Kayak Catfishing: How to catch trophy size blue catfish in a kayak

I recently posted a video on a few Facebook fishing groups of men and I've gotten several messages from people wanting more information on how I targeted a trophy catfish in the kayak so I thought I'd put this video together to try to answer some of those questions and help speed up the learning curve for those of you who want to catch some fish like these you I want to break this video down into three sections first I'm going to talk about things like gear tackle bait etc and then I'm going to get into the specifics of how I catch them by anchoring and by drifting by far the most important piece of equipment you need for catfishing and the one that never gets mentioned is a good Lake map now I use Navionics I have the app on my phone and it's great it's like 10 bucks real cheap and it shows you all the contours and the structure of the lake bottom and that's very important as I don't care what kind of fancy expensive tackle you may have you aren't putting your baits where the fish are you're wasting your time you're not going to catch the squat so invest in a good map and study the heck out of it now catfish are just like every other type of fish they all use structure and when I say structure I'm referring to things like points and bars and pumps ledges and confluence is where major Creek runs into the main river channel or where two rivers comes together that's what I'm referring to when you hear me talk about structure and all those places I just mentioned are great places to start your search for catfish when you're studying a lake map another tool that's really helpful is a depth finder now for catfishing you don't need one of these high-tech expensive models you really just need something to show you the depth and the reason for that is is you need to know exactly where you're at when you're fishing deep water structure and that's tough to do the Navionics app for instance has GPS in it and it's good that's real good but it's not 100% accurate so it's a good idea to use the depth finder to correlate and just to make sure that you actually are where you think you are on structure so now let's talk tackle and rigging four rods there are really only three main things that I need of it I needed to have enough backbone to be able to handle a big fish obviously at the same time I also needed to be limber enough that smaller fish would still be enjoyable to catch on so let's be honest we all post up pictures of our trophies but it's fish in that 5 to 15 pound range make up the majority of our catches I still want to have fun catching ups the last thing that I really need out of a rod is I needed to have a soft enough tip that when I'm using live bait I don't fling it off the hook when I'm casting that can be a problem with some of those real stiff Bruns broomstick top rods one other consideration that you need to take into account when you're fishing out of pipe is a lot of these catfish specific rods these days have these huge buttons on the end of them and depending on what type of rod holders you use you may not be able to fit it in the rod holder so definitely take that into consideration before you spend a lot of money on a catfish specific rod as far as reels go you really just need a quality reel with enough line capacity for the water that you're fishing and a real good drag system because a big catfish can really pull some drag some guys like a real with a bait cooker on it personally I don't use bait clickers I don't really find them necessary by using a rod with a soft head and also by using circle hooks with that I just don't really feel the need for a bait clicker now as far as rigging goes I use the exact same setup regardless of whether I'm anchor fishing or drift fishing I use 80 pound braid from a mainline an 80 pound mono from my leaders and using heavy line is very important when fishing on a kayak it's landing a big fish and the kayak is a lot different than what you may be used to in a boat typically how it goes down in a boat is you get the fish reeled up near the surface and as soon as it gets up there your partner sticks an ED under it lifts it into the boat and that's it fights over and the kayak when you get the fish up at the surface fights really just begun first off you've got no partner it's just you second you've got no net now theoretically you could use an edge I did four when I first started but the problem I had with the net is number one it's big and that big enough to handle a trophy-sized catfish is huge and it takes up a lot of space in the kayak which as you know there's not a lot of second thing a second problem with from that is it's very frustrating when you've got a 50-plus pound fish thrashing around the side of your kayak and you're having to try to reach around behind you and get your net unhung and untangle from everything that's tied up with back there to even be able to use it so personally I just found be that there I found them to be more hassle than they were worth so I don't use a net so that's where using this heavy line is very important because at some point in time when you're landing this fish you're going to have to reach down and grab your line and that's when you're at the greatest risk for your line breaking or you're not breaking and losing the fish so if that fish decides to roll or make one wise surge your risk if you're using a lot of lines so I definitely recommend using heavy line for this application now the rig itself is just the basic Carolina rig your sinker weight that you're gonna need is going to vary depending on where you're fishing if you're in a lake with no current you can get by with very little weight if you're in a fast flowing river you're going to need several ounces it really just depends on where you're fishing out now I like to use a little heavier weight and what's really necessary I'll get into that when I do the drift fishing part of this video the leader I use eighty pound mono and the reason I use mono is because it's a lot more abrasion resistant than braid your leader length doesn't really matter for anchor fishing but it does come into play when drift fishing so again I'll talk more about that when I do the drift fishing part of this video the last thing on the last thing on the rig here