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How to set up your catfish rig when you experience mainline failures

Updated September 2023

Beausoleil is a very popular catfishing holiday venue in Northern France. Since I picked up the keys of this dream lake I’ve learnt a hell of a lot along the way on how to catch them and what can go wrong.

angler holding-a-65lb-catfish-in-the-water

One major problem that continues to rear its ugly head, and that you may find at other catfish venues, is that of mainline failure.

In a normal carp fishing environment such things are exceptionally rare, but at Beausoleil it’s not an uncommon occurrence when you have very large catfish in a relatively small lake.

First let’s look at the problem:

  • Multiple, large and very powerful catfish swimming in a 4 acre, tree lined estate lake with an island, a bridge and under water hazards such as rocks and swan mussels.
  • Braided mainline is banned on the basis of fish safety

Now, if a catfish does manage to make it round a snag, there is very little that can be done.

It is sometimes possible to go out in the boat and get a better angle on them but this requires a team of experienced guys to pull this feat off!

If the catfish has taken the mainline through the snag, the mainline will fail and from the fish safety point of view that’s a good thing.

What I have also experienced is mainline failure in open water.

Now in the past, based on comments from our visitors, I’ve put this down to the following reasons:

  • Poor knots
  • Inadequate mainline
  • Failure to check for nick and cuts before fishing each night

It turns out that this list is incomplete.

What I believe is happening is this:

Catfish are unique in that they have multiple, very hard and very sharp points on the top of each pectoral fin. I’ve had my arm cut by these when lifting a 62lb catfish in a T-shirt. During the fight, the mainline runs over these sharp points and when the line is under tension the mainline is actually cut through.



Using rig tubing to prevent your mainline from breaking

My recommendation is to use at least 3ft (1m) of anti-tangle tubing. During the main season when the cats are very active, rig tubing is absolutely essential and should be used at all times for both catfish and carp.

I recommend that anglers tie a stop knot around the mainline using a short length of pole elastic or floss. Slide the knot down to touch the tubing, wet it and then tighten fully. Cut the tag ends off 5mm long. This simple knot prevents the tubing from sliding up the line during the fight and yet allows the lead to pass effortlessly over the knot in the event of a failure further up the line.

The other option is to slide a medium size tungsten sinker onto the mainline before you thread the tubing. Once you’ve completed the rig, slide the sinker down to the top of the tubing to prevent the rig tubing from moving. It’s only possible to do this before you thread the tubing and start fishing. If you’ve already fished with the rig tubing it’s impossible to re-thread it so I’d use the stop knot approach.

Use a strong line

Using 20lb or even 30lbs mainline when angling for carp and catfish may seem completely over the top but at a mixed species venue like ours, during the summer months, it makes sense. Here are a couple of recommendations:

  1. 20lbs Nash Bullet – We’ve been using this since 2019 and it’s banked loads of carp and some of our larger catfish. If you want to target the carp only and use the tiger nuts/particle approach then the Nash Bullet is a great choice. For the best knot strength I use it in conjunction with the Nash Cling-on leader. You may struggle to pass our 8kg kettle bell deadlift test if you use rig tubing and are tying directly to a swivel. If you are primarily targeting the catfish with rig tubing then the Nash Bullet wouldn’t be my number one choice.
  2. If you are after a big catfish then 25lbs or even 30lbs Big Game is hard to beat. It’s got more elasticity than the Bullet which helps it absorb the lunges from massive fish. It’s easier to achieve a really strong knot with the Big Game vs. the Bullet no matter whether you are using rig tubing or a lead free leader material. Don’t worry that the thick line is going to stop you from catching carp. As long as you sink your lines or back lead them, it’s absolutely possible to catch carp with this material.

These precautions will never guarantee banking every catfish you hook but they may well enable you to bank a few more than you would otherwise.

► What I use for my catfish rig and baits:

The gear and tackle I use:

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