Catfish anglers love wind. Ask any seasoned and savvy catfish angler that has any experience at all and he’ll tell you that wind is always better for catfishing. I’ll take a day with high winds versus a day with absolutely no wind any day but not having any wind at all isn’t quite the kiss of death I used to think it was and over the years I’ve learned to adapt and overcome.
When you’re catfishing in lakes and reservoirs that lack current wind is your friend. It moves moves shad and other baitfish around and in turn helps concentrate the catfish. It makes shad easier to find and easier to catch. It makes anchoring your catfish boat easier, it allows you to drift fish and the fish usually bite better when there’s wind blowing and some chop on the water.
There’s still certain patterns and techniques where not having any wind is going to make for a difficult day and some potentially slow fishing but during much of the year I’ve learned to adapt and overcome without any wind. This is due in part to spending a lot of time dedicated to thinking outside the box and trying new things, a lot of trial and error and some of the technology available today that makes it a whole lot easier to fish when there’s no wind.
Here’s The Video
Wind, No Wind and Catfishing Techniques
One problem with a slick lake and no current is there’s nothing to concentrate the fish. Shad and other bait fish scatter, and therefore the catfish (and other fish) usually scatter as well. That’s not the only problem lack of wind creates but it is one of the biggest problems.
Lack of wind can make it difficult to find fish in good numbers. When you do find fish in good numbers they’re often moving quickly and generally bite much less aggressively than they do in other conditions.
Drift fishing (with the wind) is out of the question and even staying on anchor can be a difficult task. If you anchor using the correct technique it will help but even then it can be an exercise in frustration.
So you’ve got scattered bait, scattered fish and fish that are generally moving quickly and not aggressive.
This leaves you with two options, anchor or “troll”.
I hate the term “trolling” when it comes to catfish but there’s so many different terms people use, controlled drifting, power drifting, strolling and trolling so I’m just sticking with trolling.
Anchoring on fish that are scattered and moving quickly means you’ll be spending some time waiting for the fish to come to you (unproductive time). I still find days where this is the best route to catfishing when there’s no wind but I usually anchor as a last resort.
The other option for targeting catfish when there’s no wind is “trolling”. It’s something I’ve been doing for well over a decade and when I first started I absolutely hated it. With some of the advances in technology and learning how to better target catfish with precision when there’s no wind I’ve learned to love these days with no wind.
I call this “precision catfishing” because many days I’m using a very tactical approach to where I’m fishing, where and how I’m presenting my catfish baits and making sure I’m staying in fish. Most often I’m able to get into active feeding fish pretty quickly and start putting fish in the boat but it’s through carefully finding fish and painstaking means to make sure I’m putting the right catfish baits in front of them with the right presentation.
I primarily use these techniques for targeting blue catfish. I’ve been very effective using them for both numbers of blue catfish as well as monster trophy class fish as well.
I spent a significant amount of time last summer targeting flathead catfish with some modifications of these techniques as well and had enough success to do a deeper dive into them. I’ll be spending more time in the future trying to crack the code.
As mentioned, the advances in technology make these techniques much easier than they were way back in the catfishing dark ages when I first started trying to use them (with a hand control trolling motor).
Here’s the catfishing gear I’m using (that’s important to understanding this technique).
I’m using my 7’6“ MH power Chad Ferguson Signature Series Catfish Rod from Whisker Seeker Tackle in this video. I also use the 9’6 model of my signature series rods for these techniques. You can get more information on my catfish rods here or get yours at the Whisker Seeker Tackle website. Again, these are often fish that are not aggressive so having a light sensitive rod tip, good bend in the rod and a strong backbone is key. The 7’6” Whisker Seeker Rods are my “go to” in most cases but the 9’6″ rods are a great choice for getting a better spread on baits in some cases and a great option for planer boards as well.
Which catfish reels I use depends on a variety of factors. I’ll talk more about this in a future video but when I did this filming I was using Abu Garcia 6500 LC reels. These are line counter fishing reels (with the line counters built in). The line counters aren’t essential to the exact technique on this day (but they do help). Other days the technique so precise line counters are critical. You can find these reels here or get more information here.
