The double hook rig is a very popular way to setup hooks when targeting trophy class catfish with large pieces of cut bait like threadfin shad and gizzard shad or skipjack herring, carp, drum or buffalo.
It’s very popular with anglers who target trophy blue catfish, occasionally used for flathead catfish and rarely for channel catfish. It’s use is exclusive to the use of large baits.
Although most catfish anglers refer to this is a “double hook rig” it’s not actually a rig at all. It’s a way of attaching two hooks to a piece of line and can be used with virtually any catfish rig.
Popular catfish rigs used with double hooks are the santee rig, slip sinker rig and three way rig. There’s really is no end to the possibilities of catfish rigs you could use this with, as long as there’ss a leader line, you can use two hooks.
Why Use The Double Hook Rig For Catfish?
The double hook rig is popular when fishing with very large pieces of cut bait, common when targeting trophy class blue catfish.
I’m not at all saying that you can’t catch big catfish on smaller baits because you absolutely can and will.
Anglers who target trophy catfish with a goal of only catching BIG catfish (a popular approach for those fishing catfish tournaments, also for catfish guides and other “trophy hunters”) will commonly use very large baits as part of their catfishing techniques.
Using larger baits eliminates the smaller fish in the water. One to two pound catfish cannot get a huge piece of cut bait into their mouth most often, so big baits allow the angler to keep lines in the water (although smaller fish will still “peck” at the baits).
Keeping the lines in the water and not constantly reeling in and casting, removing fish and losing baits turns into more time with lines in the water and more focus on putting the big cats in the boat!
When catfishing with very large pieces of cut bait (especially with circle hooks) the bait has to be hooked shallow so the hook gap can remain open (which allows the circle hook to work). This means hooking the chunk of cut bait towards the top of the bait.
With one single hook placed towards the top of a large piece of bait, this requires the catfish to strike and take the entire piece of bait into its mouth for the hook to turn and set. Not all fish will fully take the bait, some will attack the lower portion of the chunk of cut bait and don’t get the hook in their mouth. This results in missed fish.
This is commonly referred to as “short strikes” or “short bites”.
I’ve had fish engulf a large cut bait over the years and hold on all the way to the boat only to see them open their mouth at the top of the water, release the bait and swim away revealing they were never even hooked, just holding on to the bait.
Another common problem is aggressive strikes that will bow the catfish rod over and then the line goes slack and the fish is gone.
When these problems reveal themselves in catfishing you have two choices. You reduce the size of the baits or you add an additional hook so you have assurance the fish is hooked.
The addition of a second hook, hooked towards the bottom of the bait helps to assure a hook set on these fish that strike short (only hitting the bottom of the baits).
This is very similar to the concept of bass anglers and anglers who target other species of fish adding a “stinger hook” to their lures or rigs to get a hook set on short strikes.
You don’t have to use a double hook rig when using large baits, just keep in mind that if you get short strikes, you’ll miss fish and adding two hooks to your leader line is an option to consider.
When to Use A Double Hook Rig For Catfish
The double hook rig should be used in the following instances.
- When catfishing with large pieces of cut bait or very large baits
- When targeting trophy class catfish
- When you are getting short strikes or missing fish
How To Tie The Double Hook Rig
This is a quick and easy process and it’s the same regardless of which type of rigging you use.
You attach the hooks to the leader and then complete the rigging using the normal method based on your preferred catfish rig.
Steps For Double Hook Rigging
- Cut your leader line to the desired length
- Attach your first hook to the end of the leader line using the easy snell knot and cut the excess line after attaching the first hook. Learn more about preferred hooks for catfish here.
- Slide the open end of the leader line through the eye of the second hook and snell this hook onto the leader
- The spacing between the hooks is determined by the size of baits you’re using.
- You can use two similar hooks or use a smaller hook for the bottom. I typically use two 7/0 circle hooks or a 7/0 circle on top and a 5/0 on the bottom.
Make sure you check out the easy snell knot tutorial as it’s essential to using the two hook setup.
Favorites for catching big catfish with large pieces of cut bait and double hooks are the Santee Rig, Slip Sinker Rig and Three Way Rig.
The video below walks you through the process of the double hook rig in detail.
To gear up with the right equipment to catch big catfish with the double hook rig check out the Ultimate Guide To Catfish Rods, The Ultimate Guide To Catfish Reels and the Ultimate Guide To Catfishing Gear.
To get on the fast track to catching more catfish check out our in depth guides on locating and catching catfish.