River Catfish Rigs

Catfishing is becoming an attractive sport for fishermen, especially in rivers where all giant species like Blue, Channel, or Flathead catfish can be found from coast to coast from southern Canada to northern Mexico, and record size fish are being taken anywhere and everywhere using basic catfish setups including Catfish Rigs. What catfish rigs are used in rivers?

River Catfish Rigs:

  • Slip Bobber Rig (SBR)
  • 3-Way Catfish Rig.
  • Santee Cooper Catfish Rig
  • Slip Sinker
  • Carolina & Texas Catfish Rig
  • Drift Rigs
  • Kentucky Rig
  • Drop Shot Rig or Zero Rig

Rigs are made in different sizes & make-up depending if fishing from a boat or the shoreline, heavy river currents & time of year.

Catfish like low light conditions, which is one of the big reasons they like to stay close to the bottom of rivers and hide in the brush, where a little shade extends away from the cover, which can give cats just enough comfort to come out of their home along the banks and nab some bait if presented right. They are also known for their strength and quality main line and equipment are crucial for landing trophy fish.

River Catfish Rigs


Using great tackle and equipment is not enough to land a trophy Catfish but being able to tie a good solid knot can make the difference. So, learn how to tie a basic fishermen’s knot a Uni-knot, Palomar, or Snell knot.

If you are fishing catfish from the bank, then covering a lot of water can make the difference between success and failure. In a river, environment rocks are usually found along the bottom and sides of the water that can obstruct the landing of a big catfish.

The best solution is to use a rig similar to the fish finder rig that you would use for Striped Bass but without the swivel and weight that won’t travel through the top eyelet on your fishing rod. The answer is to use a double uni knot or a bobber stop that is able to move smoothly through the 1st eyelet and into your reel and cast back out with no obstructions.

If you knot and apply the bobber stop correctly, the line correctly then the bobber won’t be able to travel up onto your main line. The bigger the bobber the better visual you’ll have of your line in the river. 

Best Catfish Rigging for Lakes


Because they are exclusively freshwater fish, you can only learn how to catch catfish in rivers, ponds, and lakes. Check out the following catfish fishing tips to maximize your chances of landing these delicious fish from deep-water lakes.

The egg sinker slip rig is for most folks the most popular rig for still fishing catfish. Consisting of an egg sinker on the main line held in place above the fish hook by a lead shot, this rig is ideal for keeping the bait near the bottom, which in turn, allows a catfish to swim off with the bait with little tension.

Anglers across the nation know that chicken livers are traditionally the best way to catch catfish. Chicken liver is especially good when you’re fishing in deeper waters. Livers remain fresh for 15 to 20 minutes before losing some of their appealing scents, so rebait your rigs frequently.


Catfish Rigs-Lake Tawakoni | Blue Catfish Guide James Evans
Best Catfish Rigging for Lakes



Carolina Rig & Texas Rig

carolina rig worm cheap online
                    Carolina Catfish Rig
Bottom Lures - Texas Rig | Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department
Texas Catfish Rig

Carolina Rig rig is a plastic bait rig and is nearly identical to the Texas Rig with a few exceptions.

For instance, when it comes to the Carolina Rig vs the Texas rig, the Texas rig features a weight that sits snugly against the lure.

Carolina Rig, on the other hand, has a weight followed by a lure that sits on a leader line. Both Rigs are used in Fresh and Saltwater fishing and are common for rigs for many different species of fish.




Slip Bobber Rig (SBR)

The Slip Bobber Rig allows you to cover large areas on the river when fishing for flat Blue or Channel Catfish without much of a snag hazard. It can also position your bait right in front of the catfish’s face as it moves downstream. Cast the bait into the current and let the natural action of the river serve it up. The Slip Bobber Rig is phenomenal for fishing the big catfish on small to medium-sized streams and rivers as well as lakes.

  • For neutral Catfish, try fishing the rig vertically across current breaks and eddies associated with rocks, riprap, brush piles, or a deep snag.
  • For aggressive Catfish, cast the rig upstream from deep-cut banks and outside bends as close to the bank as possible.





Catfish Rigs for Trophy Catfishing: Carolina rig-Line rig-Hook rig 


Catfish anglers cast rigs in the water right before or right after a heavier current in the river. It’s a good chance that these spots on the water can be productive during feeding time for big river catfish

Baitfish that are washed up into the current will slow and be available for a short time and Catfish will take advantage of this. Look for river bends or tree-lined structures and rocky areas where catfish will stage up and wait for food to come their way. Use a slip sinker with good weight and attach float and swivel 

  • Use tip would be to use a flat type sinker that won’t roll along the bottom like an egg or round-shaped weight.
  • Use an 8 oz sinker in heavy river current & 3 to 4 oz in moderately running river current
  • Use at least 20 lb test to throw 8 oz sinker with 50 lb test leader
  • Don’t tie this heavy sinker weight directly to the line rather use a stopper to keep the weight from moving down your line

Carolina Rig rig is a plastic bait rig and is nearly identical to the Texas Rig with a few exceptions. For instance, when it comes to the Carolina Rig vs the Texas rig, the Texas rig features a weight that sits snugly against the lure on the end.