is just a look I use a dot circle hooks need a big hook for this type of fishing and I like circle hooks because you typically get the fish in the corner of the mouth which really helps decrease the mortality rate and I'm real big on catch and release of these trophy catfish we really need to do a better job of protecting them for the future intergeneration so again as far as brands and boots go it doesn't really matter guys they all catch fish they're all quality books the last thing that you may see though on my line here is this rattle this is just something new I've been trying out the summer it's not something I'm going to buy again once these are gone I haven't really noticed I don't think they've hurt my catches but I haven't really noticed that they've helped either so they're not really something I would recommend buy when it comes to bait you really need to figure out what's native in the water that you fish what works well and one body of water may not work as well and another now out here on the Tennessee River where I fish this right here this is money this is skipjack this is the best bait for catfish out here or on my water we catch these below the dams along the Tennessee River most of them have a good population of these I try to get as many of these things as I can in the spring and freeze them for using the rest of the year now if you can't get skipjack or you don't have them out here anyway shad is another really good option a lot of guys have a lot of success with those other things like our Buffalo bluegill they'll all catch fish as well I just haven't had as much success on those as I have on shad and skipjack now everybody has their own preference on how they cut their bait some guys like to filet it others like to cut the gut puck it out before using it I keep things simple I just cut it down in chunks I usually use pieces and up this size right here just about as big as my fist that's what I use most of the time now sometimes in the winter time when it's colder I may use a small a piece of bait other times like this time of year when it's still real warm those days I may put a whole two-pound skipjack on the line and use that as one bait it kind of just depends you really just have to play around with it and figure out what size of bait the fish want on any given day now when you hook a piece of skipjack or any bait for that matter when you run your hook through you want to come back and make sure that you get all these scales away from the tip of your hook and away from your bar up there they're right there those little scales they don't seem like much but they can cost you a fish they can keep you from getting a good hook set so I always take a few seconds and just come back and make sure you get all this off there before you cast your bait out I've had a couple people message me and ask me about how I hook a skipjack head and they're really there's no right way or wrong way it just comes down to personal preference some guys like to take the hook and go through the lips that way some guys like to go through the nostrils and come out that bony portion there other guys like to go through the the top of the head that meaty portion like I said it's really just a personal preference for me when I'm anchor fishing I like to come through the top of it there and hook it just like a would a regular section of the bait that's all I like you don't want am anchor fishing when I'm drift fishing I like to come through the now socket and come right out to bony portion right there between the eyes and let it sit like that and that's typically how I do when I'm drifting but again guys your personal preference is perfectly fine now when you're fishing with a Skip jacket and these are great big fish baits I've caught a lot of big fish on the head one thing that tends to happen is sometimes this hook will turn back in on itself and that especially happens if you've got a small fish down there pecking at it and going on it that'll sometimes happen and it really doesn't matter where you hook the head out it's just one of those things that you're going to have to deal with unfortunately you're going to miss some fish because of that but don't let that deter you from using these heads and think just like I said thinks these are great big fish bait I've called more big fish on and this section of thing right behind and I have anything ever so definitely use that before I head up here to the first thought I'm gonna fish I'll touch on my anchor a little bit I guys through the years I have used and hung up in walls just about every type of anchor there is for the last several years I used a slip ring style anchor it worked really well with several years without losing one but I'll be damned if I haven't lost two in the last six months so right now I'm using this a three pound folding kayak anchor it works pretty well it keeps the kayak anchored and current one thing though if you use the style of anchor one thing that's important to do is you want to tie your knot to the back of it and then come down to the front with the plastic zip tie and secure your rope there now ideally what's going to happen is if you get this thing hung as you're pulling and tugging on the rope trying to free it this plastic zip tie is going to break causing the pressure to get the anchor from different name populace from back ideally that's how it's going to work I promise you I don't care what type of anchor system you use if you anchor fish long enough you're going to eventually get one huh that's just part of the game that's how it is unfortunately now this contraption you'll see here is just a plastic extension cord holder you can get these at Walmart for like 99 cents they work great for storing your anchor right the tag end of my rope I have it attached to a carabiner clip just so that I can easily clip and unclip from my ankle trolley in case you need to let go of the anchor in a hurry along with that another good thing to have with your anchor is some sort of float anchor float device that's good when you do have to unclip in those situations you can easily go right back to you rank so does this first area I'm fishing here is a long rock ledge on the main river channel and I made four down right along the deepest break line of that ledge now if you're not familiar