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Three Must Have Items For The Boat Catfish Angler



Last week I covered Five Rookie Catfishing Mistakes and talked in depth about not getting obsessed with shiny new things and having tons of new rods and reels and other catfish tackle.

Your tackle and gear does not catch fish, learning how to pattern fish and get your baits in front of them consistently does. Learning to use the proper catfishing techniques when you find those fish catches them.

Now I’m going to go full circle this week and cover three things the boat catfish angler needs and where you should focus your initial spending.

These items will do much more for you than new rods and reels and hoarding a bunch of catfish tackle that you’re not even sure you need.


If you don’t have a sonar (fish finder), you need one. Having a good sonar unit and knowing how to read it will do more to shorten your learning curve and put fish on the end of your line than any other item you can buy. It’s the lifeblood on my boat and I rely on it 100%. If there were something more than 100% it would be that number.

I cannot imagine fishing without my sonar, especially for blue catfish. I depend on my sonar a lot for channel catfish and flathead catfish also but for blue catfish, we’re talking mission critical here.

You need the skills to narrow down the correct areas so you can look with your sonar and then once you locate these areas you use your sonar to determine if there are catfish in the area and if they are active.  If you have a few rods and reels to fish with I wouldn’t spend one penny on any other fishing item until I had a good sonar unit on my boat.

You need to go all in when buying sonar. Spend as much as you can on this item. This is one area that you should really plan and save for because the right unit makes a huge difference. Remember your not going to blow a ton of money on new catfish rods and catfish reels, because your going to focus on finding and catching fish. Having a good sonar is going to do a lot for that if your fishing from a boat.

Following are features you need in order of importance:

· Color Broadband Sonar

· GPS With Mapping Capability

· Side Imaging

· Down Imaging

The ideal unit is a combination unit with all of these features included but these come at a premium price. If you can’t fork out the cash for all of these features then you should at a very minimum focus on getting a good color broadband sonar unit.

Screen size matters when you start bundling all of these features together so getting the largest screen possible makes a huge difference.

I’m working on an updated list of the top fishfinder picks but until then check out my old list I published.

If you’re fishing from a boat, Investing in a good sonar will do more for you than any other item you can buy. To get some more details on this subject check out the Catfishing Radio podcast on sonar technology and choosing a fishfinder.

I’ve also posted a ton of information on the Humminbird 1198C I run on my Xpress HD22CC Catfish Boat for North Texas Catfish Guide Service.

Boat Control Essentials

The second area you should have right from the “get go” is boat control items. You can be an absolute master and finding catfish but if you don’t have them items you need to control your boat and catch them you’re wasting your time.

Just like with sonar, if you have a few rod and reels to fish with, you need these items far more than you need any fancy new rods and reels (or a bunch of them).


You need good anchors, really good anchors. You need two of them.

It amazes me how many experienced anglers I see on the lakes who pull up and either don’t have the proper equipment to anchor their boat, or even worse have the proper equipment and don’t know how to properly anchor a boat.

When you are trying to anchor on fish and cannot hold your boat still, your sitting yourself up for failure and frustration from the beginning.

Good anchors are not mushroom anchors or the cheap stuff you get from the $9.99 bin at the local sporting goods store. . You need anchors that will hold your boat dead still in winds of varying speeds and in varying speeds of current. You want to be able to stop right where you want to stop and hold both the bow and the stern of the boat perfectly still (or at least pretty darn close to it).

The right anchor depends on the size and style of your boat. The bigger the boat the more “anchor” you will need.

Most of the time you’ll need an anchor in the front and back of the boat.

I like to use Digger Anchors (click here for my Digger Anchor review and more information) but there are other alternatives out there that will work well also. One alternative option is the box anchor (click here for box anchor information).

Spend your money here. Get two good anchors that will hold your boat. You need them.

Drift Control

The alternative to fishing on anchor is drift fishing.

There are two different ways to approach drift fishing for catfish.

Controlled Drifting

In a controlled drift you use a trolling motor to control the boat, hold the fishing rod in your hand and wait for the fish to bite. This is a popular technique for fishing in big rivers and even in some reservoirs especially when there is a lack of wind.

Free Drifting

The popular method for drift fishing on lakes and reservoirs is using the wind to move the boat and drag baits through the water. To do this correctly you need drift socks (some people call them drift bags or drift anchors).

Drift socks keep the boat positioned correctly in the wind and keep the boat slowed down, both of which are critical.

You need two drift socks. You need two because there will be times where you will need two to slow the boat down enough to fish. There will be times when two is not another but having at least two is essential.

There are some alternatives to buying a drift anchor but after years of experimenting and using all of them, there is not better option than a good quality commercially manufactured drift sock.

I like the Cabela’s Advanced Angler Pro Series Drift Socks and the Lindy Drift Control Drift Socks. These are both far more durable than anything else I have used. They hold up really well, work well, and are priced right.

When purchasing drift socks for your boat make sure you pay attention to the suggested sizes from the manufacturer for your boat length and always go with the larger option than the smaller option. You can adjust the drag of a larger sock relatively easily (more on that another day) and you are almost always better off having more “sock” than you need than not having enough.

Having the tools to locate fish (and bait) in the areas you target and then be able to stay in them with correct boat positioning and speed is essential to your success and consistently catching fish.

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If you are interested in taking your catfishing skills to the next level then check out the Learn To Catch Catfish premium products.

Have ideas on other essential items for the boat catfish angler? Leave a comment below and let me know what you think!

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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. 101butterbean says:

    Howdy Chad,

    I have a digger anchor and it works well in ‘light’ wind, but since I went out and ‘tried’ to buy me a fishing boat, on the ‘cheap’, I NOW HAVE 2(TWO) EXTRA HEAVY DUTY ANCHORS; 1-65hp & 1-70
    hp, THAT I GARONTEE WILL HOLD THE BOAT IN ONE PLACE!!! Now, all I need is a decent motor
    to use on either boat!!! Anyone have a GOOD RUNNING motor for sale OR want to buy a GOOD boat and really good trailer????

  2. Chad, I recently purchased an iPilot GPS controlled trolling motor that I really love. It eliminates putting anchors out, hanging them up, and breaking your back trying to pull them up.

  3. james Watt says:

    RjrThis was a outstand article thanks Ronnie

  4. Dr. Jim Rhodes, '74 says:

    do I need a harness for my drift sox?

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