Winter and spring catfishing generally involves site-specific fishing tactics such as anchored down, cut bait fishing.
However, from late June through November, catfish move around a lot due to a number of factors and one of the best ways to target mobile cats is to drift or troll.
Such is the case on Mary Crawford where catfish react to changing water currents, baitfish movements and any number of factors that affect food sources.
Since catfish are most productively targeted on or near the bottom, trolling for catfish may sound like an invitation to retie often and cuss a lot. To counter this, veteran catfish anglers employ a homemade trolling rig that places baits within reach of the bottom, yet still resists snags.
“The key to trolling or drifting is to use a slinky weight,” explains longtime catfish angler Chris Simpson. “A lot of catfishermen make them by inserting 00 buckshot pellets into a 6-inch length of nylon paracord. It’s hollow and you squeeze the shot into it like a sock.”
After heat-sealing the ends of the cord to hold the shot in place, a snap swivel is punched through one end of the weight and the main line slides through the eye of the swivel. A barrel swivel holds the weight away from the hook with a 3- to 4-foot length of leader between.
About midway down the leader is attached a small 2-inch Styrofoam crappie float. The float raises the baited hook off the bottom, just above head level to a prowling cat while the slinky weight holds the rig to the bottom and pulls over underwater structure without snagging.
On days with adequate wind, anglers can start their drifting runs upwind and drift across open sections of the lake. Days without wind require the use of a trolling motor to move the boat at .5 to .7 miles per hour.