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Hooliganz

fishing cats in a lake

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When fishing cats in lakes whats the best way to setup? Same as river fishing I suppose you just dont need all the large sinkers to hold bait in place.

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Quite a few drift. It covers more water. A lot of guys down south use chum to concentrate the fish in a specific area, but I've never tried it.

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When fishing cats in lakes whats the best way to setup? Same as river fishing I suppose you just dont need all the large sinkers to hold bait in place.

I did a Cat Tip of the Day last year on drifting for channel cats on the St Croix. When fishing large open expanses of water like on a lake or a large body of open water like Lake St Croix finding and staying on roaming catfish is a real challenge. Drifting cut bait is the most effective way to cover a lot of water and locate and stay on fish. It is such a simple and effective technique that you will make it one of your main tactics once you familiarize yourself with it.

Here is how we rig:

This is a pretty simple approach to catching cats. You will not find a cheaper or simpler rig than our standard drifting rig: Tie a size 1/0 or so snap swivel on your main line. Tie a 1/0 to 5/0 circle hook on about an 18” to 24” leader and then tie about a size 1/0 barrel swivel to the end of the leader. Hook that barrel swivel on the snap swivel and you are ready to fish. We normally use fresh cut sucker for bait. That is it! Pretty simple. The weight of the cut bait and the two swivels is about all you will need to get your bait in the strike zone. Most people think they need to have a weight or some kind of sinker on their line to get it down to the bottom but before you add weight to your rig give this set up a fair chance – it will surprise you how effective it is.

Here is how we drift:

We try to maintain a drift speed in the .5 mph to .75 mph range. The slower the better is usually a good rule. When I am drifting with the wind I will sometimes use a drift sock to control my speed and direction. Sometimes we will just use the electric trolling motor to run into the wind or use the electric if there is no wind at all. The trolling motor allows you to very accurately control your direction and speed – you are actually trolling more than drifting with this technique.

I use my GPS to mark each fish caught so that I can return to another drift close to that same location. I find the GPS invaluable because you can analyze each drift. I try not to spend any time on empty water already fished plus the GPS allows me to find and repeat the good drift lines.

Here is the bait we normally use:

We like to fillet suckers into strips about 1 ½” to 2” wide and about 4” long or so. We use fresh cut sucker because suckers are easy to get from any bait shop and it seems to leave a good scent trail. We cast that bait out behind the drifting boat feeding line until you will feel your bait ticking along the bottom. I place my rods in rod holders and watch my rod tips – you will see the rod tips jump as the bait ticks along the bottom but watch them because – WHAM! Those channel cats hit like freight trains. Sometimes we will hold a rod and get a feel for the bottom and what is going on with his bait. This way you can feel the light biters and will sometimes boat fish you never see with a rod sitting in a holder. We can attest to the strength of an aggressive channel cat – more than once we have had one try to rip the rod right out of our hand.

Equipment for Drifting:

You will notice I didn’t spend any time talking about rods, reels and equipment. You don’t need any special equipment. We will use walleye gear and enjoy the fight from the knuckle busting channels. I use my normal channel cat rods and they are probably overkill for these situations. Medium to medium heavy rods, lines in the 10# to 30# range, a dependable spinning or baitcasting reel with a good, smooth drag. Most fishermen don’t need to run out and buy catfishing rods to fish this technique. We would recommend giving it a try and based on your experiences add equipment to fit your personal taste after you have tried it.

This is probably more post than you were looking for but if you've got a good cat lake near you this is a proven technique that will put fish in your boat. Give it a try - let us know how you do. I plan on doing a Cat Tip of the Day on drifting later on this summer when the channel cats are post spawn. Hopefully you are a proven drifting veteran by then and can add your insights to the Tip.

Steve

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Steve, when is your book coming out? grin

Seriously, it is really a privilege to be able to read your posts, Thank you for sharing your knowledge & experience with the rest of us!

I know that your advice was for lake fishing, but in the river Do you ever employ the slip drifting method that In-Fisherman recommends, using your motor to reduce your speed in the current?

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Steve, when is your book coming out? grin

I know that your advice was for lake fishing, but in the river Do you ever employ the slip drifting method that In-Fisherman recommends, using your motor to reduce your speed in the current?

I don't have the current flow on the St Croix that they have on most big rivers like the Mississippi so I've modified the technique some. I do a lot of drifting on the upper Croix where there is a modest current and it works good. I will just drift with the current going downstream and use the electric motor for boat control and to keep the speed just right to get the bait in the target zone. I will also troll upstream when I locate fish along a shoreline. When I'm doing this I will sometimes run a 3-Way rig with a heavier weight on the dropper and just lift, drop - lift, drop the weight to maintain bottom contact and keep the bait in the zone. Basically what I am doing is a standard walleye 3-Way approach just upsize it a bit for hooks and bait. Substitute a chunck of cut bait and go to about a 5/0 circle hook on about a 30" leader. This is a pretty effective way to cover some water and locate channels.

The walleye guys on Pool 4 use a technique called "Dragging Jigs" that they catch a lot of channels on by accident. I think they have already proven that it will work for cats by accident. I plan on trying that later this summer when the channel cats are post spawn. I know it will work for channels without having ever done it just from following their reports.

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