Catfishing has become popularized by television shows of hand-fishers in Oklahoma taking tourists on noodling excursions. This show’s influence on American pop culture has sparked curiosity amongst people wanting to see what catfishing genuinely entails. However, there’s more to catfishing than just sticking your hand in a hole. Instead, I rather spend a peaceful night fishing under a starry sky listening to frogs croaking and fish jumping in the lake. Most of my fondest memories took place catfishing out at the lake. Thus, I am about to share these insider tips on how to catch catfish in lakes consistently.

Specifically, we will go over what time the catfish bite is most active, what kind of spots you should target, and suggest the types of gear you should bring out to your next fishing trip.

What Time Is Best for Catfishing?

A photo of a lake at the break of dawn with the sun rising in the background.

Honestly, there is no “best” time for catfishing; indeed, you can fish for catfish day or night. Although, I will say I have found the most success catfishing at the crack of dawn or in the late evening. Generally, catfish will come up towards the surface in the evening to feed on baitfish.

Additionally, new catfish anglers also wonder what the best time of year is for catfishing. Typically, I recommend fishing either pre- or post-spawn for the best results. Although, it is possible to catch catfish year-round.

How to Catch Catfish in Lakes

A group of anglers catching catfish on a lake using a limb line.

Before you start catching catfish in lakes, there are some things you need to consider. For example, you want to make sure you have the correct gear, bait, and targeting of the right spots. In addition, you’ll also want to look at all of the different catfishing techniques and rigs and choose the ones that work best for you.

Picking the Proper Gear

First off, having the correct gear is very important to your success. So, here is a list of starter gear for catfishing in lakes:

Having the Right Bait

Next, you want to make sure you have some smelly catfish bait. I have found the most success when using live bait or cut bait for blue and flathead catfish. For example, I like to use threadfin or gizzard shad, bluegill, or chunks of carp as bait. However, if you would like to target eating-sized catfish, any manufactured or homemade stink bait will suffice.

Locating Catfishing Hotspots

Now, you are ready to start locating some prime catfishing spots. In lakes, catfish, especially flatheads, like to bed down undercover. Also, catfish like to used these types of areas to ambush prey fish when it comes time to feed. Here are some examples of areas in lakes that provide cover to catfish:

  • Standing timber
  • Rock riprap
  • Underwater humps
  • Log debris
  • Fallen timber
  • Submerged creek channels

Besides fishing around cover, other locations in lakes where you can typically find catfish are:

  • Deepwater channels
  • Main water channels
  • Steep bluffs and banks
  • Coves

When in doubt, you can always break out your fishfinder. Or, if you’re like me and enjoy more simple approaches that don’t require any fancy technology, you can try drift fishing or setting jug lines. Drifting and jugging enhance your coverage, ultimately increasing your chance of catching fish.

Choosing a Catfishing Method That Works for You

You can choose many methods for catching catfish, from jugging to bank fishing. Here is a list of different techniques you can use to catch catfish in lakes:

  • Juglines
  • Limb lines
  • Bank poles
  • Trotlines
  • Rod and reel

Keep in mind, some of these methods may not be legal in your local waters. So, it is always best to check with your state’s conservation department.

Catfishing Rigs for Lake Fishing

Here is a list of great catfishing rigs you can try next time you go lake fishing:

  • 3-way rig
  • Slip-bobber rig
  • Slip-sinker rig
  • Santee-rig
  • Double drop rig

Out of these five rigs, my favorite ones for drift fishing are the Santee rig and double drop rig. I like them because they’re quick and easy to rig up in advance. Or, if you’re anchor fishing or bank fishing, you can’t go wrong with either the slip-bobber or slip-sinker rig.

Which Catfishing Method Is Most Successful in Lakes

There is no right or wrong answer when picking a method to use. So, when deciding which of these techniques to use, choose the one that will bring you the most joy. For instance, if you want to cover more water, try concentrating your jugs in coves or along steep bluffs. Or, if setting jugs sounds too tiresome, try drifting along deep water channels, using one of the five rigs we listed above.

What’s your favorite lake to go catfishing on? Which of these catfishing techniques are you going to try out? Let us know in the comments below. Did you find this article beneficial? Click that share button, and let your friends know about us on social media.

Have a great time catfishing, everyone!