Catfishing Tips: How to catch Catfish from a Boat

Catfishing Tips: How to catch Catfish from a Boat

Catfishing from a Boat

If I can, I’ll fish for catfish from a boat.

Whether you have a fish finder or not, there are ways to determine where the catfish should be. They tend to stay close to the bottom (but not always) so most times you want to fish for catfish on or close to the bottom. They will be in the channels and troughs or sometimes on flats.

I have used combo rod and reels for years. I have had no problems with them. Some people say they aren’t worth the money. I find that Catfish Combo Rod and Reels are less expensive than buying a separate rod and reel. I have even used them when trolling and found they work well there too.
Find all your rod an reel needs at Amazon Catfish Combo Rod and Reels

What I do in a boat most times is find a spot where I have a channel that I can either anchor in or close to it. If I can (and most times I can), I will have the side of the boat to the channel so I have as much room to cast out or drop down my lines as possible. As long as I know what is under the water (no brush), I will cast at least three lines out, two in the channel and one (hopefully) just short of it. The fourth one I drop straight down.

The one straight down is rigged with the hook on bottom and the weight up about 18 inches up, the other three lines just the opposite. I do this so I can drop the weight to the bottom then raise the line so the hook is off the bottom around 9 inches or so.

The distance between the reel and the first (largest) eyelet is usually about 18 inches, so set the rod in a holder and let the line drop until the weight hits bottom. Reel just enough in to lift the weight, then pinch the line by the first eyelet and reel in until your fingers meet the reel. That should just lift the bait.

If you have tied the weight at 18 inches above the hook, then you only need to reel in about half the distance between the first eyelet and reel. That will leave the bait 9 inches (give or take) above the bottom. This rod you need to “bob” (pinch line by first eyelet and pull about half way to reel, then let go) or “gig” (reach out some, pull pole down until at least until bait hits bottom, and let go) occasionally, about every minute or two.

Rod Holders for your Boat

Rod holders offer convince and versatility and security.

There are two different types of Rod Holders for your Boat.
One is a hard mount, meaning that it gets screwed down to your boat. The best places I have found to do this is to have two on the back of my boat about 1/4 of the way in from the side of the boat.
The other two places are on the sides of my boat about 2 to 4 foot from the aft or transom. I start off with some soft mount rod holders (They clamp down to your boat) to decide just where to use the hard mount rod holders.
I have kept the soft mounts, and I am glad I did. I have found times when I needed or wanted to have a different place, or more places then four, to put a rod, like when I am alone I can put two up front of me, or when trolling, so I can watch them better.

Amazon has a great assortment of rod holders

Don’t be too shy on moving this rod around from one end of the boat to the other or even try the other side. So let this one set for 10 to 15 minutes in one spot, then move it. Keep this up until you get hits.
The other three, you can let them sit for about 30 to 45 minutes then move them around. Don’t be surprised if you find a catfish has been sitting by one of them and when you go to reel it in they take the bait.
When you go to move one, don’t just jerk it off the ground. Let the bait drop then pull like you would to set a hook, in case there is a catfish. If so, it will take it.

Some times of the year (mainly spring time, spawning time), it is better to anchor on the flats. This is because the catfish are spawning. Though catfish are ambush fish they will swim the flats looking for food if they have not found any in the channels.
So if you don’t have any hits in the channel after about two hours or so, go to the flats and see what you can find. Anchor about half between shore (two anchors, one bow and one stern) and a drop off to the channel.
Put lines out on both sides and one straight down as before. Move them all the way around the boat a little at a time; about every 30 minutes just move them a little.
I have had catfish hit the bait just because it moved, they just don’t want it to “get away.”

Catfishing at night?

Can’t see all the time but you can hear

A good rod and reel with bait alert is a must when fishing at night or day. If you are using more then one rod at a time there comes times when you can’t watch all of them at the same time, so being able to hear when another rod is being played with is helpful.

Add your own bait alert to the rod. Every type and style you could think of,
Amazon has bait alerts for your rods.

Final thoughts on Catfishing from a boat or any fishing

You can learn to catch catfish from a boat.

Keep a cast net with you at all times. Cast nets will save you $100’s of dollars in live bait so learn how to use one and save.
Don’t be afraid to modify your approach to fishing for any type of fish. A slight tweak to what you have been doing for years can make a world of difference on how much or how little you catch. If something don’t seem to work and you have given it a reasonable amount of time, then go back to what you have been doing. Try something else. New fishing tactics and techniques can be hard to learn, so give them some time.

Two of my fishing stories can be found at: Gone Fishing, My Stories.

Photo: By Duane Raver, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons


Husband to Teresa, father to four of the best children in the world (Don't tell them that) Grandpa to the four BEST Grandkids in the world. Grandkids are great I get all the fun my daughter gets to clean the fun. Fishing is one of my pass times (When I can that is.) Learning not to beat my computer to death when it is only doing what I stupidly told it to is my other pass time when I am not Remodeling someones home or building decks. doug48 on Google+


  • Holy cow. I never realized there were so many considerations and techniques to catching catfish. I just know how good they are to eat!


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