How to Make a Super Tough and Very Effective Santee Rig for Catfishing


Santee rigs are terrific for catching catfish. They keept the bait off the bottom, and when built with a swivel clip they permit the bait to move and turn gently in current. Retailers sell Santee rigs, and you can also make them with monofilament. Which is what I did for a while.

But making a Santee rig with steel wire offers serious advantages: (1) steel line is super strong; (2) the vinyl coating means it is easy to clean; and (3) steel line does not develop memory (twists/bends) or fray like monofilament, nor does it tangle around underwater structure (like branches).

I should add that using a heavy swivel at the end of this means you can easily swap out hooks, depending on the size of catfish you are chasing.

The components are very inexpensive and they all can be bought on Amazon:

As I note in the video, please watch a video on how to crimp properly if you are not experienced at crimping. It is easy to learn, but do it wrong and your crimp will fail—which means your rig will fail.

Once you get the handle of making one of these rigs, you can knock them out in 3 to 5 minutes. And if you want to pimp your rig a bit, consider adding plastic beads on both sides of the peg float. They can add a rattling sound that may draw more catfish.

By the way, if you are new to catfishing—yes, you DO need to use a weight to get this rig to the bottom. So, on your rod line attach a slider-clip above heavy swivel-clip (same as the one above). Clip a 2- or 3-ounce sinker (pyramid or disc) to the slider.

Voila—you are done. Bait the big hook with cut bluegill, shad, or blue catfish (the bloodier the better) or stinky chicken bait.

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How to Make a Great Rod Holder Bucket for Fishing for Catfish, Carp, and More for $20


Raise your hand if you ever have set a rod down and had a fish hit and pull it into the water?

This has happened to me, and it is a real (reel?) drag. (Oh, the puns.) I have had catfish and carp both yank rods into the depths, never to be seen again.

This rod holder bucket is the solution to that problem, and can be made for about $20 in 30 minutes.

The materials are:

  • 1 5-gallon plastic bucket;
  • 3 nuts/bolts/washers (3/8″ or so);
  • 2 24-inch pieces of 1.5-inch by 3.5-inch wood; and
  • 4 large close line hooks (Bring your fattest rod to the hardware store to ensure you buy a large enough hook)

Drill holes in one piece of lumber that are the same size as your bolts; drill holes in the bucket aligned with the holes you just drilled in the lumber; etc. Watch the video: this simple contraption is pretty self-explanatory.

I love this rod holder. When you go to fish on a dock or next to a river or lake, you bring the bucket (with your bait and rigs inside). When you pick your spot, you take your stuff out of the bucket, and dip the bucket into the water to fill it. Voila: you have about 40 pounds of weight, which will keep your rods secure. (Note, the bucket should face the water, not the lumber cross.)

Give it a try, and let me know how you like it! This bucket last weekend helped me land a 40-pound blue catfish.

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Does October Bring Big Catfish?


In late August and early September, I caught mostly smaller catfish. My hypothesis was that the fish of breeding age had gone off food to focus on baby-making, leaving the pipsqueaks to hit my baits. I’d put four or five rods out, get hits every 10 minutes, and bag a dozen fish in two or three hours. But only one or two of the catfish would be more than 20 inches or more than 1.5 pounds.

Come late September, the hits were less frequent, and when they came they were big, slow rod benders, bearing 3- to 5-pound fish. And on the first day of October, well, I hauled up a 21-pounder that was 38 inches long. The other five catfish featured a couple of two-pounders, a two three-pounders, and a pipsqueak that jumped on the corn bait I put out for  carp. (I did land a small carp in the shallows between the dock and the shore.)

Last October, I set my personal best at Fletcher Cove—a 37-pound blue catfish. I hauled him in maybe 20 minutes after I brought up a similarly sized beast that snapped my rig at the edge of the boat (ARG!) when I stupidly failed to deploy a net.

