Catfish rigs can be fished from a boat or from the bank (shore) of a lake or river. Catfish anglers cast their catfish rigs with their preferred presentation to entice a bite from a catfish.
The catfish rig illustrations, videos, and instructions are some of the most popular resources on the Catfish Edge website.
Despite the number of catfish rigs I’ve covered and the level of detail provided, I still get questions on a daily basis.
These questions range from those wanting to know more about selecting catfish rigs for each different species of catfish to wanting more in-depth information on each of the individual catfish rigs and the best applications or what techniques to use them in.
With that in mind, this page on catfish rigs was born to serve as a central location for you to find all the important information on catfish rigs in one location.
I’ll cover everything you need to know about catfish rigs to get started fishing for catfish as well as some more advanced details on catfish rigs and how they apply to various catfishing techniques, covering all the information you need and nothing you don’t.
Catfish Rigs Are Important, But Not The “Be All End All”
More important than the rig you have tied on the end of your fishing line is the bait you’re using and fishing in the right location. Having the right catfish bait for your target species is one of the most important steps you can take to be successful fishing for catfish.
Bait selection is equally important to fishing in the right location. If you’re not using the right bait and fishing in the right location NOTHING will help you catch fish, including using the best rig there is.
You can tweak the catfish rigs you’re using, try everything and every technique imaginable and it will not produce fish for you consistently if you don’t fish the right bait in the right location.
What Matters With Catfish Rigs
I talk to many people on a weekly basis and find that way too many people are trying to either “recreate the wheel” and invent new rigs or they’re obsessing over minor details like an inch or two in leader length or some other detail that simply doesn’t matter.
If you’re going to obsess over something, obsess over patterning fish and learning to find them consistently and having the right baits. Obsess over learning to locate and pattern shad so you can catch them and also in the process learn to pattern blue catfish because if you find the bait, you’ll find the fish.
If you do these other things right and put the effort into them, then everything else is just “details” including what’s on the business end of your fishing rods.
If you’re fishing the right bait in the right location then a difference of a few inches in leader length is not going to make much difference in most instances.
A little more or less weight, a different sinker or a float is not going to matter in most of these situations either.
What matters is getting the right bait, in the right location, at the right time, and then you can tweak and obsess over the catfish rigs you are using but most of the time, everything will fall into place.
The Knots You Need To Know For Catfish Rigs
In fact three simple knots the Palomar knot, easy snell, and the Trilene knot will do most of what’s needed and you can wrap things up with a dropper loop and know almost everything you need to know for most situations.
Palomar Knot – The fishing knot every angler should know. One of the strongest fishing knots available and also super easy to tie.
Trilene Knot – A little known knot perfect for tying terminal tackle. The Trilene knot is strong and easy to tie.
Easy Snell – The snell is a great way to attach circle hooks to leaders. Snelling a hook is super strong and easy to do with this simple method.
Dropper Loop – The dropper loop is used for adding leaders to some catfish rigs.
You can check out all of these knots for catfishing and learn everything you need to know about them, just click here to check out the essential fishing knots for catfish.
The 3 Top Catfish Rigs That Always Catch Catfish
Here’s a video with a quick summary of some of the best catfish rigs that every angler should know. Be sure to check out the other details below after you watch this video.
Essential Catfish Rigs – The Top Catfish Rigs
The following catfish rigs are essential catfish rigs you should know for fishing for channel catfish, blue catfish, and flathead catfish.
These are “go-to” rigs that every catfish angler should know.
These catfish rigs will not only help you get your catfish baits in the target locations or “strike zones” but will also help in other areas as well.
Slip Sinker Rig: The “Must Know” Catfish Rig – The essential catfish rig for all species of catfish. If you’re only going to learn one rigging then this is it. It’s versatile, can be used for a species of cats, and with just about every catfishing technique. This is without a doubt the most widely used setup for hardcore catters.
Santee Rig Or Santee Cooper Rig – The essential catfish rig for blue catfish but also good for others as well. This is a slight twist on the slip sinker or “Carolina rig” that often produces more fish. This is great for fishing on anchor as well as drift fishing for catfish.
