What Is The Best Way To Rig For Catfish? 

There are hundreds of fishing rig options that are highly successful for all types of fish and all types of water, but catfish are bottom feeders, and there are specific rigs that work best for catfish. Any angler that targets catfish must know how to design and set up their rig for catching these fish, or the process becomes very difficult. 

The best way to rig for catfish is to use a slip rig designed for bottom feeding. Use a rolling sinker, a circle hook, a swivel, a lead line, and fresh or live bait for the best results with catfish. Medium rods and a 40-test line are best for these fish. 

Any angler fishing for catfish must know how to set up an ideal rig for catching these fish. There are some very simple rigs for catfish that any angler can master quickly, and there are complex rigs designed for expert catfish anglers. Regardless of the rig, it must be designed for catfish to work. 

What Is The Best Way To Rig For Catfish?

Catfish are the favorite of many anglers. There are many ways to rig your gear for catching catfish, and there are several ways to catch them, as catfish always seem to be hungry and ready to bite. 

However, with that said, not every rig works well for catching catfish. If you want to get as many of these fish on the line as possible during a fishing trip, you must learn the best rigs to use for these fish. 

The best way to rig for catfish is to use bottom feeder rigs, such as slip rigs, drift rigs, slip float rigs, three-way rigs, poly-ball rigs, and variations of paternoster rigs. All of these rigs are known to work well for catfish, especially when fishing in strong currents and deep lakes. 

The most common and most well-used catfish rig, however, is the simple slip rig. This rig is proven to be among the most effective for catching bottom feeders such as catfish and is very simple to execute well. 

A slip rig is made by using a sinker that can roll on the bottom, such as an egg sinker, a simple swivel, and lead line, a hook, and bait. 

Simply attach your hook to a section of line a few inches long; this is the lead line. Attach the other end of the lead line to the swivel, and attach the swivel to the main line with a free-sliding sinker already on it. 

It is best to use this rig with live bait, fresh bait, or floating bait. 

The sinker will keep the line on the bottom of the waterbed, where the catfish feed, and the free-slip nature of the rig allows the fish to take the hook and swim with it without realizing it has been hooked. 

The line will slip through the sinker, the fish will not realize it has taken bait until it’s too late, and you will feel a tug on the line when the fish swims away, signaling you to set the hook and reel the fish in. 

Slip rigs such as these are highly effective for catching all types of bottom feeders, especially catfish. These rigs work by placing bait directly where the fish eat and presenting the rig in a way that does not alarm the fish at all, making it far more likely to take the hook. 

For catching catfish, the best rigs use a monofilament line that is difficult for the fish to see and a decent gauge line, about 60 pounds for most catfish. The overall strength of the line you use should be based on the size of the fish you are targeting, as some catfish can grow to tremendous size and weight. 

A slide rig is among the best and easiest rigs to use for catching these fish, and with some practice, anyone can use a slide rig to effectively land a catfish. 

What Is The Best Bait For Catfish?

There are several rigs that work well for catfish, but if it is not baited correctly, no rig will work for these fish at all. Without the proper bait, no angler is likely to land a catfish. 

It is critical to use the right form of bait for catching these fish, as catfish are predatory carnivores, but they are also after specific prey items. These fish will eat most bait items so long as they are within the realm of food that catfish normally eat. 

Some catfish species are omnivores and are likely to take almost any bait, but it is still better to use bait that is proven to work well with catfish for the sake of effective fishing rather than using anything you happen to have on hand at the time. 

Here are some of the best bait items to use for your catfish rig to ensure that you get a fish on the line as quickly as possible. 


There are several reasons why nightcrawlers are the best bait for catching catfish. 

Nightcrawlers as well within the known food items of catfish everywhere. These bottom feeders are accustomed to eating worms and other such food items from the waterbed, so finding a nightcrawler to eat is a welcomed occurrence for all catfish species. 

Worms such as nightcrawlers are also very easy to rig, very inexpensive, and easily available. They work well with circle hooks, and catfish almost always take them. 

Sometimes in fishing, the simplest option is the best option regarding catfish bait. Live nightcrawlers almost always work well for catching catfish, and they are excellent to use for slip rigs. 

Gizzard Shad

Gizzard shad are common in almost all freshwater in the US, which means they are a common prey item for most catfish species. 

These fish make excellent catfish bait because catfish are accustomed to eating them, they are very effective for attracting catfish, and they are very easy to use with catfish rigs. 

These little baitfish are also very to catch with cast nets, which means you can gather a supply of baitfish for free very easily in the same water where you fish for catfish. 

Gizzard shad are excellent catfish bait, easy to rig, easy to find, cheap to buy, they can be used as frozen or live bait, they are easy to come by in bait shops, and catfish love eating them.

White Suckers

White suckers are a favorite bait for catfish anglers everywhere. These fish are slightly too large to use whole, but when cut into chunks, white suckers are highly effective for catching catfish. 

Catfish cannot seem to get enough of white suckers and almost always take this bait very well. White suckers have a bony internal structure which makes them very easy to place hooks into. Chunks of white sucker hold onto rigs very well, and they are very effective even when frozen. 

These fish are also easy to catch, readily available in almost all freshwater in the USA, and they are even easy to breed and keep for your own supply of baitfish whenever you need it. 

White suckers are ideal catfish bait and have been proven to be highly successful for this fishing. 

Skipjack Herring

Skipjack herring, also known as ‘skippies,’ are excellent bait for large catfish. 

Anglers who target the biggest catfish specimens only use Skippies as bait, and they are the most commonly used bait item in catfish fishing competitions. 

These fish are less commonly available, but you can catch them in most rivers in spring, and they are available in good bait shops. 

