Successful catfish catchers know where the cats are, what they want to eat, and which method of angling will put the catfish on their tables.

My fishing buddy Allen O’Dell was less than successful when he tried to capture cats. He fished all summer and took only a few catfish. “But I noticed one old river rat always had a mess of catfish,” O’Dell explains. “I couldn’t figure out how he was doing it. Finally, I asked him how he loaded-up on no-scales. ‘It’s real simple,’ he told me. ‘All you have to do is find the depth in which the cats are traveling, and you can catch them.’”

Well, that was all the advice O’Dell could weasel out of the old man, and it wasn’t much. At that time, O’Dell primarily fished for bass, so luck and knowledge about catfish were absent from his fishing plan. However, this particular summer, he made up his mind to stock his freezer with savory-tasting catfish. He studied about what he already knew about fishing for catfish.

A New Game Plan

O’Dell knew the right depth was critical to catching bass in the summer and was familiar with angling different depths to find bass. He began to redevelop his game plan to locate catfish.

Using the depth sounder on his boat, O’Dell searched out different depths in the river. He set out one trotline running from the bank to 10 feet deep to learn if the catfish were shallow. A second line that ran from 10 to 20 feet deep gave him a middle-depth report, and a third line set-out in 20 to 30 feet of water told him if the cats were deep. As he ran the lines the next day, O’Dell decided to try to pinpoint the magic depth even closer. When the lines came up, O’Dell watched his depth sounder. Each time a cat was captured, O’Dell made a mental note of the exact depths where each cat was holding. When the three-line test was finished, O’Dell had discovered that 15 to 20 feet was the cat-catching zone on that day. “I took up all three lines and began to ride the river hunting 15 to 20 foot-deep water,” O’Dell reports. “When I discovered it, I set out lines. The number of catfish I caught was amazing. Today each time I go to the river, I spend the time to check the depths first to catch more cats.”

Check out the second part of this series, on catching cats in fast-moving water, here.

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