Catfishing From The Bank


catfishing from the bank
Catfishing from shore is a great way to spend a summertime day or night

Summertime Catfishing from the Bank

The springtime spawn is over and catfishing from the bank has started to fire up. Catfish are on the prowl in search of their next meal. The water temps have reached 75 degrees. Days are hot and more suited for swimming and sipping on a chilly one, but once the sun goes down and the air becomes bearable it’s time to go on the prowl for your next line stretching adventure. Summertime is a great for catfishing from the bank. Not only is it cooler but the pleasure boats have gone home leaving the lake to the angler as well as the catfish that move into the shallows under cover of darkness. So many people focus on deep water for catfishing in the summer.

By deep I mean 5 to 10 feet of water. You will find fish at these depths but usually, they’re moving to the shorelines to eat your bait along the way. If you want to increase your success move your bait closer to the shoreline. Working depths of 1 to 3 feet of water. This article will focus on Catfishing from the bank for channel catfish.

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Stink baits are probably the most common bait used for channel catfish. They work and if it is numbers you are after stink baits work great. I stay away from stink baits. Mainly because they stink and my wife just can’t handle the smell that lingers after a night with that stuff on my hands. I have found that stink baits work, but other baits work just as well and smell way better.


One such bait that has stood the test of time is chicken livers. Chicken livers can help you fill the cooler with pan size channels with an occasional fatty. One way I’ve found to increase my hookups is to use the hook only setup. I use a single bait holder hook 1/0 or 2/0 and connect it to 10-pound test fluorescent line. No weight is added to the rig and this is key. Check out this great way to keep chicken livers on your hook.

catfishing from the bank
Fresh chicken livers stay on your hook best. Ken McBroom


You need a spinning reel or a spin cast reel to cast the weightless liver. Letting the fish run without resistance will increase your hook up percentage. Fresh livers will stay on your hook much better than frozen livers. Fresh livers may be hard to find, but they are out there. Once you find a store that sells them you’ll go back for more. Fresh livers are just so much easier to deal with.


Use a black light with the fluorescent line to detect a bite at night. Detecting a bite is not difficult with this setup. I promise. With just the resistance of the line, the channel catfish will hang on longer and swallowing the liver. Use the best low-cost hook you can find. Bring a bunch so you can just cut the line and leave the hook inside, just be careful when you clean them. Leaving the hook comes in handy because when the bite is on you don’t want to take the time to dig a swallowed hook from a catfish’s gullet.


This is a great time to get the kids involved in catching your bait. It provides them with all day fun and you an endless supply of bait. They get to keep the bluegills in a bucket, instant entertainment, and if you get too many just start teaching them catch and release and explain to them about only keeping what we need. Great fun, great lessons and great memories.

If it is a larger channel catfish you are after then fresh fish is the go-to bait. When a channel catfish reaches more than a couple pounds it begins to seek food a little higher in protein. Where you might find dozens of smaller channel catfish, like shallow flats and mud shores, you may find it void of any good size catfish. This is because, while still not a true predator the larger channel catfish become a loner. More of a predator than smaller channel cats.

Fresh bluegill makes great bait for all species of catfish. Shad are usually abundant and the catfish’s primary prey. A bluegill is a delicacy and seems to really do well. When you think of cut-bait you normally think of the whole fish cut into chunks. This is the easiest way to prepare cut-bait but it’s messy and I like to keep everything as clean as possible so I do a little extra work in preparing my bluegill cut-bait.

Live bluegills, where legal, and live shad work great. I usually just fillet the bluegill and shad. Scaling the bluegills before filleting allows more smell into the water and is much more tender without the scales. This allows for a better hook set.


Look for some structure for the bigger channel catfish, like big boulders or large brush piles or fallen trees. Toss your fresh meat just outside this structure. They will come out and get it but don’t make them travel too far just in case it don’t want to. Move the bait around the structure. I usually soak my bait 5 to 10 minutes before moving it, sometimes only a few feet. After about 15 to 30 minutes I will look for another spot. I am looking for the feeders and a hungry channel catfish would have already found your bait in that amount of time.