is what a great climbing is that simply just means a definitive change in bottom that easiest way I could probably explain it is if this is your river bottom and this is your ledge this area right here where the ledge starts to come up off the bottom that would be considered a break line and a break line is a good area to fish on any type of structure let's fish use them it's kind of like a roadway or highway system it's how they travel from point A to point B along the structure so if you're fishing a new structure or an area you're not familiar with focus in on the brake lines is that's going to improve your chances of catching fish there now right now I've got four lines out and that's typically how many rods are fish with on an anchor fishing I've got two baits placed directly along the brake line where I think my best chance of catching the fish is I've also got two more baits placed a little higher up on the ledge at different depths just to try to catch any fish that may have become active and may be moved up a little shout now my plan is I'm going to sit here for about thirty minutes you're saying I don't catch any fish I'll pull up anchor and I'll slide down to cast legs an anchor down again put my lines out in the same manner and I'll keep doing that every 30 minutes or so until I either get on the fish or until I get to the end of the structure and that's a great way when your anchor fishing to be able to cover a lot of water in a given day no matter what type of structure that you are fishing a really good tool to have when you're in commission is a drift zone if you've got to win the flowing upstream or cross current put the drift sunk off in front of your kayak will help keep your position keep that back and forth sway that you sometimes get when you're in coefficient and Quint now for this type of application I use a big drift sock this isn't one of those kayak specific models it's like 18 inches of whatever I think they are this is either a 30 or 36 inch I can't remember but when you're using this to hold your position and current you really want a big drift sock at least 30 inches because I didn't be worth a damn up there on the edge only call to little fish move down don't strain a little bit yes here we go this is what I was out here after this right here is the type of fish that using these tactics I'm showing you today this is what you can catch so I'm going to spend the rest of the day drift fishing now drifting is my favorite type of fishing it really allows you to cover a lot of water quickly now the method I use is called suspend drifting now you may have watched some of Steve Douglass's videos he's a very popular cat fisherman that's who I'll learn this technique from I just took what he does in the boat and I've applied it to the kayak it works really well with suspend drifting you're just drifting along with the current but your baits are elevated up off the bottom one to three feet that's typically the depth off the bottom that I want to drift anything more than about five feet high erupt off the bottom I find that my catch rate goes way down on the reverse of that you also don't want to drag your baits during this method the one downfall of using heavy line is if you get hung up you can't hardly break it loose especially in the kayak the kayak so buoyant you just can't really get the leverage you need to be able to break off so you much of Bates about one to three feet off the bottom and again this is a great method to use to cover a lot of water I typically do this during the warm weather months anytime the water is above about 55 degrees definitely above 60 degrees this is typically what I'm doing so I mentioned in the rigging part of this video the leader length becomes important when you're drifting now for this application I like my leader length to be 18 inches and the reason for that is is when my rods and the rod hold the distance between my rod tip and the water is about three feet so what I do is when I drop my bait down I let my sinker hit bottle then I reel down my rod tip to the water surface from there when I stick my rod in the rod holder because it's three feet from my rod tip to the water surface because my leader length is only eighteen inches I know automatically my bait is a foot and a half off the bottom that's right where I want it that's in that one to three feet range where I'm going to have the best success while drifting now I also mention a rigging part of this video that sinker weight is really important when drifting I like to use a little heavier weight than what's really necessary the reason that comes into play is days like today where I have a little bit of a breeze blowing it can cause your kayak if it's blowing downstream that can cause you to move a little faster than the current it's blowing upstream it can slow you down and what that does is it creates a pendulum effect with your bait and the water having a heavier sinker will help it will help offset that it will help try to get your bait back down there where it needs to be because you want the baits to be directly under you on the kayak that way you know where your baits at at all times so when I'm drifting now I like to use three rods I like to have one off the front one off the side and one off the back and that's about the number of rods I can get by with in a 12-foot kayak in my old kayak it was 14 and a half feet and I found that I could get by with four rods sometimes five if I really pushed it the more rods you have the more tangles you're going to get that's part of it but it really just comes down to how many rods that you can manage in the length of the kayak you have there's nothing wrong with using one raw absolutely nothing wrong as long as you've got a bait in the water you've got a chance of catching fish so don't be discouraged just because you me or somebody else fishing with more rods than what you feel comfortable with it's really not necessary one rod is playing it's pretty good fish guys this right here is a trophy Tennessee River blue kid this is what we're out here after doing these tactics I'm showing you today anchoring and what I'm doing right now by drifting you just fish like these two I'm out of breath let's get this pig out back in the water he's going I'm covered head to toe in slime and I love it

