10 Best Rigs for Catfish (Top Picks for Any Water Condition)

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When it comes to catfishing, it’s all about placing the right bait, in the right place. To do that, you’ll need a rig to put and keep it there until the bite. There are many catfish rig types and their variations, which may be confusing to beginner anglers. Even simple rigs can bring excellent results, which is the most important thing of the day. To learn about the best catfish rigs, where, when, and how to use them, take look at our list.

3 Way Rigs

If you’re not sure what type of rig to use for your preferred catfish species, this is the rig for you. Three-way rigs are one of the most popular rigs for catfishing and for a reason. They’re simple, versatile, and they can bring you a big catch. If you prefer drift fishing, or from a still platform, this rig will deliver. You can buy pre-rigged setups to save time, but we advise you to make it yourself since it’s fairly simple.

Components

  • Mainline
  • Three-way swivel
  • Sinker
  • Dropper line
  • Hook
  • Leader Line

When to use

It’s a good choice for all three main catfish types. In any situation that requires keeping the bait off the bottom, this rig can be useful.

Where to use

Three-way rigs can be used in any type of water body such as rivers, lakes, or ponds. They excel when used for drifting in large rivers such as Mississippi.

How to use

First of all, you need two pieces of your monoline to tie the sinker and the hook. Cut your line and tie firm knots. After setting up the hook and the bait, drop the rig in the water. You can then use it for both drifting and anchored fishing.

Carolina Rig

Carolina rig is commonly known as the Slip sinker rig in the catfish community. It’s considered one of the essential catfishing rigs. If you have time to learn just one rigging technique, go for the Carolina rig. This rig allows the catfish to take the bait and try to swim away with little resistance since the sinker lets the line go through it. This made it the best bass rig, and it works well with catfish too.

Components

  • Mainline
  • Sinker
  • Swivel
  • Leader Line
  • Hook

When to use

Carolina rigs can be used effectively whether you opt for the channel, blue, or flathead catfish.

Whether you prefer drift catfishing, vertical fishing, or fishing with a tight line, this rig will serve you well.

Where to use

Carolina rigs can be used in both moving and still water. In rivers and channels, anchor the boat in the current and cast the rig behind it. In other cases, it can rollover the bottom and tangle up.

How to use

Start by cutting the line for the leader (12-18 in will be enough). Put the sinker and the bead if you want to. Tie them with the leader line and then tie the hook.

You can use it by letting it drop and fishing with a tight line or by letting the fish try to run with the bait.

Floating Rigs

Floating rigs are a popular modification of the three-way rigs. If you’re tired of switching your rigs in changing wind conditions, this is the rig for you. With Float rigs, all you have to do is to place or remove the float, and you’re ready to continue your catfishing.

Components

  • Mainline
  • Foam Float
  • Three-Wayswivel
  • Dropline
  • Leader Line
  • Hook
  • Sinker

When to use

This rig is very useful when you want to suspend your bait from the bottom. If you’ve cast many different rigs, and don’t want them to tangle up at the bottom, a Float rig will help. In the case of strong wind and unstable boats, floats can help minimize unwanted motion.

Where to use

You can use float rigs when drifting or anchoring, or when you need to frequently switch between them. They’re versatile and will work for both river or lake fishing.

How to use

You’ll need two pieces of the line for the dropper and the leader parts. Put the float and connect the swivel. Tie in the dropper and the leader. Connect the sinker and the hook to their respective lines. Use the rig by casting dropping it in the water for anchored fishing, or cast it for drift fishing.

Slip Rigs

Slip rigs are very similar to Carolina rigs. If you want to use alive or cut bait to entice the big catfish at the bottom this is the rig to go. Like with the Carolina Rig, the main idea behind this rig is to let the catfish bite the hook and try to swim away with it. Using a circle hook with this rig will make your job even easier since it hooks itself and you cant immediately start to reel in.

Components :

  • Mainline
  • Egg sinker
  • Lead shot (or a swivel)
  • Leadline
  • Hook

When to use

Slip rigs are effective no matter what type of catfish you’re after. You can use both live or cut baits and attract even some bigger size catfish.

Where to use

Slip rigs can be used in any type of water body. If you use it in a river, make sure you anchor your boat in the current and cast the rig behind it.

How to use

Assemble the rig by cutting a 15” piece for the leader. Put the sinker on the mainline and add the shot or a swivel. Then tie the leader to it and connect it with your hook. For still fishing let it sink in the water and wait for a bite. If you fish with a tight line, cast it and let the fish try to swim away with the hook.

