While catfish can be found everywhere from lakes to ponds and reservoirs, rivers provide a unique fishing experience. Catching a catfish in a river comes with its own set of guidelines that may not work in a large stationary body of water. Everything from the position of the angler to the type of line can make a big difference when it comes to catching more catfish.
Fish the Bends
Catfish tend to congregate where the river bends, more so than in the straights. "Game & Fish" magazine online suggests finding the sharpest bends in the river for the highest probability of finding catfish. The current at the bends is stronger, creating deeper water. Catfish like to sit at this natural choke point for prey, waiting for food to float by. Start at the upstream part of the bend and work your way down as you look for fish.
Fish Near Debris
Catfish love to hide among dead trees and branches, rocks and any other type of cover they can find at the bends. This debris causes eddies that bring the food to the catfish and provides them with protection. Nine-time Bass Masters qualifier and BassPro.com contributor Stacey King suggests casting your line upstream from the debris and then moving down, so that the smell of the bait can drift towards the catfish.
Fish from the Bank
When you fish from the bank, it eliminates the need for a boat as well as the problems that come along with it. It can be difficult to find a spot to anchor near the fishing site, and there's always the chance that the motor will scare off the fish. Boats may not be able to access certain shallow or debris-filled waters. The river bank allows you to move to various spots with ease.
When choosing a line, you have to consider the size of the fish you are going after and the river conditions. The test strength can vary from a light 15 lb. line up to an 80 lb. line for monster catfish. BassPro.com writer Keith Sutton recommends using a braided line when fishing near a lot of debris. Thinner lines can fray and snap as the catfish pulls them across wood and rock, but braided lines will hold up longer.
Catfish rely on their sense of smell to hunt, so bait that stinks works the best. They respond well to small live fish, worms and crawfish, dead rotten meat and fish, and even strange smells like stinky cheese. The bait should be cast upstream from the likely catfish site so that the smell and the lure can can work its way to the catfish with the water current.