Carolina Rig has a sinker weight followed by a lure sitting on a leader line. Both Rigs are used in Fresh and Saltwater fishing and are common for rigs for many different species of fish used from bass rigs to river catfish rigs.

Float rigs also keep baits moving along the river bottom at current speed, but snag less often than shot rigs. Cigar-shaped slip-floats are more sensitive than standard round bobbers, allowing catfish to swim a little while with the bait without feeling the line pull.

Regardless of which catty species you’re fishing for, the basic slip-float rig is made in the same way. Before tying on a hook, tie a five-turn Uni-knot around your main line with the same or slightly heavier line, that makes an adjustable float stop.

Sliding the stop knot up the line makes the bait on rigs run deeper while sliding it down the line allows for a shallower drift. Next, slip on a 5-mm bead followed by the slip-float. Anchor cut bait and smaller live bait rigs with a few lead shots about a foot above a hook, ranging from a #2 for small baits to a 3/0 for bigger baits. To anchor larger live baits for flatheads, add a swivel to the line about 20-25 inches above a 3/0 to 7/0 hook. Slide a 1- to 2-ounce egg sinker on the line above the swivel to balance the float.

As versatile as catfish rigs and effective as drift and float rigs often are, many catfishing situations call for live or dead bait still fished on the bottom. The most popular bottom rig for all species of catfish is the egg sinker slip rig.

The object of this catfish rig, which consists of an egg sinker sliding on the main line held in place above the hook by a lead shot, is to keep the bait near the bottom and allow a cat to swim off with the bait with ­little tension. While the basic idea behind this catfish rig is sound, it doesn’t accomplish either objective well.

The success of limb lines and pole lines says that catfish aren’t timid feeders on bait like trout or walleyes who need to run a short distance on a freeline before engulfing the bait.

When a decent-size cat picks up the bait, he has it. Most of the time, you could set it immediately without giving any line. But your chances of a solid hookset in the corner of the cat’s mouth increase if you let the fish turn to the side before setting.

Just be sure to hold constant tension on the line after the fish picks up the bait. When you feel the thump of a fish grabbing the bait, follow him with your rod tip for a foot or two, then set. If your rod’s in a rod holder keep the bait clicker engaged, let the fish take a foot off the line, then engage the reel and set.


Drop Shot Rig or Zero Rig

Two options of Catfish Rig that can be used if longer leaders are causing short strikes and missed fish. These are also good chances for targeting Blue, and Flathead catfish in and around tight cover along shaded river shorelines. 

  • When fishing in and around heavy cover
  • When catfish are holding right on or in that cover
  • When you need to get right on top of a fish vertical presentation

Flathead catfish love to hang out around and in brush piles at the banks of a river where crappies are hanging out.


3-Way Catfish Rig.

The 3-way river catfish rig is a basic setup for catfishing in a river channel with heavy currents. This river rig works well for mobile delta non-finicky big Catfish in the Spring when delta catfish fish come out of their wintering holes for some hunting and are super aggressive.

The purpose of this line rig is to separate your bait from your lead weight. Plus, it gives motionless baits, like cut shad, a better presentation for successful fishermen to hook a huge catfish.

The most important piece of tackle you’ll need for this setup is a 3-way swivel that will connect your main line to both your drop line and leader.

In addition, at the end of your drop line, you’ll need a bank sinker. When choosing what pound test to use for your drop line, make sure to choose one that’s lighter than your main line. Specifically, doing this will cause you to likely only lose your sinker than your entire rig if you snag it.

Kentucky Rig 

Very similar to a three-way rig but kind of different also. This Catfish Rig is very popular with big river anglers.


Catfish Float Rigs


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The Santee Cooper Catfish Rig

With his Catfish Rig, the weight stays on the bottom while the peg floats to lift the bait slightly off the bottom floor of a lake or river. This Rig can be used for anchor fishing from a boat or drifting from a boat. The Santee Cooper catfish rig is a versatile fishing rig that can be used for all types of big catfish for trophy catfishing on the delta rivers. 

It has been used with tremendous success on giant blue and flathead catfish. The Santee Cooper rig can be drifted, trolled, or simply tight-lined on the bottom, and the buoyancy provided by the Peg Float keeps any catfish bait from scraping the bottom. With a basic understanding of how to tie a slip sinker rig, building the Santee Cooper rig should be simple with the eight following pieces:

  • Mainline
  • Sinker slide
  • Bead Stop
  • Swivel
  • Leader (length will vary and as a general rule of thumb, the faster the current, the shorter your leader)
  • Triple Threat Hook
  • Sinker (style and weight will vary depending on bottom composition, water depth, current speed, and bait choice)
  • Peg float



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JimGalloway Author/Editor


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