Poly Ball Rigs

In situations where you want to keep your bait off the bottom, but the jig heads don’t provide enough buoyancy, the Poly Ball rig will save the day. By lifting your bait from the bottom, it’ll make it more visible and accessible for more catfish to bite.

Components:

  • Mainline
  • Lead Line
  • Hook
  • Floating Balls
  • Sinker
  • Swivels

 

When to use

Use the Poly Ball rig in unresting waters, to prevent your bait from digging into the bottom. Since it keeps the bait more attractive to catfish it can be used in both still and moving waters, for all three types of catfish.

Where to use

Even though it works well in still waters, it’s mainly used to introduce the live and cut bait to larger catfish in moving waters, as it keeps it more visible for them.

How to use

Poly Ball rigs are simple to use. Just slide the balls on the leader line, similarly to the Slip sinker rig. Lock them in place by stop knots and add two beads to cushion the impact. Add a swivel and connect it to the mainline and you’re all set. Cast it and wait for the bite.

Paternoster Rigs

Paternoster rig is a variation to threeway slip rig. It’s the best choice for introducing live bait for flathead catfish. Suspending live bait from above with a float, makes it look more natural and appealing to flatheads. It lets the catfish cover some distance with the hook without feeling the pressure, which is excellent for the distrustful flatheads.

Components:

  • Mainline
  • Float
  • Bead
  • Sinker
  • Dropper line
  • Swivel
  • Leadline
  • Hook

When to use

Use the Paternoster rig when targeting flatheads with live bait. Since they are more active at night this is a good time to use this rig.

Where to use

The Paternoster rigs are the most effective when set in the edge of a tailwater scour hole, underneath the drifting pile of logs, or from a boat. Since they’re usually used with live bait, they are good for both rivers and still waters.

How to use

First off, put a float and a bead on your mainline. You’ll also need two pieces of monoline for your hook and sinker. Tie them up to a mainline line using swivels. Put the dropper swivel before the lead swivel, to let the sinker slide across. Cast it and make sure that the angle between the top of the rod and the sinker stays between 30 and 90 degrees.

Drift Rigs

Drift rigs are probably the simplest type of rigs you can use. Just adding a lead shot or two about 10” above the hook, increases your casting distance and accuracy substantially. Since it’s heavier than a plain rig, it will sink faster to the bottom, and hit greater depths.

Components:

  • Mainline
  • Lead shot
  • Leadline
  • Hook

 

When to use

Use this bait when drift fishing at night from spring to fall, when all three types of catfish are most active. During the day, or colder times you’ll need to hit deeper waters with it.

Where to use

Use drift rigs when fishing in the shallow parts of lakes, ponds, or reservoirs with light to medium current. Let the wind push your boat from shallow to deeper waters, to catch lurking channel cats that are looking for food.

How to use

Use the drifting rig by simply casting it. Let the current carry your bait and attract catfish. Try putting come cut bait on your hook and watch the channel cats going into a frenzy.

Santee Rig

Santee Rig is one of the most popular catfishing rigs that originated from Santee Cooper’s catfishing lakes in the 60s. It proved efficient for all three types of catfish. But blue and flathead catfish anglers prefer this rig over everything else.

Components:

  • Mainline
  • Sliding Sinker
  • Barrel swivel
  • Mono leader line
  • Peg Float
  • Hook

When to use

You can use the Santee rig for both drift and anchored fishing. It’s also great for fishing from the shore or off the shore. In the daytime hit the bigger depths to attract the trophy blues and flatheads.

Summer nights are great to try out the Santee in more shallow waters.

Where to use

Even though it was first used in the great catfishing lakes, this rig is unstoppable in any type of water. Whether you prefer lake or river fishing, you won’t be left empty-handed.

How to use

Firstly, put a sinker on your main line, then tie it to a swivel. After that take your leader and slide the flat and put in the pegs. Slide the float two or three inches from the hook and connect the leader line to your swivel. Use the Santee rig by casting it, and let it drift.

Double Hook Rig

If you plan on catching monster catfish, double hook rigs will help you a great deal. There isn’t a single specific double hook rig. Double hooks are rather incorporated in some of the popular catfish rigs such as Santee or a Slip sinker rig. This type of rig will reduce the number of missed bites significantly since the bottom of the bait rests on the second hook. Using such baits also eliminates smaller fish from hooking, because of their smaller mouth.

