Daryl and Jason Masingale say it may take time to learn to drift, however as soon as mastered it may be probably the greatest methods to catch large catfish.

Drifting is an effective way to catch catfish. Drifters on the Mississippi River would possibly counsel a stiff and delicate graphite rod held in-hand, whereas an angler who drifts large reservoirs in South Carolina would possibly choose moderate-action E-glass rods fished in rod holders. Many anglers say it’s important to have traces trailing at 45-degree angle behind the boat, whereas others drift with traces perpendicular and baits straight below the boat. Drifting for cats means various things across the nation, however actually, every of those setups are environment friendly cat-catchers.

“There’s back-bouncing, dragging, and vertical drifting,” says Jason Masingale, who along with his brother Daryl used drifting to win dozens of tournaments, together with the Mississippi River Monsters occasion at Memphis. “Again-bouncing is a river method, normally in sturdy present, the place you employ a trolling motor in opposition to the present to gradual the boat’s drift velocity. Rig with 2- to 8-ounce weights, solid downstream out of your boat, after which use a lift-and-drop method to stroll baits downstream with the present as you drift.”

Daryl says “dragging” works greatest on smooth-bottomed reservoirs and lakes, whereas vertical drifting works properly in snaggy lakes, reservoirs, and slow-moving rivers. “If we’re fishing a smooth-bottom reservoir or a slow-moving river, we drag baits alongside the underside,” he says. “If it’s snaggy, we vertical drift with baits straight below the boat, both suspended within the water column or simply off the underside. Again-bouncing, dragging, and vertical drifting accomplish the identical aim—catch extra catfish by transferring baits so that they cowl extra water and phone extra fish.”


The Masingales specialise in back-bouncing baits in sturdy currents of the Mississippi River. They favor heavy weights, stiff however delicate rods, and braided traces. “The trick is feeling the underside and figuring out what you’re feeling,” Daryl says. “We use the trolling motor to cut back boat velocity to half the present velocity, then carry and drop baits to stroll them downriver forward of the boat because it drifts. A newbie ought to use heavy weights, 6 or 8 ounces, however swap to three or 4 ounces as soon as they be taught to really feel the underside.


Illustration of back-bouncing rig setup for catfishing
Masingale Again-Bouncing Rig.

“We use medium-heavy to heavy-power Group Catfish I-Cat graphite rods and Group Catfish Tug-O-Conflict 65-pound-test braided mainline tied to a ball-bearing swivel. We’ve tried three-way swivels and had bother with them tangling in sturdy currents. We make the only swivel right into a three-way by tying each the mainline and monofilament dropper line, which holds the sinker, to the entrance eye. A mono chief to the hook is tied to the rear eye of the swivel.”

Dropper and chief size is important. “The size of the dropper controls how excessive off the underside the bait runs,” Jason says. “We discovered that when Daryl was catching extra fish by holding his rig greater off the underside, lifting and holding for a second earlier than letting the sinker re-contact backside. I tied on an extended dropper, which raised my bait, and I began catching fish. We frequently begin fishing with one in every of us utilizing a brief dropper and the opposite an extended one, to see which works higher.”

Again-bouncing is maybe essentially the most troublesome drifting method to be taught as a result of it requires refined boat management and shut consideration. Mississippi’s Phil King has received three nationwide catfishing championships, 40 big-fish titles, and dozens of tournaments utilizing drifting strategies, particularly back-bouncing. He discovered the fundamentals from previous catfishermen under Pickwick Dam greater than 40 years in the past.

“The previous boys used a 5-gallon bucket of cement to anchor under the generators, after which walked their baits downriver within the present,” he says. “Then they obtained the concept of utilizing small motors to manage their velocity as they drifted their boats backward. They had been catching fish left and proper, so I made a decision to fish that method. The primary day I attempted drifting, I solely caught two fish. However the guys throughout me had been catching numerous fish, so I saved at it. I finally discovered to carry and drop the bait and weight with a fluid movement. You don’t need to drop your rod tip any farther as soon as the sinker touches the underside­. You need the hook chief to remain stretched out within the present over the burden. It takes a gradual, fluid movement with the rod, and also you’ve obtained to maintain the road tight so that you’re consistently in contact with what the burden is doing, as a result of the burden controls the bait.”

