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The Santee Rig Or Santee Cooper Rig For Catfish

santee cooper catfish rig

The Santee Rig or Santee Cooper Rig is one of the popular catfish rigs for fishing for all species of catfish, it’s also commonly referred to as the “Santee Rig”.

This rigging gained the name Santee rig as it allegedly gained popularity from its use by catfishermen on the Santee Cooper lakes in the Carolina’s.

This Santee Rig is one of the catfish rigs that is a favorite among anglers who target blue and flathead catfish but can also be used to target flathead catfish as well.

Not only is it one of the popular catfish rigs for drift fishing but it is a favorite among anchored fishing as well. It can be used when fishing from a boat or from the shore and in many different applications.

Part of the popularity of this type of rigging comes from it being very effective for both anchored fishing and drift fishing and a known way of producing both numbers and size when fishing for catfish.

This is a catfish rig that you should definitely know to tie and should have in your arsenal. It’s certainly one of my “go to” ways of rigging for catfish.

Why Use The Santee Rig

Part of the effectiveness of the Santee rig comes from the simplicity of it. The rig is easy to tie and easy to cast but the secret is in the peg float.

By adding the peg float you lift the bait up off the bottom of the lake or river.

Why does this matter?

You can use the bottom as a reference and get the baits up off the bottom and into the strike zone (where the fish are).

If the fish are holding 2-3 feet off the bottom then you can use a 36” leader and get the bait into their area, otherwise with a shorter leader you would be placing baits underneath the fish.  The leader length can be adjusted based on where the fish are holding.

In addition, there are more “theories” as to why this is effective when fishing for catfish.

Catfish, especially blue catfish, also have an under bite and feed from the bottom up better than they do top down from the shape of their mouth.  One of the theories behind lifting the bait up is that you get a better bite.

Then you have “the eyes”.  They eyes of a catfish are on top of their head. Sure, they feed by smell but they also feed by sight. Many anglers speculate that getting the bait up over into the line of sight improves the number of bites as well.

Items Needed For A Santee Cooper Rig

To make one of these you are basically using a slip sinker setup with a longer leader and adding a float. There are a number of different variations (mostly with weights) but here are the basics you need to know for both anchored fishing and drift fishing.

Items Needed:

Egg Sinkers (or preferred sinkers)
Barrel Swivel
Leader Line
Peg Float

How To Tie The Santee Cooper Rig


You can use an Egg Sinker, no roll sinker, walking sinker or slinky weight. Regardless of what style sinker you are using, you’ll slide your sinker on the main line to get started.

The amount of weight you use is going to depend on how deep you are fishing, the amount of current, amount of wind etc.  There is really no “magic number” when it comes to how much weight to use.

If you are not sure what size weight to use start with one ounce and you can work your way up or down in size from there.  I generally use 1.5 to 2 ounces of weight fishing in lakes, reservoirs and smaller rivers


Barrel Swivel – Tie a barrel swivel onto your mainline below your slip sinker using a Palomar knot.


Cut a length of 40-50 pound monofilament leader line.

The length of leader is going to be something you will have to experiment with on your lake or river and again like many things with catfishing it may vary from day to day.

The most common leader lengths are anywhere from 18 to 36 inches.

You can use leaders that are shorter or longer than this, it just depends on the application, wind and where the catfish are in the water column. The further up the fish are from the bottom the longer you will make the leader to get into the “strike zone”.


Tie your hook on the leader line using the quick and easy snell knot.

I prefer to use the 8/0 Team Catfish Double Action Circle Hook or the 7/0 Daiichi Circle Chunk Light for blue catfish and a 5/0 Team Catfish Double Action circle hook for channel catfish. You can also use a treble hook for fishing with prepared bait using this setup (though I rarely use this rig for channel catfish as I have more success with the Secret Catfish Rig).

2” Slotted Foam Peg Float

The peg float is used to hold the bait off the bottom of the lake or river. The longer the leader line the higher the bait will float in the water column.  The shorter the leader line the lower it will float in the water column.

Slide the peg float onto the leader line and insert the pegs. By using a slotted foam peg float you can quickly and easily add and remove the float as needed (or replace them when they get damaged).

The peg float will set about 2-3” down the leader line from the hook.

Attach Leader To Barrel Swivel

The final step is to tie the leader  to the barrel swivel using a trilene knot.

The Santee Rig For Drift Fishing

santee rig drift fishing

Again, you can use this for drift fishing or anchored fishing.