When targeting larger channel catfish from the bank you will want to go with some larger tackle. I start with a baitcasting rig spooled with at least 20 pound test line on a Med. Heavy to Heavy rod. You need the power to move the fish away from the thick brush or sharp rocks. Anyone who has caught a channel catfish larger than three pounds knows how hard these fish can fight. When they start the channel cat roll you best have heavy gear.


I use an egg sinker rig above and leave slack in my line so I can see the fish running with the line. You seldom have to worry about the fish coming toward you if you are fishing heavy cover during the day. The channel catfish is going to head back to that cover. So be ready and set the hook ready to horse the fish away from the heavy cover. Once the channel catfish is away from the cover then you can take it easy and play it in.

I hope this article has given you a few ideas for catfishing from the bank this summer. I know these techniques have helped me over the years and should do the same for you. Keep experimenting and you will find some tricks of your own that will help you enjoy some great outings with the family in pursuit of a great fish that provides fun as well as some delicious table fare as well.

Catfishing From Shore

Catfish are plentiful and delicious making them a prime target for bank anglers that want to add some meat to the freezer and have a bunch of fun doing it. There are a couple reasons that catfish are a great choice from the bank. First there are a lot of them and they tend to occupy nearly every acre of a given body of water making it much easier to be successful in any given location.

Catfish tend to roam in search of food and rely heavily on their sense of smell to locate it from great distances making it possible to attract them to your location. This sense of smell is why catfish are the most sought after species for die hard bank anglers. Catfish can be easy to catch and with the right baits you can greatly improve the numbers you are able to catch from. catfishing from bank. Here are a few great catfish baits for the budget minded angler that is catfishing from the bank.


As a kid I can remember cutting a few forked sticks for our rod holders when we fished for catfish from the bank. The stick was jammed in the ground, fork up to hold the rod. Many rod and reels were lost in those days and provided for great stories around the campfire each year that we got together when the catfish were prowling the shallows.

Today rod holders for catfishing from the bank, like so many other fishing products on the market, has evolved into some great rod holders. From simple to elaborate there is a system made for you.


Keeping it simple is a great way to get young people involved in the outdoors. Remember they are the future of outdoor recreation and a vital part of keeping it alive and growing. You can see how much enjoyment kids have catching bluegills. Introducing kids to catfishing from the bank will keep that memory in their minds and thinking about how much fun it was. Kids will get tuckered out catching bait all day and are usually asleep by the time the evening catfish bite rolls around. For that die hard youngster hanging in there let them reel in a fish, or net one, they will be hooked on catfishing from the bank forever.

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Best Bait for Catfish

What is the best bait for catfish? Stink baits, punch baits, and dip bait for catfish are very popular among catfishermen because they do catch fish, are easy to acquire, and frankly, they are easy to market. But I want to give you my 2 cents on how good I think they are and how they compare to natural baits.

Stink baits will be effective for small-to-medium sized channel catfish but fresh or frozen natural baits like bluegill, shad, and clams will be much better for catching big channel catfish, giant blue catfish, and monster flatheads. Stink baits are convenient, but they are messy, smell terrible, and simply don’t catch big cats the way natural baits will.

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Stink Bait vs. Natural Bait

Catfish Stink Bait

Stink baits are any number of foul-smelling concoctions or mixtures designed to put a ton of scent into the water for the sake of catching catfish. They often rely on blood mixtures and cheese mixtures to create them. They stink to high heaven but they can be very effective baits for channel catfish. Many catfish anglers swear by them but I do not. Stink bait have their place, but I feel they are far inferior to natural baits.

Natural Bait For Catfishing From The Bank

Natural baits cover a wide range of food items that you use for catfish. My favorite bait types are schooling baitfish like shad, shiners, or alewives along with bluegills, small carp, goldfish, suckers, bullheads, and freshwater clams. Those are my absolute favorites for big catfish. I almost never use anything else. The above listed baits will catch you all sizes of flatheads and blues as well as big channel catfish. For channel catfish, I have found that nightcrawlers and crayfish do well too. Now I’m going to tread into a gray area here but I consider sweet or feed corn, hot dogs, and chicken liver to fall into the natural bait category. Each of these baits on a hook can catch some nice channel cats.