I’m using Whisker Seeker Tackle monofilament and braid both. As a general rule for the way I’m fishing in this video I think monofilament is a better fit. I use another variation of this technique where braid is a better choice than monofilament.
I’m using a new hook called the T3 Triple Threat Catfish Hook. They’ll be available from Whisker Seeker Tackle in the next few weeks. These allow me to fish using a variety of techniques, I can set the hook, I can let the hook set it self or I can use the “reel, reel, reel” method.
Again, the best choice depends on technique and I use a variety of rigs for this technique. While filming this video I was using a Santee rig with a Versa Rattle catfish rig rattle. I had to throw some peg floats on because I was in a hurry and didn’t have time to rig everything again (short on time).
My preference is to use the Whisker Seeker Tackle XL Rattlers and Big Bertha Rattlers combined with a Versa Rattle. I’ve gone to using these rigs in combination with Versa Rattles 95% of the time.
While not 100% essential the SeaArk Cat Rack makes fishing out of the back of the ProCat 240 much more comfortable and allows me to keep my baits spread out (with or without planer boards).
To use the techniques you absolutely must have rod holders on your boat. I’m using Driftmaster Duo rod holders allowing me to keep rods at a zero or thirty degree angle.
I just switched from the Onix 10 to the Helix 12 G2N. Having a good sonar unit on your catfish boat and knowing how to read it is critical to these techniques. To fish with precision and present your baits to the fish you have to be able to find them! Of all the sonar technologies side imaging is the most beneficial when catfish are scattered.
360 sonar from Humminbird is built to operate while sitting still or moving at very slow speeds unlike other sonar types that require some movement to the boat. Humminbird 360 allows me to get crystal clear images while the boat is moving at slow speeds and assure I’m staying in the fish I previously marked with the side imaging sonar.
I’m using the Minn Kota Terrova 112 Lb thrust trolling motor equipped with iPilot Link. iPilot link connects the trolling motor to my Helix 12 G2N sonar and allows functions of the trolling motor from the sonar unit as well as additional features like “follow the contour”. The combination of iPilot and iPilot link allows me to control the boat hands free and not worry about boat control because the system does all of the work for me. I use the iTrack functions as well as the follow the contour functions heavily but also operate the unit with the remote control only on occasion. While using all of these features I rely heavily on the iPilot cruise control function to maintain speed.
The LakeMaster mapping card provides topographic maps. I often enhance these maps in key areas using the Autochart Live function. The benefit of the Lakemaster mapping card combined with iPilot Link is the follow the contour function which puts the boat on track to follow contour lines when needed. You can buy regional map on a Lakemaster card or buy specific lakes through the Humminbird ChartSelect program.
The Precision Catfishing Technique
Here’s what I’m doing and how I’m fishing when using the precision catfishing technique.
Keep in mind that I’m using these techniques with no or very little wind that wouldn’t allow traditional drift fishing techniques. If theres moderate wind this isn’t a good option.
If you’re going to use these techniques having a good understanding of drift fishing will help considerable. You can learn everything you need to know in my Drift Fishing For Catfish book. In addition, learning how to pattern shad is a basic premise of being able to use these techniques.
This is the “precision catfishing” technique in its most basic form. There’s a lot more to it than this and a number of variations I’ll cover in the future
- I head to the general area and start scanning for fish using a combination of 2D, down imaging and side imaging sonar.
- Once confirmed I’m in the correct general area I switch to side imaging where I’m scanning for catfish using the side imaging sonar. This allows me to cover a large area of water searching for concentrations of fish as well as scattered fish.
- When I locate big catfish or concentrations of catfish I start marking the precise location using the GPS function on my side imaging. How much water I cover depends a lot on how scattered the fish are. I’m also looking closely on my sonar for active feeding fish.
- While I’m marking fish I’m watching my Lakemaster maps and looking for patterns. If I can put together a pattern that helps to expedite getting in fish.
- If there’s a good pattern I’ll go back through and scan that specific pattern confirming the area is worthy of fishing. Depending on my level of confidence I may drop the trolling motor and record an iTrack while navigating the area with my big motor on the SeaArk ProCat 240 and viewing my side imaging.