You can certainly use the same setup for both applications by using an no roll sinker or egg sinker but making some minor changes will greatly reduce the number of “snags” or hang ups as well.

Instead of using an egg or no roll sinker consider switching and using:

Team Catfish Smooth Operator Sinker or DIY Snagless Drift Fishing Sinkers and a Team Catfish Sinker Slide

When drift fishing use a Team Catfish Sinker Bumper between the weight and the barrel swivel. This will help prevent weakening the knot are causing the line to weaken due to constant rubbing and banging onto the knot and line around the swivel.

The use of these style sinkers when drift fishing will help to greatly reduce the amount of “snags” or hang ups when you are drift fishing. It won’t completely eliminate the problem but it will help to reduce them it.

Santee Cooper Rig Instructional Video

Here’s whats covered in this video on this catfish rig.

  • Basics of rigging and how to tie this
  • Applications for using the santee rig
  • How long to make the leaders
  • Getting the baits into the “strike zone”
  • Some tricks to help you catch more catfish using this setup

Be sure to check out the catfish rigs page to get more information on different rigs and in depth tutorials on catfish rigs for all different species and catfishing techniques.

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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. Neil Kolban says:

    Sure do appreciate these articles on different catfishing rigs and when to use them. Delighted to see that your web site is also well indexed and that related articles can be jumped to/from very easily.


  2. Rob Hawley says:

    Thanks for such a great website! I literally stumbled across your website while searching for some tips on baiting for catfish. The site is well organized, easy to use, and full of pertinent, useful information. I am a member of the Canadian military stationed in Winnipeg, Manitoba and I became enamoured with catfishing just last year while on attending a course in Winnipeg. The channel catfish the lurk the waters of the Red River in Lockport, Manitoba (about 20 minutes north of Winnipeg) are abundant and HUGE. Catching 20lb’ers is common and there are plenty of fish 30lbs plus! If you ever get the opportunity to make a trip north, I guarantee that you’ll be in for an outstanding time fishing for cats in the Lockport area. Again, thanks for the great information and outstanding website. Keep up the good work!!!

  3. Neil Kolban says:

    Nice video. Two quick questions:

    1. In the video you said peg the float towards the hook end of the bobber. What is the thinking behind that?

    2. What size weight do you use for this and the other bottom rigs?

  4. You will hear some people say that you need to peg the float the opposite way that the water dragging in the hole of the peg float makes the rig act crazy and gives it too much action. I find that pegging it this way increases may catches considerably. It might be the added action. The other reason is that I find when you rig it with the peg on the other side of the float they have tendency to get knocked out more for some reason.

    The weight will depend drifting versus anchored fishing, water depths, wind etc. I would say a good general rule is 1 to 1.5 ounces and sometimes even as heavy as 2 ounces (in deep water and high winds).

  5. ajcomputerdoc says:

    …fishing for smaller “box fish” then use a kahle hook in size 3/0 or 4/0 or a small circle hook like a Mustad Demon Circle In-Line Hooks – Model 39951BLN “7/0.”???????

    …fishing for trophy catfish then go with a bigger hook like the Mustad Demon Circle In-Line Hooks – Model 39951BLN in 10/0 or a “7/0″??????? or 8/0 Mustad Demon Circle In-Line Hooks – Model 39951BLN

    7/0 is a small or big circle hook? I only want box fish.

  6. in reguards to which side of the float to incert the peg……the picture shows the oppisite of what your saying in the video. Could you clearify as to which side to put it in.

  7. greasy skillet says:

    In the vid you illustrated an example of fish marked on sonar at 6′ above bottom. If I understood you right, you said you would use a leader from 18-36″ in that scenario, depending on variable factors. I get the variables, such as wind/drift speed & wave height, but wouldn’t an 18-36″ leader put the bait somewhere around a foot or two above bottom? Seems like this would put the bait below the suspended fish, which I always thought was not good. Am I misunderstanding something or have I been doing this wrong all along? Could explain why I catch few fish drifting with this rig.

    • I said 18 to 36 inches was a good general rule but to tailor the leader based on where the fish are suspended. As a general rule 18 to about 30 inches is a good number but you have to experiment. It’s always a good idea to make some longer and some shorter and see what works best.