So, maybe after a few weeks of sweet loving and little eating, the big catfish emerge from their lairs hungry?

Thirty days remain in October, so we shall see if the days bring more big fish.

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Answered: What Gear and Bait Do I Need to Catch Catfish?

People have caught catfish with the most minimal of materials. Heavy thread tied to a hook and milk jug.  A stick with fishing line tied to it and a hook with a live shad on it. Most crazily, noodlers crawl into the water and use their fingers to attract bites.

For those who do not wish to go old school, however, the choices can be dizzying. So many reels, rods, rigs, and baits are used to catch Mr. Whiskers. What to buy?

When you are just getting started, I believe in keeping it simple (not tricky gear or knots) while using effective (but not crazy pricey) equipment is the right approach.

Go with a spincast reel and mid-sized rod that will work from the shore or a boat (an 8-foot rod in a small boat is a hassle), and use a Santee rig to bottom fish while keeping the bait a little off the floor and hopefully out of snags.

So here is my list of the stuff you should buy:

Optional
1. Stringer: http://amzn.to/2eWVLHg (so you can keep fish)
2. Small fishing bag: http://amzn.to/2xpera7 (nice for carrying your equipment)

Necessary
1. Bag of bells: http://amzn.to/2wT8noT (so you can hear the bites when they come)
2. Needlenose plyers: http://amzn.to/2gV1ev5 (so you can get the hook from the fish’s mouth)
3. Clippers: http://amzn.to/2jeHxCN (to cut line)
4. Heavy swivel-clips: http://amzn.to/2wT1t2R (to clip your Santee rig to)
5. Circle hooks 4/0: http://amzn.to/2wSMqGg (for 12″-18″ catfish) or Circle hooks 6/0: http://amzn.to/2vO6HKm (for 19″-36″ catfish) Alternatively, this packet of varying sized circle hooks is a good deal: http://amzn.to/2f5twWH
6. 2-oz round, flat sinkers: http://amzn.to/2gWq2mn (tied above the swivel via a Palomar knot)
7. 20-lb braided line: http://amzn.to/2xp9FcI (braid is easier to tie than plasticky monofilament)
8. Rod, 6-foot and medium weight: http://amzn.to/2xYIYIP (those chasing smaller catfish will better feel the hits and land them with a medium weight rod)
9. A wide-mouthed net: http://amzn.to/2h36fBO (For bringing the fish into the boat or onto the dock or shore. Don’t try to jerk them up by the line—they can snap your rigs off!)
10. Santee rigs (red; 3 boxes): http://whiskerseeker.com/catfish-rig-floats-wst-rattlers/

Oh, and a cheap, excellent bait is a stinky chicken bait. You can see my recipe for it below.

Fishing Diamond Teague Park In Washington, DC

Kosar channel catfish 09-03-2017One word: catfish! Well, o.k., you can also snag bass, crappie, and bluegill at Diamond Teague Park. But I come for the catfishing.

Diamond Teague Park’s is located right behind the Washington Nationals’ stadium. It is open dawn until dusk.

Folks can rent kayaks and canoes there, and do. I inevitably fish from the dock, and not once have I been skunked in the 20 or so visits. Which is why I love the place. The view of the Anacostia and southern DC also is grand, and there are bars and eateries within walking distance.

Often the catfish are small: 12-16 inches, so do bring 4/0 circle hooks in case your 6/0 hooks are getting hits but not hook-ups. But bigger fish also can be had. Today, we had three cats 24-28″ in a 10-minute span. I used this Santee rig and this chicken stink bait. I twice have experimented here with fishing for catfish with a big slide bobber—it worked, although not as well as bottom-fishing with Santee rigs.

Buh-bye to Chicken Livers: Or How to Make Cheap, Effective, and Durable Catfish Bait


I have gone through a lot of tubs of chicken livers over the past few years. They are an effective catfish bait. And at $2 for a small tub at the grocery store, well, who is to complain.