Components

  • Mainline
  • Swivel
  • Slip sinker
  • Leader line
  • Two hooks

When to use

Double hook rigs are you used when:

  • targeting trophy size flatheads and blues
  • using large chunks of bait
  • Getting a lot of misses

Where to use

You can use a variety of double hook rigs, depending on your preference. They’ll work well in any type of water body that has a population of larger catfish, mainly blues. Bigger lakes and rivers are the best fitting for the use of these rigs.

How to use

Cut a piece of the line for your leader. Tie the first hook to it, and slide the line through the eye of the second hook and tie it. Put a sinker and a swivel on your main line and tie it together with the leader. Use the double hook rig by casting into the current for drift fishing, or cast it and wait for the bite when anchored fishing.

Balloon Rigs

Using a ballon in fishing rigs is a popular method used for a variety of freshwater and saltwater species. The balloon works just like a bobber, but with much greater buoyancy. It allows you to suspend multiple lines and target some mid-depths the way you couldn’t have with a regular bobber. When fishing from shore, they allow you to cover more water area, and emulate drifting techniques.

Components:

  • Main Line
  • Balloon
  • Sinker
  • Swivel
  • Lead Line
  • Hook

When to use

Use a balloon rig when you want to suspend multiple lines and baits. In instances such as thermocline, suspending baits from the bottom with a balloon can help you target way more catfish.

Where to use

Balloon rigs are great when fishing from a river or lake shore. They catch more wind and cover more water than bobbers. You can also use it when fishing from a boat.

How to use

Using a balloon rig is similar to the standard rig you’re using. Just tie the ballon to the mainline (for example above the slip sinker), tie the mainline to a swivel, and connect it with the hook line. For extra security add a bobber stopper and a sinker bumper. Simply drop your rig into the water and let the wind carry it across the surface.

Modified Rigs – DO NOT LIMIT YOURSELF TO THESE CATFISH RIGS!

We’ve listed some of the best catfish rigs out there, but that doesn’t mean only these rigs are worth using. You can use any type of rig and modify it by replacing some of its components. Those are called “ Modified rigs”. And there’s practically no limit when it comes to things you can combine. You’ll maybe even improve some of the rigs and get even better results.

Three-way rigs are modified all the time, often by replacing the three-way swivel with a barrel swivel and a dropper loop.

Adding bobbers, slip sinkers or lead shots is an easy way to modify any type of rig. We encourage you to do so and see what works the best for you.

Best Catfish Rig for Bank Fishing

In the case of bank fishing, your reach is more limited compared to boat catfishing. Having that in mind, it would be useful to learn about the rigs that can help you cover mover water, and have longer casts. There are several types of rigs every bank fisherman should know about. These are the Santee, Three-way, Balloon, Carolina, and the Slip Sinker rigs. Each of these has its advantages that we’ve discussed above.

More info : What are best catfish rigs for pond fishing : (Top Models Reviewed)

Best Catfish Rig for River or lake Fishing

Rivers and like are primary places for catfishing in North America, and generally over the world. That being said, you can use pretty much all of the rigs we’ve mentioned in our list. Some of the most widely used are the Carolina, Santee, and the Threeway rig. These three together with the slip sinker rig and their modifications have proved to be the best for lakes and rivers. Whether you fish from a boat or a bank, they will still perform well.

 

Best Catfish Rigs for Pond Fishing

Channel catfish are the most common type of catfish found in smaller lakes and ponds, together with the bullhead catfish. Drift rigs or slip sinker rigs are the most popular when it comes to catfishing in shallow ponds. The slip sinker rig lets you hit the bottom and allows the fish to swim away with the bait before reeling in. Drift rigs are an easy and effective way to catch these catfish while drifting along the pond.

 

Best Catfish Rig for Heavy Current

When fishing in heavy currents, the risk of losing the bait, twisting, or tangling your rig increases dramatically. To prevent this, try one of these – Threeway, Carolina, or slip sinker rigs. The steel sinkers will help keep the bait the rig in place, with swivels protecting from tangling up. Slip sinkers are also very effective for battling strong currents. If you still notice the effects of strong currents, try increasing the weight of your sinker.

Best Catfish Rig for Rocky Bottom

Rocky bottom such as that of the Potomac River in the US can be a good place for catfishing. But to avoid getting your rig stuck and buying new components regularly, try using a Three-way rig. If you have an abundance of old metal pieces to serve as sinkers, this is going to be the cheapest option for you. Use thinner leader for the sinker, so when the catfish bites, you will potentially lose only the sinker, keeping the hook. Using modified rigs with a slip float is also a good way to save your rig from the rocky bottoms.

What Makes a Good Catfish Rig?