These baitfish can be used live, dead, frozen, whole, or in chunks for catching catfish, and they are among the most effective bait items for all catfish species. 

If you have access to Skippies for catfishing, there is almost nothing better, especially if you are after large catfish. 

Commercial Catfish Bait

Commercial catfish bait is another highly effective bait option for all catfish. 

These bait items work so well because they are designed to be as attractive as possible for catfish. They are made to float off the bottom, which makes them ideal for bottom fishing rigs such as slip rigs. 

These bait items are easily available. They are exceptionally easy to rig up for fishing, are highly effective because they are designed for catfish, and are inexpensive to buy. 

If you do not have easy access to baitfish for catfish, using commercial bait is a great option and is proven to be just as effective as live bait for most catfish species. 

What Lure Is Best For Catfish?

We have established that catfish are best caught with live bait, and there are several exceptional live bait options to use for catfish, but it is also possible to use lures to catch these fish, even though it is much more difficult. 

Catfish are often unlikely to take a lure, but there are instances of lures being used to successfully land these fish. 

If you have no bait to use for catfish, which lure works best for these fish?

While fresh or live bait is more effective for catfish, if you only have access to lures, the best options for catching catfish include the following:

  • Scented lures
  • Crankbaits
  • Fake worm lures
  • Chatterbaits
  • Crawfish lures
  • Rattling lures
  • Float line lures
  • Swimbaits
  • Jighead lures

All of these lures are designed to mimic a natural prey item or food item that catfish are accustomed to eating. These lures are less effective as bait, but they can be used to great success by skilled anglers. 

The best options from this list are worms, crawfish, and scented lures. These are proven to be the best lure option for catfish and can work very well when used correctly. 

There are also specific lures made for catfish, but these are not likely to be more effective than other lure types and are generally considered to have the same effectiveness as other lures that work for these fish. 

Which Hooks Are Best For Catfish?

There are many different hooks available for modern anglers, and it can be difficult to choose the right hook for the fish you are targeting. Which hook should you use for catching catfish?

Most modern catfish anglers prefer using circle hooks for catfish. These hooks are larger and tougher than traditional hook styles, such as j-hooks, and are very effective for catching catfish, especially if used correctly. 

J-hooks and other smaller hook types are not robust enough to effectively catching catfish. These hooks rely on the hook sinking into the roof of the fish’s mouth, but catfish mouths are too tough and thick for this to work effectively. 

Circle hooks turn in the mouth of the fish and hook into the lip, or the corner of the mouth, which makes them far more effective for catfish. 

Catfish lips are tough and thick, which prevents circle hooks from ripping out, further proving the effectiveness of these hooks.

It is important when using circle hooks for catfish that you use a larger hook than you think you need. This is especially true if you are used to using other hook types. 

Circle hooks must be large enough to keep the space in the hook open at all times and must never be filled with bait or too small to slide over the mouth of the fish. 

If the gap in the hook is too small, or if it is full of bait, it will not work. The hook will turn in the mouth of the fish and slide right over the lips without sinking the pint of the hook into the fish. 

If you use a large enough circle hook, it will remain open, slide over the lips of the fish, and hook the fish correctly without causing it to slip off the line. 

Circle hooks can be a little more challenging to use and operate than other hook types, but they are the most effective hooks to use for catching these fish if used with the right techniques.

What Rod Is Best For Catching Catfish?

All anglers know that a good rig is nothing without a good rod. If you do not have the right rod for catching catfish, the rig that you use is irrelevant. Which rod should you use for catfish?

The best rod for catfish depends on the size of the fish you are targeting and the environment you are fishing in. 

Some catfish species are relatively small and do not require very strong rods, but others are truly massive and require exceptionally tough rods to bring them in.  

For most catfish, even into the double-digit range, a medium-power rod is sufficient. These rods more than are strong enough to bring in some large catfish and are easy to use in all water conditions. 

However, if you are after the biggest and heaviest catfish specimens, it is best to get a high or medium-high power rod that can handle the weight and fight off these fish. 

The weight rating of the rod that you use should be entirely dependent on the size of the catfish you are targeting. Using a high-strength rod for catching small and medium catfish is difficult and ineffective, and medium or light-strength rods are likely to break if you are targeting the largest fish in the river. 

Take the time to consider the size of the catfish you are after and choose your rod accordingly. The rod you use can make a significant difference in your catfishing success. 

What Is The Easiest Catfish Rig?

If you are new to the world of catfishing and are looking for the easiest but most effective rig to use for these fish, what should you use?

The easiest rig that works the best for catfishing is a medium-strength rod with a 40-test monofilament line and a slip rig. The slip rig should use a sliding egg sinker, a heavy-duty swivel, a string lead line, a big circle hook, and it must be tight correctly for pulling the hook forward. 

The best way to use the rig effectively is to use live or fresh bait, preferably nightcrawlers or baitfish from the same water you are fishing for catfish. 

Hook the bait onto the circle hook without filling the entire hook, and ensure that the bait cannot turn on the hook. 

Take a boat out to the edge of a river or a lake, look for holes in the bank and active baitfish, cast your rig, and wait for the catfish to bite. 

Be patient, take your time, look for good fishing spots. This rig is sure to be the easiest, most accessible, and most effective way to catch catfish, regardless of your angling skills or experience.


Every catfish angler has their own opinions regarding catfish rigs, and every angler has their ideal rig for these fish. Take your time when putting together your rig, explore the options, and find something that works for you. This can take time, but it is an important process and will determine how successful you are when targeting catfish. 

These fish can be very easy to catch with the right rig and the correct techniques. Practice your skills, develop and refine your rig, and you are sure to get catfish on the end of your line in no time. 

Tommy Bull
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