Targeting big catfish is the current craze for many anglers, and with good reason, but it’s not the only exciting way to enjoy summertime catfishing. A recent trip with guide Jerry Kotal was a reminder of the intense action enjoyed targeting catfish by the numbers.
A typical scenario on Kotal’s boat was three anglers all hooked into hefty channel catfish with two or more other rigs getting bit. That was at 11 a.m. with almost no room left in the big cooler.
Kotal (706-213-8745) guides on Lake Richard B. Russell for catfish, as well as black bass and stripers. He said targeting catfish by the numbers is not difficult, and many fishermen enjoy the almost-continuous action.
“I have are five fundamentals that enable me to consistently catch catfish in big numbers,” he said.
No. 1, he said, is where to fish.
“I’ve been on a solid pattern for weeks and typically, it continues through most of July,” he said. “I fish shoals or shallow areas in the middle of the lake, points that extend well offshore and drop into deeper water and offshore humps and ledges. The strategy is to fish the shallow portions of these areas. I’ll anchor in 8 to 15 feet of water and fan-cast rods all around the boat toward the deeper water. If one area gets hot, I’ll target that depth or that specific spot. During August, I move to similar places but slightly deeper to stay on fish. ”
Kotal said tackle is crucial to numbers of fish.
"Big catfish will bite on heavier line and larger terminal tackle,” he said. “For numbers of fish, the line size, weights and all the terminal tackle matters. Catfish can be finicky, and if the line size is too large, they’ll not bite as readily. By the end of a trip, the lighter tackle will account for many more fish in the boat. I use spinning rigs with 15-pound braided line for small line diameter and low stretch for better hook-setting. I use No. 1 to 1/0 regular Eagle claw “J” hooks and a ½-ounce sliding sinker about a foot above a small swivel. Downsizing tackle is crucial for more bites.”
Kotal said he uses proven catfish baits to target numbers of fish.
"I like smaller baits for lots of catfish action,” he said. “Some are better than others and my No. 1 is catalpa worms. Next is cut herring, shad or whatever the primary forage is in the lake fished. I prefer thumb-sized chunks of cut bait. Also, stink baits are very productive. With elevated water temperatures and their high metabolism, catfish feed aggressively, and these baits will attract big channel catfish and moderate-sized blues.”
Kotal said time of day can be important but it may change daily.
“I go early hoping the best bite is early,” he said. “Fishing for numbers in the morning can be awesome, but the action can also be comparatively slow. On those days, mid-morning to mid-day action can get wild. The generation schedule and subsequent water movement will turn fish on. Even when the bite is great early, the mid-day action is often excellent. Go early to beat the heat, but you can go anytime of the day and be successful. Night fishing is productive using these tactics, but I prefer to fish by day.
The final phase of Kotal’s gameplan is to diligently search.
“A great thing about targeting numbers of catfish is no long wait,” he said. “After I anchor, I’ll stay 15 minutes without action. I’ve learned if we’re doing everything right, fish will usually be hooked before I get all my rods out. I may move several times to find the wild action, and it’s a systematic process. Fish the right spots, use light tackle and small baits, and enjoy catching scads of catfish.”