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How Do Catfish Bite [CQT]


Catfish are like most other species of fish and while they are to some extent predictable they are also very unpredictable in many ways. I get questions often from people who are specifically targeting catfish and are getting bites but are not sure they are catfish bites, so in this week’s catfishing quick tip video we are going to answer the question, “how do catfish bite”?

If your fishing for catfish specifically regardless of which catfish species you are targeting and getting bites but not connecting with the fish there really is no way to truly tell what kind of catfish or other type of fish are biting your bait but we can through a process of elimination and questioning eliminate some of the different species and gather information to determine what is taking place. Even then there is no way of knowing 100%.

A prime example of this is if you are fishing with prepared catfish bait (like a punch bait or dip bait) as most often the fish that are going to strike this bait are channel catfish, blue catfish and maybe an occasional turtle. Changes are if your getting bites on a prepared bait it is one of these three hitting your bait.

That process of elimination would take a while and is much more than we can cover in a quick tip video so we will focus more on some of the common characteristics of the different types of catfish and how they predominantly bite. One of these days we will try to cover that process of elimination in an episode of Catfishing Radio.

It’s important to note however that there are no absolutes in fishing and the bite can change from day to day, hour to hour or even minute to minute. Being more in tune with what is taking place and adjusting to what is happening when you are missing fish is one of the key characteristics of successful anglers and those that struggle.


How Do Catfish Bite

Again, there are no absolutes but if I had to answer the question how do catfish bite for each different type of catfish, this is how I would respond.

Channel Catfish – I primarily target “box fish” when it comes to channel catfish and find that they most often have a very subtle bite. They have tendency to mouth the baits and “check them out” and shy away when they meet something they don’t like. That’s why I like a super sensitive catfish rig when I target channel catfish like a slip bobber rig or better yet the secret catfish rig. There are times where they will bite more aggressive but for the most part if I had to pick one, I would say light and subtle with a very “quick bite” that leaves you a small window of opportunity to set the hook.

Blue Catfish – Blue catfish are often all over the place but if I had to pick one word to describe the blue cat bite I would say “aggressive”. There are indeed times they will tap at a bite and mouth at it but for the most part when a blue catfish strikes, you know it. They typically hit with aggression and conviction and there is no doubt there is a blue on the end of the line. That being said some of the biggest blue catfish I have caught have just tapped a couple of quick taps on a bait with a very light subtle bite, almost like a channel catfish.

Flathead Catfish – Much like blues, flathead catfish are aggressive. There is usually no doubt when I big flathead cat nails a bait as to what it is and what its intentions are. These fish feed hard, they feed fast and once you experience the strike of a big flatty that is committed to a meal, you never forget it. Just like with blues though, I have caught more than my fair share over the years that just lightly tapped at a bait and it wasn’t until I set the hook that I knew I had a big flathead on the line.

Now, rather than focusing on what kind of fish it is biting when you are missing fish focus on making adjustments in your setup like changing rigs, increasing or decreasing hook size and making other adjustments to get the hook in the mouth of the fish! This is a much more productive use of your efforts to put more and bigger fish on your line!

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About Chad

Chad Ferguson is a professional catfish guide and founder of Learn To Catch Catfish. Click here to subscribe for more exclusive catfish fishing tips by email and then follow on Twitter or Google


  1. i totally agree- i didn`t really think about the difference until you mentioned it- i`m 72 now & you made me think-i just reacked & never realized why thanks now i`ll know too pass it on i enjoy your site very much & always seem to learn thanks again

  2. butterbean carpenter says:

    Howdy Chad,
    I’m like Louis, older than mud!! I always thought channels and blues took a whack at the bait before swallowing it, so, I let’em have time to get it in their mouths… Now, TURTLES WILL chew on it without moving the cork, until they swallow the hook… At least thatz how itz been with me!!! I don’t know much about flatheads, as I don’t river-fish much, but as you use live bait I’d expect them to hit HARD!!

    GO CATCH A CATFISH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  3. Gene Walk says:

    Chad, now that you have that pro video camera, can you sometime in the near future post some video on what movements and gyrations your Secret Catfish rig does? I have made enough of them now. Been fishing them, but still don’t know the proper technique for exactly when to set the hook. Thanks in advance. Gene.

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