Angler holding a large catfish with a fish grip, in a boat on a river
Phil King first discovered the right way to stroll baits a long time in the past and has received many tournaments utilizing the method.

For back-bouncing, he favors one in every of two rods bearing his signature, Phil King Driftmaster Fishing Rods, constructed by Tom Knox in Kansas Metropolis, Kansas. “In present 2 1⁄2 mph or slower, I exploit my Heavy-Motion Graphite Rod #2,” he says. “If I’m in Mississippi River-type present, I exploit my Phil King Rod Further-Heavy Motion #3H. I like Abu Garcia Ambassadeur 6500 and 5500 reels as a result of they’re sturdy however gentle. I’ve discovered that utilizing heavy rods and reels all day for back-bouncing may be painful. My shoulders can be in so much higher form at present if I had light-weight graphite rods again after I began out.”

King’s reels are spooled with 80-pound-test Spiderwire Ultracast braid tied to three-way swivels with a 60-pound mono chief. He likes Daiichi 5/0 or 7/0 circle hooks, and ties a 30-pound mono dropper to a 3- to 8-ounce financial institution sinker, relying on present.


Many imagine dragging originated on the Santee-Cooper system, and information Ricky Drose provides credit score to old-school anglers on Lake Moultrie. “My household has guided on Santee-Cooper because the late Forties,” says the three-time nationwide catfishing event champion, together with the Nationwide King Kat Match. “We picked up dragging from Jackie Jones on Moultrie. Who is aware of the place he obtained it from. It’s a weighted rig with a float on the hook chief that retains the bait off the underside. I make my very own 1/2- to 1-ounce pencil sinkers, with a swivel on one finish and an eye fixed on the different finish. I tie them in-line to 130-pound-test Spiderwire braided mainline, with the identical 130-pound-test Spiderwire as a pacesetter to an Eagle Claw 5/0 #85 or #84 hook.

Illustration of dragging rig setup for catfishing
Drose Santee Dragging Rig.

“I’ve tried three-way swivels they usually get tousled an excessive amount of,” he says. “With the pencil sinker tied in-line, if I get snagged I can normally set free line and provides it a jerk to bounce it over the snag. Plus, the pencil sinkers rigged in-line solid so much higher than three-way rigs.”

He says that dragging requires particular rods and strategies. He makes use of 7 1⁄2-foot, gentle Shakespeare Wonderods, discontinued however nonetheless his favorites. Shakespeare ATS-20 reels are loaded with 130-pound Spiderwire, the heavy line permitting him to drag free from snags by straightening hooks.

A 2 1⁄2-inch cigar-shaped float is threaded onto the chief forward of the hook. A bobber cease is used to place it 4 to six inches above the hook, to maintain baits off the underside. In winter, when catfish are much less energetic, he makes use of a shorter chief, round 6- to 12 inches. In summer time, when fish are extra energetic, or when he’s fishing in stumps and timber, he makes use of a pacesetter as much as 3 toes lengthy so the cork floats baits greater off the underside.

He drifts over ledges and submerged channels, however says the method shines on giant flats. “There are miles of flats on Santee-Cooper which can be 27- to 33-feet deep, and the cats roam round on them feeding on baitfish, mussels, and snails,” he says. “Drifting flats covers lots of water and exposes your baits to numerous fish.”

Vertical Drifting

Tennessee’s James Patterson bottom-bounces on rivers with sturdy currents, and drags in lakes or reservoirs. He favors vertical drifting for flowing reservoirs with delicate currents like Wheeler or Wilson, or in slow-moving rivers such because the Ohio River in midsummer. Methods differ, relying on depth and water temperature. At instances, he gently bumps rigs throughout the underside below the boat, with lengthy sinker-droppers permitting baits to run a number of toes off the underside, or with sinkers utterly off the underside however holding the baits vertical.