Target Species & Size

What is it you are trying to catch? Are you okay just catching some nice channel catfish from the bank or do you want to snag into a 30-pound blue or flathead catfish. Maybe a 10-pound channel catfish is more your target. For whatever reason, I have caught more smaller channel cats using stink baits than I ever did using natural baits. I don’t have a good explanation. The stuff does work. But if you want to catch some real tankers, I don’t think anything works better than natural bait.

There is a reason most serious catfish anglers use natural baits almost exclusively. Big fish grow big by eating the best and oftentimes biggest meals they encounter everyday. A monster catfish may cycle between 2 or 3 food items and ignore everything else. In most US waterways, shad and bluegill are primary food sources. If freshwater clams are present, fishing with clam meat along the clam beds and flats can catch you big flathead and blues too.

Big cats will also eat other “rough” fishing like small carp, goldfish, bullheads if those are the best options available. Match the bait size to the mouth of your target. Big channel cats and blue catfish have relatively smaller mouth parts so while they will bite a living shad or bluegill, they prefer cut shad. Flathead catfish, on the other hand, have gaping jaws like a largemouth bass. They can engulf a substantial prey item with ease. The best prey for big flatheads in my opinion is a living bluegill in the 4-6” range or a 5-8” gizzard shad (big meals). You can also catch them on cut bait but it won’t be as attractive as a living big bait.


Mess & Hassle

This was the biggest reason why I stopped using stink baits for catfish. I hate dealing with messy disgusting stink baits. No matter how careful I was, I would get that stuff over the handle of my rods, on my line, on my reel, inside the cab of the truck. It’s just a total mess. Now if you’re a man’s man or you don’t care if you keep a girlfriend, I guess it doesn’t matter if the inside of your truck smells like rotting blood meal and fermented cheese. I find that freshly caught or thawed shad, bluegill, or shiners smell a whole lot better and are much less hassle to handle. If you don’t want to deal with fish, nightcrawlers or clam meat can be great substitutes for channel cats.

A lot of anglers like fishing with chicken liver which works great if you have some bait thread or even dental floss to keep the soft organ meat on the hook. A tougher, more effective alternative to chicken liver is rooster liver. Check with your grocery store meat section. Sometimes they will have some in the back. The tougher rooster organ meat will stick together better on the hook and has a slightly stronger smell which can draw in more channel cats.

Catfishing From The Bank Bait Acquisition

Oftentimes, the decision to go with stink “punch” baits over fresh stuff is out of convenience of acquisition. Most stink baits come in tubs which are normally shelf stable. You can just grab one off the bait shop shelf, drop a couple bucks, and go fishing. You can also buy shiners, dead frozen or cured shad, or worms pretty easily too. Living shad are near impossible to purchase since most shad die immediately after net capture, especially in the summer. I don’t know of any bait shop that sells bluegills as bait, nor do I believe it is legal practice. I would argue it is easier to buy stink baits than it is to get natural baits. Speaking of legal matters. In some bodies of water, live bait is illegal to use, especially fish as bait.

Related Questions

Are stink baits or natural baits better for bullheads?

I haven’t had much luck with smelly punch baits for bullheads. I consistently catch big bullheads on minnows, worms, and even grasshoppers. You can also use cut bait as well. I have fish for brown and yellow bullheads and never had success with stink baits.

Are any lures good for catfish?

You can absolutely catch catfish using lures but don’t count on it. Ask any bass angler with a ton of experience in finesse fishing with ned rigs or senkos. You are going to bycatch some channel catfish along the way. I have caught a few catfish in my life using moving baits like small crankbaits or spinners. That said, natural baits are the way to target cats. A lure can occasionally catch catfish but natural bait will be what consistently wins out.

Catch Catfish Before the Spawn From The Bank

Early spring is a time when the outdoors comes to life and most anglers begin to prepare crappie poles and sharpen jigs for some jigging or spider rigging. This is a great time for cruising crappies but it can be a good time to catch catfish before they spawn as old man winter loses ground. It wasn’t long after moving to Indiana that I found that the lakes are full of catfish. I was amazed at the number of catfish and quickly began targeting them often. I learned that a great time to pursue these big cats was during early spring. Here are a few tips for how to catch more catfish.

