Catching big catfish in a lake is an exhilarating experience but you have to have the right tackle and setup to land them.
For most anglers, catching big catfish in lakes such as Beausoleil is the experience of a lifetime.
Words can’t adequately describe just how hard these fish pull and you can find yourself battling a catfish for an hour until it is subdued. Angling for large catfish in a 4 acre estate lake is a real challenge and here I want to give you my top tips for catching and landing them.
Go for safe inline rigs or running rigs that enable the lead to come free of the fish should disaster strike. If the fish can’t swim off with the rig without the lead in tow then you’re fishing with a death rig. Here’s a video of the catfish rig that we use here at Beausoleil and that is up to the task of tackling catfish over 100lbs . This rig and other versions of it, continue to catch massive catfish here all year round. This rig is tied using a size 6 Nash Chod Twister and 35lb Armourlink. I also go through my 2022 choices of mainline, hooklink and hooks for catfishing.
Find out why Beausoleil is a fishing paradise for specimen carp and cat anglers
Using the right tackle for catfish fishing
When you fish at a carp and catfish lake like Beausoleil, you must be properly set up. Even when targeting the carp, it’s very important that your gear can take a pick up from a catfish, because when they want to eat they will demolish everything!
This is what you should be using:
You should use size 2 or 4 heavy gauge hooks as an absolute minimum for carp or catfish. Some of our customers use hooks as large as 6/0 for the catfish.
► Hook links
You should not be using anything lighter than a 25lb hook link for carp or catfish. If you want to target the cats or are concerned about getting a pickup from the cats then up this to 45lbs. If you’re really serious about your catfish fishing, then you’ll be using heavier again!
Most fishery rules state 15lb mainline but over the years we have found this to be totally inadequate for the venue. In 2016 we upped the minimum mainline for both carp and cats to 30lbs. Don’t think that going bigger or heavier will cost you a chance with a carp as it won’t. Fishing strong is the safest way to fish.
Currently I’m using P-Line CXX X-Tra strong which is 30lbs but only 0.42mm. Other options to consider are Big Game in 25lbs – 30lbs, GLT Pro-Tough in 27lbs – 36lbs, or Daiwa Sensor in 25lbs to 30lbs. For my review of the best carp fishing lines, check out this post
► Rig tubing
Rig tubing is essential to protect the mainline close to the lead because male catfish have sharp, bony structures on the top side of each pectoral fin. During the fight, these can cut through un-protected mainline like a hot knife through butter!
To make sure the rig tubing can’t slide up the line during the fight, I use a short piece of pole elastic and tie a 4 turn stop knot just above the tubing. This traps the tubing in place but does not affect rig safety as a lead can pass cleanly over the top.
For big carp, you’ll need a minimum of 3lb TC rod. I use 3.25lb TC for my carp and cat fishing and have banked multiple 80lbs+ specimens. If you are very serious about your cat fishing then dedicated cat fishing rods of 6lbs minimum TC are the way to go.
Targeting catfish with anything other than a well built big pit style reel is crazy. I’ve seen reels literally disintegrate! I use Big Pit Shimano Ultegra’s but any heavy duty sea fishing reel will do. Specialist cat fishing reels are available and are worth considering.
Here’s a way to help you land a big cat:
From experiences with various visitors to the venue, I’ve picked a great tip which will increase your chances when you’ve hooked a large catfish:
► First of all, clear all other lines from the swims near you, even if it means everyone’s lines!
If you think you don’t need to do it because all the lines are back leaded, it is a mistake. Use of back leads is not recommended and despite my advice on this, clients continue to learn the hard way and lose fish because of them.
My preference will always be to fish super slack lines with rod tip dropped back to the edge of the bank, but when fishing with friends, you can’t beat getting all the lines out the way when one of you has hooked into a real monster!
► Then send someone out into the boat and position them 5 to 10 m behind where you think the catfish is.
If the catfish heads for a snag in the lake such as the island point tree, the sluice bush or down the channel towards the bridge and if the boat is already in the right position, the oarsman can gently thrash the water to spook the cat back away from the danger area.
Have the boat follow the catfish at a safe distance until it is safely landed!
Baiting strategy for catfish
Inappropriate baiting strategy can cause problems too. Catfish love to eat and if you put too much bait (over 0.5kg) into a marginal spot you increase the chance of a pick up from a catfish. Now if you’ve followed the advice above, your rigs should be up to the job but it’s actually dangerous to hook catfish from certain swims so the last thing you want to do is attract them when you are targeting the carp! If you want to catch a catfish then beds of pellets is a sure-fire method so be very light handed with it when targeting the big carp.
Using the right catfish bait
Catfish will eat virtually anything so don’t be fooled into thinking that a catfish won’t pick up bait designed for carp! The cats can eat a tremendous amount and some of our visitors get through 60kg+ of pellets alone in a week session. I’ve used up to 10kg of pellet and 2kg of boilies on one spot for one rod for one night and caught multiple cats. Our cats are particularly found of popups and a catfish of 106lbs was caught on a 16mm cork ball popup.
Fishing the right swims
At Beausoleil, the following swims will give you the very best chance of landing one of our monster catfish:
- Catfish Corner: the name kind of gives it away!
- The Big Double: plenty of water and plenty of space.
- Point C: again a nice wide swim that overlooks the main part of the lake.
Follow the fishery rules
Braided mainline, lead core and any form of leaders including Safezone leaders are banned at Beausoleil. Despite this I still find lead core lying about the place from time to time. Don’t use them!
2 thoughts on “How to catch catfish in lakes: tackle and tactics”
Thoughly enjoyed watching and learning more about catfishing. This has been my first year of trying to target catfish and my first was 44lbs and on my next trip got a 54lbs one. Next trip my wife caught her 1st a 30lbs one. i got broke twice………will not happen again got new line and 2 big pit reels.
Hi John, thanks for commenting. Well done on the progress you’ve made with the catfishing. For me it’s all about the right materials and the right techniques. Our rules require all knots to pass an 8kg kettle bell test before it’s allowed to be used. You can do this test easily enough with a bucket of water, a set of scales and something to hook a swivel onto. I break loads of knots myself. Some go frighteningly easily. That’s why I test every one. Try it, you’ll be horrified how easy they go. Even 25lb mainline will break at 10lbs if your knots are poor. It’s a great way to improve your skills and it’s better than getting bust up. My tuition sessions always start with knot testing and most anglers knots fail the test so don’t feel bad if the same happens to you.
If you like this blog, I would also suggest you spend some time on our YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC_cKxSKwHfOG9CSlGqVP1Bw. I go through everything step by step and explain all the little details that are so often missed in fishing videos.
Best of luck, Matt.