Illustration of dragging rig setup for catfishing
Vertical drift rig. 

“For vertical drifting, I fish baits straight under the boat and put rods in rod holders,” he says. “I exploit light- to medium-power rods with mushy ideas and good spine. You don’t need fish to really feel resistance from the rod after they take the bait. With circle hooks, depart the rods within the holders till they bend over and the guidelines are within the water. Contact the rod sooner they usually spit the bait after they really feel resistance.”

Vertical drifting excels in lakes in midsummer when thermoclines are developed. Patterson makes use of his trolling motor to float between .5 and 1.0 mph, holding baits below the boat and simply above the thermocline, the place baitfish and catfish are. Vertical drifting additionally works properly in winter when baitfish migrate to deep holes. Blue catfish observe, making vertical drifting an effective way to pinpoint clusters of blues.

Extra Drifting Suggestions and Methods

  • Sinker design is important when back-bouncing. “Cannonballs or bell sinkers are greatest,” James Patterson says. “They’ve extra floor space that will help you really feel the underside. Financial institution sinkers aren’t the perfect for bouncing as a result of they’ve tapered bottoms and don’t offer you quick, strong really feel of the underside.”
  • Don’t confuse rod sensitivity with rod flexibility. “Once I’m back-bouncing, I desire a rod that’s stiff on the tip,” Patterson says. “Not a pool cue, however a graphite rod that’s delicate, so I can really feel little bumps and vibrations as I transfer my rig alongside the underside. For dragging, nonetheless, I desire a pretty limber tip however sturdy spine, so I can put the rod in a rod holder and let the tip pull down and hook the fish earlier than I contact it.”
  • Angle issues. “There’s a candy spot whenever you’re back-bouncing, the place the bait is between 100 and 200 toes behind the boat,” Jason Masingale says. “Relying on depth and velocity, the road is normally at a 15- to 45-degree angle. That’s a flat sufficient angle so there’s no bow within the line, you’ve obtained a superb really feel for what’s happening, and you may stroll a bait exactly.”
  • Hook baits with care. Hook complete baitfish by way of their lips so their mouth is closed to attenuate bait spin. Phil King makes use of two hooks, one within the entrance of a baitfish and a stinger hook close to the tail. Ricky Drose typically fillets gizzard shad and hooks the slab of meat as soon as by way of the forefront. “If you happen to thread a fillet on the hook, it bunches up and windmills,” he says. “Hook it as soon as on the entrance and it might twirl a bit, however not a lot that it bothers catfish.”

Jim Moyer, Clarksville, Tennessee, says “gradual” is the secret when drifting, whether or not in summer time or winter, and whether or not back-bouncing, dragging, or vertical drifting. “You need to transfer slowly, particularly for blue cats” he says. “Ol’ Fats Alice, that monster blue cat you dream about, isn’t going to expend a lot power to chase bait. You’ve obtained to maneuver it previous her nostril slowly so she has loads of time to resolve if it’s well worth the effort to go after it. I like vertical drifting for this, as a result of I do know precisely the place my bait is—so long as you don’t transfer the boat too quick. If you happen to do, you get a bow in your line and also you’re not as exact as it is advisable to be. That’s necessary whenever you’re fishing over a thermocline in the summertime. I catch lots of fish over thermoclines. I like a 7 1⁄2-foot E-glass rod with a quick tip so the fish don’t really feel resistance till it’s too late for them.”

Don’t surrender when studying to float. “It was robust studying the right way to drift,” Jason Masingale says. “We’d have 4 or extra traces snagged and tousled on the similar time. We’d get pissed off and return to anchoring as a result of we knew we might catch fish that method. Lastly, Daryl left our anchor at dwelling so we needed to drift, and we figured it out. Drifting, whether or not it’s back-bouncing, dragging, or vertical drifting, might be the easiest way to place large catfish in your boat, however you’ve obtained to be affected person till you determine the right way to do it proper.”

*Dan Anderson, Bouton, Iowa, is a frequent contributor to In-Fisherman publications.

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