- Once I have my plan of attack I’ll engage the Minn Kota Terrova trolling motor and get ready to start dragging baits. I’ll drag my chosen path either using the iPilot Link follow the contour feature, my previously recorded iTrack or by controlling the trolling motor via the Humminbird Helix 12 creating a path on the sonar unit.
- Once the Minn Kota Terrova is engaged I use the cruise control function to control my speed. Boat speed is adjusted based on conditions, water temperature etc.
- My fishing rods are rigged with the Whisker Seeker XL Rattlers (for medium to large baits) catfish rigs or the Whisker Seeker Big Bertha Rattlers (for large to extra large baits). I rig a Versa Rattle in addition to the Whisker Seeker floats with everything setup like a Santee rig always using the least amount of weight possible.
- I bait the hooks with fresh cut bait (usually with varying sizes of bait).
- I deploy the rods from the back of the boat one at a time. At times I’ll just drag the baits from the back of the boat, at times I’ll use planer boards on a couple of rods, at times I’ll use planer boards on all the roads. No matter what I always try to run at least one to two rods without planers. I’ll talk more in the future about why this is and how I decide which approach to take.
- iPilot is in control of the boat controlling the path and speed. If I’m using iTrack or follow the contour then the boat control is completely hands off. If I’m controlling my path via the iPilot Link directly from the Humminbird Helix 12 then there’s a bit more work (and monitoring) involved.
- I deploy the Humminbird 360 and start monitoring the 360 sonar to make sure I stay in fish, watching to see how the findings relate to my previous notations, continually looking for patterns etc. If I find that I’m not staying in fish then I’ll adjust my approach. When fish are moving quickly this can be a problem, sometimes I’ll abort quickly and repeat the process, sometimes I’ll stick with it and see what happens. It depends on what I’m seeing on my sonar screen and the level of confidence I have.
- Through this process I’m watching my fishing rods for activity, big bites, little bites, all activity. Sometimes this is key as it allows you to make adjustments. As always, let the fish tell you what they want.
- If I start catching fish I’m paying close attention to where they’re coming from, bait size, structure or cover orientation etc and factoring all of this into my pattern (or try to continue to develop a pattern).
- When I get to the end of the path I make a go/no go decision on whether to repeat that same area again or move to a new area. This depends heavily on whether I’m getting bites, catching fish and whether I continued to see fish on the Humminbird 360 throughout the path.
My Humminbird and Minn Kota electronics are a complex system. When I’ve had clients on the boat while using this technique many have asked if you have to have all of these electronics and accessories to fish this way.
Here’s a breakdown on equipment and my thoughts:
Sonar: You could fish blind without sonar but that’s defeating the whole point of how I’m fishing, locating the most catfish possible and knocking them in the head. So yes, you need a sonar unit preferably with side imaging. It doesn’t have to be the Helix 12 G2N (though size matters) but some sort of side imaging sonar is required.
Trolling Motor: Yes, you absolutely need a trolling motor for this technique.
iPilot: You can use this technique with a hand or foot control trolling motor but it’s not ideal and certainly much more difficult. Much of the reason I went from hating to fish like this and struggling to catch fish to loving it and being successful is because of iPilot and iPilot Link. When you remove the boat control equation from the mix it allows you to focus on catching fish. iPilot will change the way you fish.
iPilot Link: You don’t absolutely have to have iPilot Link to use these techniques. You could simply use iPilot and control the motor with the remote. You’d lose the follow the contour features and ability control the path via the head unit without iPilot Link by simply using the remote to do the same thing. The end result is the same you’ll just have to focus more on boat control and maintaining the correct course rather than have it being almost completely automated.
Humminbird 360: You don’t absolutely have to have Humminbird 360 but it certainly helps. Without it you can’t monitor as closely to make sure you’re staying in fish. Without Humminbird 360 you can slow down the chart speed on your sonar to clear the images up. You won’t get the range or details that you do with 360 or have the ability to view in front of the boat as you’re approaching but it’s not an absolute deal killer.
I’ll expand on these techniques in future covering more details and some of the variables and also plan on covering some more in depth information in a future feature length ebook or video.
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