Secret Catfish Rig – The most effective channel catfish rig ever if you’re after numbers of channel catfish. This is the rig I use almost 100% of the time for fast paced channel catfish action with prepared baits and it outfishes all others by as much as 500%. There are some great tips for catching big numbers of channel cats here.
Slip Bobber Rig – Great for channel catfish and occasionally blues and flatheads also! If you’re not going to use the secret catfish rig for channel catfish then the slip bobber is second best. Just make sure you use the floats we suggest because they’re cheaper then all others perform better than all of the more expensive options.
Three Way Rig – A versatile catfish rig for all species of catfish and can be fished with a traditional setup using a three-way swivel or a modified three-way rig as well.
Cutting Edge Catfish Rigs Using Sound and Vibration
The catfish rigs above will certainly get you started putting catfish on the end of your line but if you’re looking for more ways to increase your success catching catfish there are more options to consider.
After over fifteen years as a professional catfish guide I’ve got my “go-to” catfish rigs that I always use (as mentioned above) but when I teamed up with the guys at Whisker Seeker Tackle they kept pushing me to experiment with their “catfish lures” and using sound and vibration to catch catfish.
Catfish respond to sound, and it’s had some amazing impacts on the number of fish I’ve caught as well as the size.
I spent a lot of time testing and had some amazing results catching trophy blue catfish using their X3 Big Bertha Rattler and XL Rattler. This lead to much more extensive testing and me teaming up with Whisker Seeker Tackle to build another product, the Catfish Versa-Rattle.
The X3 Big Bertha Rattler and XL Rattler are excellent noise-producing rigs for trolling, strolling, fishing in current or any application where you’re incorporating the use of a float. You can read more about rigging and fishing these rigs here.
The problem was I couldn’t always use a float with my catfishing rigs so I needed a way to incorporate sound and vibration with any rig, and that’s where the Versa-Rattle comes in.
Catfish Versa Rattles
The Versa-Rattle adds sound and vibration to any catfish rig and doesn’t require the use of a float like the previously mentioned rattling catfish rigs. They can be added to any catfish rig you choose in any configuration which creates a catfish rig that produces noise and vibration.
There are much more details here on the Versa-Rattle, why I designed it, how to fish with it, and more.
If you haven’t done so, you owe it to yourself to spend some time experimenting with sound and vibration using the Versa-Rattle, especially if you’re drift fishing, controlled drifting, trolling, or fishing in any current at all.
You’ll be surprised by the results.
Here’s a video that explains the Versa-Rattle in more detail!
Other Catfish Rigs To Know
The following catfish rigs are less commonly used and apply to more specific situations. If you need to get more precise with your presentation or change things up a bit these catfish rigs might fit the bill.
Double Hook Rig – For targeting big trophy-class cats with big pieces of cut bait. This can be used with virtually any setup and helps reduce issues with short strikes on big baits.
The Float Rig – An alternative of the three-way rig, sometimes a little twist to a more traditional option can make a very big difference.
The Fishfinder Rig – Sometimes referred to as a Kentucky Rig also. Very similar to a three-way rig but kind of different also. very popular with big river anglers.
Pool Noodle Rig -A slip bobber variation for big baits or drifting baits long distances. This is a favorite for many anglers targeting suspended fish or fishing from shore.
Balloon Rig – An overlooked way of rigging for drifting baits, especially from the shore. If you are fishing from the shore this is a “must-know” catfish rig. Can be used from a boat also to cover lots of water or even for targeting suspending cats.
Gearing Up For Success
Check out these resources for more in-depth information:
The Ultimate Guide To Catfish Rods – Everything you need to know about choosing rods and reels for all species and techniques. You can also check out more on my Chad Ferguson Signature Series Catfish Rods
The Ultimate Guide To Catfish Reels – Get the right reels that last and will hold up to big cats and catch numbers of fish as well.
The Ultimate Guide To Catfishing Gear – Everything you need to know about gear from the line, terminal tackle, hooks, weights, and everything in between. Catfish tackle for success.
Catfish Bait Made Simple: The Top 5 Catfish Baits – The simple guide to choosing catfish baits that actually catch fish. Chicken livers are nowhere on the list and you shouldn’t be using frozen bait either.