  8. could you tell me how big of peg bobber i would need for cut shad and how big of sinker the shad i use is about 2 3 ” thanks

  9. how much wight do i use and what size of peg bobber do i wan t for cut shad 2-4″ long thanks

  10. did both and never said what size to use for shad but thanks any way

  11. im sorry read and viewed both one says put 1.5-2 ” pig bobber 3″ from hook the other says 5-6″ away just say depens on what bait your fishing with dosent really go in to detail about cut bait so thats why i asked to find out to try this rig thanks

  12. Grant Jones says:

    a lot of really good info!!!!!!!!

  13. i plan on using the santee rig my next catfishing trip, i seen in your three way rig article you say that the cats can feel the sinker more often and drop the bait, since ill be ancored in the boat would the same happen with this method like the three way, or is it best when ancored to just use the slip sinker method and keep it on the bottom of the river? thanks for all the videos, keep them coming

  14. Hi Chad, we just stocked channel catfish in our urban lake. The max depth is 12 ft but the area i am shore casting from is about 6 to 10 ft deep.

    What do you recommend the best catfish setup ? I am using a Circle hook size 2 , 20 lb line , egg sinker 1 oz . I was currently using the Santee Rig Cooper but didnt get any luck.

    The bait im using is from walmart , chicken liver and some bad cheese smell. I think i am putting way too much on the hook but i wanted to cover it all up .

  15. Would you recommend this rig for anchored fishing as well

  16. Good video brother!!

    One variation we use is a snap swivel instead of the barrel swivel. If using this rig anchored, it allows you to keep you rig at a certain depth even with boat sway and slack lines. The slider actually allows the bait to float up if you have slack lines, which can be good or bad.

    The snap swivel also allows you to swap out weights easily if going from drifting / trolling to anchoring.

    BTW, I enjoy the podcast while fishing!

  17. Does the color of your peg depends on if the fish will bite? Can I use a bright color or plan white?

    • Daniel, if you are talking about the color of the cork, yes the color does seem to make a difference on certain days. I tracked the bites and catches with various color floats, and certain days were better than other with a particular color.

      There are several other variables that come into play with the Santee rig, leader length, placement of the cork on the leader, bait, etc. So to honestly get an accurate determination of which color works best was not worth the time.

      In the end it was not worth trying to adapt on a daily basis to which cork color worked best.

  18. Very good video! You have helped me learn so much about catfishing. No where else have I found this kind of amazing information!
    Thank you

  19. Chad your information is very helpful, please keep it up!!

  20. Bob Daniels says:

    hey Chad great info. Ilike all metrial and lessons that ihave recived from you cant wait to recive next lesson. thanks.

  21. Nick Reed says:

    Chad thanks for the tips !!! I enjoy the videos !!!

  22. Sabrina Moore says:

    I’m a single mom trying to help my 7yr old son hook something he can be proud of besides a sunfish. He says he wants to catch a catfish so he can take it home and cook em’! I’ve been fishing since I was a kid but never had to really worry about what to use, how, when, and where until now, that I’m on my own. We haven’t had much luck lately and I’ve been feeling a little frustrated, so I decided to search for some tips and found this site. Thank you! I think I have a better understanding now. Planning another trip out this week. Not giving up. :)

  23. I have been drifting for cats out of the back of my pontoon boat and at times have 4lines out. The 2 in the middle about 75 to 1oo ft closer to the boat than the 2 outside lines. Without line counters I am just guessing how far out the lines are. Can you suggest a way to mark both braided and mono line. Love your vids and the books I have gotten from you also.

  24. Matthew Moore says:

    is there any brand of peg floats you would prefer

  25. On the 2flote on santee rig, you say to use the plug facing the swevle and it dont move all around…. will it hurt to use on both sides??

  26. Jimmy Daulton says:

    We used the Santee rig today, and my son caught his best catfish yet. Thanks for the help Chad.

  27. eagleeye10 says:

    Great information it totally makes sence and I will be making changes

  28. Going to try this tonight on upper lake wateree.

  29. Great video and article! I am breaking into cat fishing for the first time really and I like to fish at the bottom of a dam. not sure how deep it is there but I imagine it’s pretty deep. I’m fishing from the bank and casting about 20-30 yards with a 1oz. casting sinker. I have yet to try the Shantee rig but I am looking forward to it now! My question is about the usefulness of this rug when the gates are open on the dam and the water is moving fast, and I mean very fast. If I’m out there when the water is churning, a lot of fish like to hang out at the bottom of the dam to catch the stuff that flows through from the top. What kind of rig do I need to be using for these situations or will this one do the job?

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