When it comes to catfish rigs, it’s important to adjust them to your preferred catfish type, fishing technique, and the type of water you’re fishing on. They are also a few things you need to look into when deciding the rig you’re going to use.

Number of Components

Overcomplicating the rig can make your fishing a troubling experience. Having more components means replacing and fixing your rig is going to be more demanding. It can also get tangled which is pretty frustrating. You don’t need many components to make your rig effective. Stick to the basics, adjust your rig to your bait and have fun.

Type of bait

Having a good rig is pointless without a good bait that stays on the hook. Adjust your rigs according to preferred catfish types and their favorite baits. For example use double hook rigs with large chunks of cut bait, for monster blue catfish.

Sound

Catfish have a well-developed hearing system and navigate with it while hunting. This means that you can attract them more easily with rigs that have rattles. They can be applied to almost any type of rigs, such as a slip sink or a three-way rig.

Type of hook

The hook is a very important part of every catfishing rig. Make sure that you choose the hook that’s good for your intended catfish species and size. Treble hooks are usually the best choice when it comes to smaller channel catfish. For bigger fish go with a circle or octopus hook.

Setting Up Catfish Rig Like a Pro

After considering the things we’ve mention above, you can proceed to assemble your rig. Usually, you’ll have to cut a piece or two of your line for the leader and dropper. You won’t need anything longer than 8 to 12 inches for your leader in most cases.

Don’t forget your floats, bobbers, and sinker before connecting the leader with the mainline.

To make your rig more reliable, use some of these types of knots to secure it:

  • Snell
  • Palomar knot
  • Trilene Knot
  • Dropper Loop

The next step is to bait the rig using cut bait, live bait, or some of the in-store baits such as punch and dip bait. Cast your rig and you’re all set/

Best catfish rig for cut bait

Cut bait used when fishing for larger channel or blue catfish. Depending on the size you can use a variety of different rigs. For smaller ones, there are three very good rigs. Float rigs, slip sinkers and three-way rigs have proved to work exceptionally. When fishing vertically from a boat a three-way rig is probably the best one. But in the case of bank fishing, a three-way rig can easily tangle up and get stick to the bottom. In that situation, a float rig is a better choice.

 Larger Blue catfish bite the best when introduced to a big chunk of cut bait on the Carolina, Santee, or a three-way rig. No matter which one you choose, we recommend modifying it by adding a second hook for better results.

Best catfish rig for chicken liver

Chicken liver isn’t easy to handle or keep on the hook. The best way to do that is by using a treble hook or liver hooks. And since it’s so tender, you’ll have the best chance with rigs that incorporate a float, or a sinker to keep from the bottom and add stability. So plain treble rig or a float rig are probably your best bets when it comes to fishing with liver as bait.

Best catfish rig  for punch bait

Punch bait is very stiff and the only type of hook you can use for it is a treble hook. You can try out some of the rigs off the list and see for yourself. But from our experience, a treble hook with a slip sinker, bead, and a swivel is the best and simplest way to catch as many channel cats.

How do you rig chicken livers for catfish?

When rigging chicken livers you need to make sure it stays firmly on the hook. Handle it as little as possible, so it doesn’t lose firmness. Chicken livers should be kept in cold, or they’ll get too soft and easily fall off. Pierce it the middle with a treble or a liver hook and see if has a good grip. You can even use some additional things to secure it such as pantyhose, gauze, or a thread.

Frequently Asked Questions 

What is the secret catfish rig?

The secret catfish rig is good advertising for an E-book. You don’t need some secret bait, rig, or technique to catch trophy size catfish. Try out one of the rigs we’ve listed for you, modify them and you’ll be surprised with the results.

What weight should a catfish rig be?

There is no right weight for a catfish rig. The heaviest part of a rig is probably a sinker. For catfishing, you can go with 1 oz to 20oz sinkers in heavy currents.

How long should a catfish rig be?

The length of your rig (or line to be precise) depends on the depths you want to hit. In any case, add a couple of feet of line for tying the knots. For vertical fishing, the length of the line should correspond to the depth. For drifting use about twice as much line length.

How do you rig a flathead catfish?

Flatheads are almost exclusively caught using live baits. Make sure you use a hook that allows for enough movement such as a circle or octopus hook. Paternoster rigs are very popular for flatheads, so try that or some of its modifications.

Final Verdict

There are endless possibilities when it comes to catfish rigs. But it’s important to keep in mind, that the rig is only as good as the rest of your setup. We encourage you to try some of the rigs we’ve mentioned, modify them to your preference, and never settle for just one. To learn more about the best catfish gear and equipment check out some of our other catfish guides.

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