Catfishing; not the virtual kind, is one of America’s favorite fish to target. Thus, boasting some of the most delectable and succulent proteins pulled from a river. Yet, it produces more than just filets or meat for hush puppies, with every angler with a tale of that one colossal cat that got away. Speaking of near catches, if you’re pulling in this barbel-faced fish for it to break loose, chances are you are making some common mistakes when it comes to selecting catfish hooks. But fear not, with our guide to the catfish hooks, you’ll never be cursing at the river banks again.

Common Catfish Hooks and Their Uses

A man holds in his hands a caught catfish with a hook in his mouth in a pond, on in the park

Image credit: DariaPotapova via shutterstock

1. Circle Hooks

Circle hooks are the most common and the most popular when it comes to catfish hooks. It is undeniably a favorite among anglers, new and old, with many universal uses. In fact, of the catfish hooks on this list, this is the best one for new anglers to try out. This is largely due to its curved design that minimizes accidental fish deaths while increasing overall catch rates. Thus, this also means for those practicing catch and release; this is the hook for you. But these much-loved hooks don’t come without their flaws, that is covered more in depth below.

2. Kahle Hooks

While cut bait to stink bait would be the preference among anglers for targeting this odor-enticed dweller, live bait can be just as effective. The Kahle hook has many similarities to the circle hook and can be easily confused as the same. What sets them apart is the wider gap along the hook shank, which allows for live baits to dance in water columns and currents. You will likely use this hook when targeting flathead catfish, who prefer live bait. Pair it with shads, pinfish, grasshoppers, and leeches, and watch the catfish strike.

3. Treble Hooks

treble hook

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It’s not a secret that catfish have an impeccable sense of smell and are drawn out but odorous and even nauseating scents. Treble hooks are less commonly equipped for targeting catfish because they can be cumbersome to use in areas where catfish inhabit. This set of three-pronged hooks is best used with stink bait, like a hot dog soaked in jello, which would be appealing to a channel catfish.

4. Octopus Hooks

Although octopus hooks are revered in trout fishing, they also have their uses in catfishing. If you are one for using a floating catfish rig, this is one hook that makes it an impeccable pairing with a bobber. Or for fishing around obstructions. With the smaller hook and a deeply curved shank, it’s best used with small pieces of live bait that can easily be found among the debris of a riverbed. As for specific targets, consider using the octopus hook for flatheads or channel catfish.

Common Mistakes Anglers Make With Catfish Hooks

1. Incorrect Catfish Hooks and Size 

As promised, here is a rundown of common mistakes that cost cat fishers their catch, with incorrect hook sizes taking up the number one spot. There is a reason why circle hooks are used for catfishing or saltwater fishing. Especially when it comes down to how the hook moves in the water. Unlike most hooks, such as the J-hook that move vertically, circle hooks and Kahle hooks move with the current or water columns and hook a catfish in the corner of the mouth. 

This means that for the movement of the hook to nab a monster cat, the hook needs to be the right size. Generally, bigger is better when it comes to circle hooks and Kahle hooks. The rule of thumb is the gap between the barb and hook shank. Is the gap open enough for cut bait, where the barb isn’t buried? If not, size up.

2. Knots and Snelling

Targeting catfish is different in that a loosely snelled hook or improper knots can lose a fish. While a poorly executed hook will lose you a fish in all types of angling, fishing for catfish is insurmountable to your success. 

By definition, a snelled line is wrapping the fishing line around the hook’s shank to add a layer of assurance when tugged on. Any longtime catfish angler will likely opt for this method over knots. However, a common mistake is where the hook points once all is said and done. A properly snelled hook should always point forward or pull forward.

Snelling the line isn’t the only method to set a hook in place. There are many fishing knots out there that can to used in catfishing. Of these are; the Palomar knot, the Trilene knot, and the dropper loop knot, among a few others.

A Final Thought

Nevertheless, targeting catfish can be an exciting and rewarding experience. But it shouldn’t go without saying that it doesn’t come without its trials and tribulations. You see, thought and preparation needs to go into catching this species. Found in deep or hard-to-reach environments, some reasoning must go into the hook and bait selection. You can say you can’t have one without the other. But catching catfish doesn’t stop when the line hits the water, with common mistakes among anglers coming from improper selection, wrong baits, and improper hook setup execution.