When fishing for channel catfish I focus on catching numbers of fish.
In most areas of the United States, this will be the best option. There are fisheries that have excellent numbers of larger channel catfish but they are limited and most anglers that decide to target big fish target blue or flathead catfish.
Most of the channel catfish I catch will be within one to five pounds with occasional fish from five to ten pounds being caught. This is typical of most channel catfish fisheries in the United States.
I fish primarily with prepared baits or what many anglers refer to as “stink baits” and the Secret Catfish Rig and have found this to be the most effective bait and rig for fishing for channel catfish.
The prepared baits I use are “punch” baits or “fiber baits”. These catfish baits allow you to fish with bare treble hook so you don’t have to use any sponges, dip tubes or dip worms.
On limited occasions I will use different baits or a slip sinker rig, but it is very rare.
Treble Hooks For Prepared Baits
Treble hooks are a “staple item” in the channel catfish tackle box.
There are many good brands of treble hooks but I traditionally use either Eagle Claw, Mustad or Team Catfish treble hooks.
Stick with a reputable brand as there are many Chinese import hooks on the market that are of very poor quality. While they may save you a little money up front they will cost you more in the long run.
More important than brand, is that the hooks are good and sharp, and also durable.
Treble Hook Size
Treble hooks in the channel catfish size range are sized in #2, #4, #6 and #8.
The smaller the number, the larger the hook is so a #2 hook is much larger than a #8 hook.
The #6 size is the best all around size hook when fishing for channel catfish. If you are trying to fish with a slip sinker rig or a heavy slip bobber then you may have issues missing fish when fishing with a size #6 hook but if you use the right rig (the Secret Catfish Rig) then a #6 will work perfect.
Most anglers that are missing fish with a #6 size hook will decrease the size to a #8 hook in attempts to reduce the missed fish. The problem is typically not that the #6 hook is too large, the problem is usually they are not setting the hook quickly enough.
When you decrease the hook size to a #8 hook then even small fish that are less than legal keeper size can “swallow” the hook. Again, using a rig that is sensitive enough to detect the bite the right time will make the #6 size hook work perfectly.
The only two treble hooks you need carry are a size #6 and #4.
The #6 hook work well in most situations and in the event the channel catfish are overall larger in size or are biting overly aggressive, you can increase the hook size to a #4 to reduce the number of deep hooked fish.
The better option though is using the right rig and setting the hook quickly as soon as the fish bites. This will greatly reduce or even eliminate the number of deep hooked fish with a #6 hook.
Treble Hook Strength
Hook strength is listed on the package as 2x strong, 3x strong, 4x strong etc. These numbers are the strength of the hook.
The higher the number, the stronger the hook is.
2x strong treble hooks will certainly work find for landing channel catfish but as you begin to remove the hooks from the fish, they will break. A 2x strong hook will not handle a lot of twisting and pulling and will typically break after landing a few fish.
For this reason, you need to get the highest break strength you can find, I suggest a 4x hook.
4x hooks will cost a little more (but not much) than the lower break strength hooks but will actually save you money on the long run because they will last longer without breaking or bending.
Hooks For Dip Baits Or Sponge Baits
Punch bait or fiber bait is the easiest prepared bait to fish with for channel catfish but in the event your preference is sponge style baits or dip baits than I have a cost effective alternative for fishing with these baits. Not only is it cost effective but it works better than any other option I have ever used.
Dip tubes, dip worms, sponge hooks and commercially manufactured “catfish lures” for fishing with sponge and dip baits are very expensive and you will go through a lot of them, so the cost adds up quickly.
To make these hooks you take a felt hat cleaning sponge and cut it into small squares. Then you take the squares and insert the shank of the treble hook through the sponge and tie the hook on your line.
There is an in depth tutorial on making these hooks on the Learn To Catch Catfish website.
Kahle Hooks For Channel Catfish
In the event you are fishing with something other than prepared bait for channel catfish then the best option is a kahle hook for channel catfish in most instances.
These are great hooks for alternative baits like cut bait, hot dogs, grasshoppers or anything other than prepared bait.
Outside of circle hooks, the Kahle hook is one of the most popular catfish hooks on the market.
Circle hooks can work well with channel catfish that are biting aggressive but I have never been a fan of fishing for channel catfish with circle hooks and catch ratios have always been much higher using either a treble hook or a kahle hook.
The optimal size for channel catfish is typically a 2/0 or 3/0 hook when using a kahle hook.
Circle Hooks For Channel Catfish
Circle hooks can be used for channel catfish but I have tendency to stay away from them most of the time. As explained, when fishing for channel catfish my goal is usually to catch numbers rather than size and I find that when targeting these one to two pound channel cats circle hooks do not perform well, with one exception and that is drift fishing.
When drift fishing, my choice of catfish bait for channel catfish is usually a prepared bait in combination with some sort of natural bait holder. This combination of bait and technique typically produces not only numbers of channel catfish but some decent numbers of larger channel catfish as well so I typically use a circle hook when drift fishing for channel catfish.
My choice of hooks for drift fishing for channel catfish with circle hooks is the 5/0 Team Catfish Double Action Circle Hook.
Suggested Hooks For Channel Catfish
To get more in depth details and information on catfish hooks checkout the catfish hooks tutorial page for more resources.
For in depth information on catfish tackle including all the information you need on terminal tackle, hooks and accessories check out the free Catfish Tackle 101 ebook.