  • You have an unchaining ability to explain things so well. I also like your simplicity. You aren't caught up in the "hey you need a pricey rod and real to catch fish" syndrome that others buy into. All these videos have good stuff in them and each of them make me want a darn kayak to hunt these fish down with. Sooner or later I'm going to catch up with the things that need fixed around home and get out and buy one. Thanks for sharing Justin.

  • I think you were meant to catch great catfish and film videos to show the rest of us how it's done. Always awesome videos, and I always learn something too. Great job and thanks Justin! Tight lines!

  • Thats what I like about your videos you'll it how it is instead of pushing products that may not really help.
    Thans for being honest.

  • Thanks for what you do. I've learned more from watching your videos than I ever knew about fishing. I have a quick question that I haven't been able to find the answer. When fishing with live bait, such as skipjack or bluegill, when the bait dies, do you continue to fish the dead bait whole, or do you cut the bait and use it as a cut bait?

  • I have never lost a catch with this. Skipjack head bait. I have a long pair of needlenose. I put the them in through the mouth and push through. I grab my hook with the needlenose and I pull them back out the mouth. The hook is now exposed coming out of the mouth. Cast it out and wait.
    When something grabs it. And this is the hard part. Don't reel or set the hook. Give the fish about 5 feet of line. When it gets tight then start reeling. That will allow the fish to get a good hold but not yet swallowed it and the circle hook works as intended. If it is a big one, he will be moving fast enough to hook himself if you don't have time to give him line. The big ones grab it and close their mouth and when the feel some resistance they jerk their head sideways and that gets them every time. Plus if you have the time to give them line you can bet it will be 20 pounds or smaller. If you do not have the time then you can bet it is at least a 30 pouder. The 21 ponders to 29 ponders are in a gray area. Some them have gotten the head jerk behavior down and some have not.