The important thing with early spring catfishing is water temperature. Finding warmer water on any lake will be the focus during early spring and just a few degrees can make the difference.  Water 1 to 5 feet deep, with a mud bottom, is a great place to look as the sun is drawn to the dark mud bottom causing the water to warm quicker in these areas. The warmer water stimulates the cold-blooded cats causing them to feed more aggressively but what brings these fish to these shallow coves is food!

In the winter there is a natural die-off of fish that occurs and if your lake has shad then the amount of food floating below the surface of the lake can be extraordinary. This die-off provides catfish with a much needed food source before time to spawn. Instinct will prevail and the catfish will find these wind swept coves with lots of dead shad from the winter kill and take advantage of this natural occurrence.

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Tips For How To Catch Catfish in the Wind

Wind to an angler can be a nuisance or a great ally. In the case of early spring and catching catfish, wind is your ally. Wind mixes the water helping to warm these shallow coves while at the same time pushing dead shad into these coves. The important thing is to find the combination of a large shallow cove and a wind that blows directly into that cove. If the wind is not blowing directly into the cove then at least locate the bank being lapped with the wind blown water and start there.

Tips On Catfish Baits and Rigs

The choice of bait seems obvious. Cut shad is the way to go for this time of year but try mixing it up a little. Most of the fish will focus on dead shad so you definitely want a rig with cut shad. But, you should rig a pole or two with something different just in case. Sometimes the different baits will outperform the shad but always have cut shad in the boat. It works best most of the time. Some other baits I use is shrimp, and where legal, fresh bluegill fillets and heads.

Some will argue that the smellier the bait the better. Fresh bait has always worked well for me and seems to attract the larger fish. I keep the stinky stuff out of my boat and stick to fresh or fresh frozen. I have caught fish on the rotten stuff but I seemed to waste a lot of time with smaller fish. Since going strictly fresh the bite action has slowed but the hook-up action on bigger fish has increased as I waste little time worrying with those little fish and more time fighting nice size catfish to the boat which brings us to the tackle you want to use to catch these catfish.

Stink baits definitely have their place. You will probably catch some fish using them but likely those fish will be small-to-medium sized channel cats. Bigger channel cats, blue catfish, and flatheads especially will probably ignore your baits. They prefer eating fresh natural bait. If you just want to catch some channel cats, I think punch baits are fine. But big catfish grew big eating what they like. They don’t like trying new things. While all three North American species of catfish will eat both dead (cut and intact) and alive bait, blues and channels prefer cut bait and flatheads prefer whole living shad or bluegill. I used to say that stink baits are better at catching fishermen than fish. I have walked that back a little since then because they are effective channel cat baits. But for the big catfish, don’t waste your time using smelly punch or dip baits.

The Rod and Reel

You want to start with a medium-heavy rod as big catfish can put up a great fight.  I set all my rigs to free spool. If I miss a bite he can keep running until I get to the rod. If I see the bite I set the hook immediately.  A lot of anglers like to tight line their rigs, but it seems as though this results in dropped bites when they feel the rod, leaving no time to set the hook.

One stick is all it takes. A common mistake that I used to make was to stick the bait numerous times and cover the entire hook with the bait for fear the fish might feel the hook and spook. I now leave the hook point uncovered and stick the bait only once so that when the fish inhales it the point is exposed and even if it decides to spit it out there is a better chance for a hook up. This may seem trivial but really does make a difference in the number of hook-ups you will have.

Tips For How To Catch Catfish And Catfish Rigging For Bank Fishing

Terminal tackle should consist of a solid hook and a monofilament leader of 20 to 30-pound test. Attach a barrel swivel between the leader and main line. On the main line, above the swivel, should be a sinker swivel. Then a single bead to protect the knot. These sliders are inexpensive and are much less abrasive to your line. They allow you to easily change sinker size as conditions dictate. The sinker’s ability to slide on the main line is very important. Catfish are very sensitive to pressure. If they feel any resistance at all they will drop the bait.