But, I am moving past chicken livers. Their biggest problem is that fish can tear them off easily. Oh, sure, there are various ways to keep them on hook. Atlas Mike’s Miracle Thread is best solution, because all you need do is wrap this elastic thread around the hooked liver. Easy-peasy, and it keeps the liver on longer while putting no barriers between the bait and the fish. I tried the egg loop knot, curing the livers into leathery medallions, and various other tricks. None of these worked great for me. Drying the livers made them less appealing to catfish. Putting the bait in little Surgitube bags and the like also weakened the bait’s draw, and was time-consuming.

Certainly, whenever I can catch bluegill or other baitfish, I’ll use those to chase catfish. But I do not have an easy source for bluegill nearby, and I’m not quite fish-crazy enough to establish a bluegill fish tank in my home.

So, my new go-to bargain bait is cheap chicken meat. You can get nearly expired thighs or breast boneless meat for a couple bucks a pound. Combine it with garlic powder (also cheap) and cherry or berry Kool-Aid (get a container of the generic version) and a bit of water in a Ziplock bag, and voila. You have a bait that brings in blue catfish and channel catfish. It takes less than 10 minutes to prepare, and keeps in the fridge for at least a week. No cooking of complex work is required. Just be sure to cut it into chunks appropriately sized for the hooks you are using. And if you have some old hot dogs, you can chop those into chunks and pitch those in the marinade.

This bait has not failed me, and I learned about it from an excellent catfisherman at Fletcher’s Cove in Washington, DC. That day I watched him land one hog after another, including one more than 40 pounds. Critically, this bait does not fall apart or tear of the hook. I’ve caught a couple of catfish on the same chunk of this bait. It works and it lasts, and that’s huge.

Kosar catfish 08-05-2017

How to Tie a Santee Rig for Catfish

This rigs is easy to tie, and it reduces snags and lost rigs by keeping your bait off the bottom. (When you cast, the peg floats on this rig slide to to swivel-clip/hook combo, and lift it off the bottom.) Links below will lead you to the materials you need to build this catfish rig.

40-pound monofilament: http://amzn.to/2xFk5la
Lindy beads: http://amzn.to/2iPyrfx
Swivel: http://amzn.to/2iRmN3J
Swivel with clip: http://amzn.to/2iRCMPr
Circle hook (6/0): http://amzn.to/2x02Z4t
3-inch peg floats: http://whiskerseeker.com/catfish-peg-floats/

As I note in the video, this rig also has the advantage of allowing you to easily switch hook size while you are fishing, in case the fish are bigger or smaller than you expect. If you are getting lots of bites but not lots of hook-ups, it might be the circle hook is too big to set. So unclip the hook and pop on a new one.

The barrel swivel at the top can be either tied or hooked to a swivel-clip  on the line running to your reel. The latter is my preference, as it means I can easily remove the rig to wash and store it. (Walking to or from your fishing hole with a big rig bouncing on your rod is not good. It strains your line and sometimes snap it.)

If you do not want to tie your own Santee rig, WhiskerSeeker tackle carries them: http://whiskerseeker.com/catfish-rigs-lures-floats/

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Now, you might ask: so do you use a sinker with a Santee rig? Yes, you do. The sinker can be attached to the line running to your reel (not the rig!) I prefer to clip my sinker to one of these sliders, which you install just above the swivel clip: http://amzn.to/2exPXUr You can swap different sinker sizes on with ease, depending on the current’s strength. Put a Lindy bead between the swivel-clip’s knot and the slider to protect the knot from trauma.

For those of you who have not used a slider before, one thing you need to get used to is that tightening your line after casting is different. Without a slider, you cast, let the bait and sinker sink, then close your reels’ bail and reel until the line is straight-line tight. You can’t do that here. If you try to reel taut you’ll drag your bait to the slider/sinker combination, which is not ideal. Instead, you need to reel so the line is not really slack, then close your bail.

Kosar sinker slider 09-01-2017