  • Great video! I just bought me an ATAK 140 with a toqeedo mount. I always primary bank fish here in Texas for trophy blue cats and small ones. Now I can use your knowledge and learn how to catch them in open water. Thanks

  • Used your technique on the Red River below the dam at Lake Texoma OK. I was in swift current with high winds. Cut skipjack straight down under an 8 oz weight at they nailed it. 10-12 feet of water and moving with the current. BAM! Thanks for the tips. I've been catching trophy cats for years, but never this way. Gracias Amigo!

  • You should do a video on tips and tactics on how to land catfish in a kayak I just got a new kayak in I haven't even gone out yet but excited to land a big fish and would be cool to see the video of how you land big fish

  • Just found this video and channel. Very informative! I dont own a kayak but this has still given me alot of insight even as a bank fisherman. If you do alot of night fishing check out my product demo video 🙂

    If you plan on attending the catfish conference i hope i see you there look for my booth!

  • Good to see you sharing that information. So many people don't share the baits and techniques. I don't believe it's my river or fish so if someone wants to join in then maybe I will get to see them catch the one I missed. Have you ever tried using stew meat? I buy a cheap round steak and cut chunks of it. It bleeds all day and they can't strip it off the hook. They seem to love it, at least in Washington.

  • And one more thing do u think i can fish the ohio river in a good kayak ???bc of the under currents there. Someone told me it take 8oz to stay on bottom

  • Do u have a video showing your kayak set up and how u got back rod holder side ways and how u got all 4 in back to ty.

  • Good video, I been fishing the lower James River near Richmond Va catching decent size cats with 5ot C hook using minos and cut shad! I caught 6 yesterday but not trophy yet! I can't wait tell next Monday and try the 8ot hook! I normally would use 8ot running a drone out 600 feet and drop bait for sharks! Check my video out from yesterday if you like! I think everything good but using to small hook! Thanks for Intel!

  • Are the spines dull on the trophy sized catfish? I see you hugging them close to your body where the spine is.

  • Brother question to you … this way of fishing catfish you do not use? He is not working at the catfish in the river of Tennessee?????

  • Great tip About the leaders. I honestly couldn't figure out where to put a net with out worrying about a crankbait or something hooking it especially a big net as you say. I got some cheap braid to try.

  • thanks and one of my buddies have a sun dolphin and it's good and perfect size for me and no problem and where do you live in east tennessee

  • Just found your channel, and subscribed. It was a real treat to hear all your great tips, and to see you actually catch what you're looking for. Master skills! Thanks for reminding all of us that the bigger the bait and hook, the bigger the catch! By the way, greetings from California! I will be thinking of you tomorrow when we go catfishing in the California Delta. -Kat

  • Exactly the guidance I need. just started catfishing Tuesday (bank fishing) and tried .a couple hook setups yesterday first time kayak fishing. Think I lost a few and had a tough time being methodical with no anchor, no idea how to manage depth, etc.

  • fantastic that's what I understand you to say in the video as well. I am going to download that app and get me a cheap fish finder so that I can read the depth and temperature and structure on the bottom I think that will do it. I think what you do is fantastic. I really enjoyed my kayaks. I have about 12 rods and about 16 reels Wells of my fishing reels AR Abu Garcia 7000 series. also I have the Abu Garcia big game reels . I have never put line on any of my reel for all brand new. I went a little crazy LOL. I just love this cat fishing community. thanks my friend. I really love your Channel can't wait to see your next cat fishing videos. like yourself I have this deep passion for it. I need to learn to use my GoPro 4 never used it. don't know anything about editing. I will learn

  • I have a question. I have to sit on top kayaks.
    I love fishing from them targeting catfish. I am learning so much from your Channel. can you recommen a fish finder / sonar depth finder. I really want to put one on my kayak. I need to be able to locate structure and depth. thank you so much. which model do you use ? and what would you recommend ?

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