I choose mono for my leader for its ability to withstand the abrasion of heavy brush better than braid. My main line is a 50 to 60-pound braid. This allows more line on a more compact reel which I like to use.  I set the hook hard on these big cats so I choose the octopus over the circle hook. Quick hook sets are important to get big cats away from cover that they are sure to head for. This is the reason I use a compact rod and reel, to have more control of the fight.

Catfish Hook Setup Tips

There are a lot of hook styles out there for catfishing. Here are a few Tips For How To Catch Catfish and things to consider when choosing a hook to catch catfish.

  • SIZE




The size of your catfish hook should match the size of the catfish you are pursuing. If you are fishing for small channel catfish then a small hook will do. If you are chasing giant blue cats or flathead catfish then you need a bigger hook. Yes, a small hook will catch big fish, but most catfish anglers use big tackle when fishing for big catfish. Heavy rods and heavy line call for heavy hooks. A small hook usually are not near as strong as larger hooks. Large hooks have a thicker shank that can withstand the force needed to fight a big and strong catfish.

Sharp hooks are important for any species but especially for catfish. Catfish have extremely tough mouths and a sharp hook is needed to penetrate it. Always start with a quality hook that is sharp out of the pack. Check your hook point often to be sure it is sharp. Use a quality hook sharpener to maintain a sharp hook point on your catfish hooks for greater hookups.

As mentioned above your catfish hook needs to be strong. Quality hooks are tested for strength and have a certain amount of flex. You don’t want a lot of flex in your catfish hooks, but a little flex will keep the hook from breaking under pressure like low-quality hooks.

There are many styles of hooks for catfishing. The most popular is probably the circle hook, the octopus, and the octopus circle hook. There are many other styles, but these have become the go-to hooks for catfishing. I like the octopus circle hook myself. It is an excellent hook for catfishing and strong enough to fight a giant catfish.

Tips For How To Catch Catfish In The Summer

Knowing how to catch catfish in the summer is what so many catfish anglers want to learn. When the spawn is over catfish, like a lot of the other species, will seek deeper water. This is to escape the rising temperatures in the shallows. Keep this in mind when targeting catfish in the summer. If you fish during the day you will find catfish in deep holes and you will catch more catfish in deep water for sure. Now when I say deep water I’m not saying the deepest hole in the lake you fish I’m just saying that deeper water will hold more catfish in the summer. This could be 15 foot in your lake or maybe 30 feet deep it just depends on the lake or the area of the lake that you are fishing.

One thing to keep in mind when learning how to catch catfish in the summer is that catfish will move up shallow to feed at night. So if you prefer to beat the heat when catfishing by fishing at night then shallow bays can be a great place to fish. The one thing I have noticed is that the wave of catfish choose when to move shallow so you could be soaking your bait for awhile waiting for them to move up. Night fishing for catfish in the summer in shallow water usually include a camper nearby. I love a night of camping while I fish for these catfish.

One way I love to catch catfish in the summer is with a small Jon boat with a blacklight and some chicken livers. Anchoring alongside the bank at night and casting to the bank with a chicken liver a hook and fluorescent line and no weight. The blacklight allows you to easily see a bite with the glowing fluorescent line. Channel catfish are especially sensitive to pressure. If they feel too much pressure they will drop the bait. This is exaggerated in shallow water so by not using any weight the catfish will not feel any pressure and will swallow the bait. Leave a nice bow of slack line and when the catfish runs with the bait you will have time to grab the rod and set the hook.

This is also a great way to catch flathead catfish in the summer too. I normally will use a large bobber and a live bluegill on one of my rods to try and catch any big flathead that might be cruising the shoreline. Check out this great way to keep your chicken livers on the hook and how to keep them fresh and handy when the bite gets crazy.


About Ken McBroom 307 Articles
Ken McBroom is an accomplished outdoor writer and photographer. Growing up in Lynchburg Tennessee allowed him many opportunities afield as a boy and young man. Later in life, after Desert Storm, Ken’s wanderlust took him to Alaska to live and work and experience the last frontier. Married now with two beautiful children, Ken now calls Kentucky home where he continues to communicate our American outdoor traditions and the lifestyle it offers.

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