might seem not so important, but it can save you lots of time and frustration in the field.

Avoid using fluorocarbon and braided lines that sink while fishing from the bank. Shorelines are typically lined with vegetation, trash and other obstacles. If you are making long casts and using a sinking lure or fishing dead bait on the bottom, a fluorocarbon or other sinking line will get you snagged all over the place.

Texas Fish & Game Editor-In-Chief field tested some line a while back that was designed for crappie fishing and the first test was conducted a bridge with a baited brush pile.

“The bank there slopes way down and I got snagged all over the place on the brush because of the sinking properties,” Moore said.

“Most braided line floats (there are exceptions), and it also gives you a strength advantage. If you are fishing for catfish, for example, and hook a 30-pounder instead of the usual two to three pounders, it can pay off to have a strong, braided line,” he added.

“Splash,” the state record catfish, was caught from shore at Lake Texoma by Cody Mullennix, pictured here with retired TPWD inland fisheries director Phil Durocher.

Chum: Although chasing fish from the bank is not an option, you can make them chase you. Chumming is an underrated method of pursuing catfish in Texas that can be used anywhere, from ponds to the state’s largest reservoirs.

Europeans use a technique called “ground baiting” where anglers use soured grain and prepared chum from the bank. They use slingshots to shoot it far into the water and also use a plastic device that rests above their leader.

If you can find an old 35mm film canister or one of the soft side plastic aspirin bottles, remove the labels and poke holes all over it. Strategically poke aligning holes in the top and bottom. Using a Carolina rig, slide the rig above your weight and leader. Open the lid, fill with chum and cast. This allows you to have a fish attractant right on your line.

Take a cast net and catch a bunch of shad, then mash them up. Put these in the canister, instead of soured grain or a prepared bait. Since most coastal predatory fish key on fish oil, you can take a can of mackerel, poke holes in it and put it in a wire fish basket and use it to create a chum slick that draws fish to your position.

An easier option―and one that is perfect for using stinking concoctions―is to the use the Little Stinker Large Kat Lures. They are pre-made rigs featuring a double or treble hook, depending on your preference, wrapped with a tear-drop shaped plastic device.

The device is to be filled with their tube paste or dip bait in flavors such as blood. It creates its own mini chum as the bait disperses through the water, luring in fish of the whisker wearing variety.

Catfish pro, Chad Ferguson, says using these types of smelly concoctions can help bring fish to the angler.

“Catfish like things that stink,” he said. “If bank fishermen put that knowledge to use, that will go a long way toward success.”

Floats: In northern states, floats are considered precision bait- and lure-delivering instruments. In Texas we often look at them as child’s play, but nothing could be farther from the truth.

Using floats while fishing from the bank gives you some wonderful advantages. For starters, if you have a good idea of the depth you will be casting toward, it will allow you to fish above any cover on the bottom (shell, brush) that could get you snagged.

Additionally it allows you to keep an exact eye on your bait and position it over certain spots. Good visuals are extremely important for bank fishing.

Another advantage is fish attraction. Popping and rattling corks, in particular, mimic the sound of feeding fish and are great at drawing reactions from everything from redfish to catfish.

A simple fishing float or bobber provides a number of advantages for the bank fisherman.

Be Mobile: When bank fishing it is easy to get set on one location since it can be such a pain to move. However, this can cause you to waste time and catch few fish.

Have a few different locations in mind. Remember, the same kind of conditions that impact fishing from a boat affect fish when you fish from the bank. The fish have not changed, only your location has.

Rainy Days: Rain gets catfish stirred up and in a big way. Most anglers avoid the rain but catfish fans, especially those who fish from the bank, know it is time to hit the water.

Narrow canals intersected by smaller ditches than feed into bayous or rivers are great places to seek catfish as water levels rise and the visibility goes to zero. The word “feeding frenzy” may seem like overkill in this situation, but the fact is rain triggers a hunger impulse in catfish. Although you are sitting on the bank, your chances of catching a mess of fine eating catfish are as good as anyone in a boat when the sky is crying.

TF&G Staff:
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