Daryl and Jason Masingale say it will probably take time to discover ways to drift, however as soon as mastered it may be top-of-the-line methods to catch large catfish.

Drifting is a good way to catch catfish. Drifters on the Mississippi River would possibly recommend a stiff and delicate graphite rod held in-hand, whereas an angler who drifts large reservoirs in South Carolina would possibly desire moderate-action E-glass rods fished in rod holders. Many anglers say it’s crucial to have traces trailing at 45-degree angle behind the boat, whereas others drift with traces perpendicular and baits instantly 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, often in robust present, the place you utilize a trolling motor in opposition to the present to sluggish the boat’s drift velocity. Rig with 2- to 8-ounce weights, forged 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 instantly 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 shifting baits in order that they cowl extra water and get in touch with extra fish.”


The Masingales specialise in back-bouncing baits in robust 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 scale back boat velocity to half the present velocity, then elevate 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 change to three or 4 ounces as soon as they study to really feel the underside.

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

“We use medium-heavy to heavy-power Staff Catfish I-Cat graphite rods and Staff Catfish Tug-O-Conflict 65-pound-test braided mainline tied to a ball-bearing swivel. We’ve tried three-way swivels and had hassle with them tangling in robust currents. We make the one 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 crucial. “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 retaining his rig increased 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 considered one of us utilizing a brief dropper and the opposite an extended one, to see which works higher.”

Again-bouncing is maybe probably the most troublesome drifting method to study 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 methods, 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 received the thought of utilizing small motors to regulate their velocity as they drifted their boats backward. They have been catching fish left and proper, so I made a decision to fish that means. The primary day I attempted drifting, I solely caught two fish. However the guys throughout me have been catching a lot of fish, so I stored at it. I finally discovered to elevate 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 load. It takes a sluggish, fluid movement with the rod, and also you’ve received to maintain the road tight so that you’re continually in contact with what the load is doing, as a result of the load controls the bait.”

Angler holding a large catfish with a fish grip, in a boat on a river
Phil King first discovered how you can stroll baits many years in the past and has received many tournaments utilizing the method.

For back-bouncing, he favors considered one 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 take advantage of my Heavy-Motion Graphite Rod #2,” he says. “If I’m in Mississippi River-type present, I take advantage of my Phil King Rod Further-Heavy Motion #3H. I like Abu Garcia Ambassadeur 6500 and 5500 reels as a result of they’re robust however gentle. I’ve discovered that utilizing heavy rods and reels all day for back-bouncing might be painful. My shoulders can be in quite a bit higher form at this time if I had light-weight graphite rods again once 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 offers credit score to old-school anglers on Lake Moultrie. “My household has guided on Santee-Cooper for the reason that late Forties,” says the three-time nationwide catfishing match champion, together with the Nationwide King Kat Match. “We picked up dragging from Jackie Jones on Moultrie. Who is aware of the place he received 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 a watch 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 frontrunner 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 twisted up an excessive amount of,” he says. “With the pencil sinker tied in-line, if I get snagged I can often let loose line and provides it a jerk to bounce it over the snag. Plus, the pencil sinkers rigged in-line forged quite a bit higher than three-way rigs.”

He says that dragging requires particular rods and methods. 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 frontrunner as much as 3 toes lengthy so the cork floats baits increased off the underside.

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

Vertical Drifting

Tennessee’s James Patterson bottom-bounces on rivers with robust currents, and drags in lakes or reservoirs. He favors vertical drifting for flowing reservoirs with refined currents like Wheeler or Wilson, or in slow-moving rivers such because the Ohio River in midsummer. Methods range, relying on depth and water temperature. At occasions, 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 fully off the underside however holding the baits vertical.

Illustration of dragging rig setup for catfishing
Vertical drift rig. 

“For vertical drifting, I fish baits instantly under the boat and put rods in rod holders,” he says. “I take advantage of light- to medium-power rods with comfortable ideas and good spine. You don’t need fish to really feel resistance from the rod once they take the bait. With circle hooks, go away the rods within the holders till they bend over and the ideas are within the water. Contact the rod sooner they usually spit the bait once 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, retaining 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 comply with, making vertical drifting a good way to pinpoint clusters of blues.

Extra Drifting Suggestions and Methods

  • Sinker design is crucial 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 most effective for bouncing as a result of they’ve tapered bottoms and don’t offer you rapid, stable really feel of the underside.”
  • Don’t confuse rod sensitivity with rod flexibility. “After I’m back-bouncing, I need 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 need a pretty limber tip however robust 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 while 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 often at a 15- to 45-degree angle. That’s a flat sufficient angle so there’s no bow within the line, you’ve received a very good really feel for what’s happening, and you may stroll a bait exactly.”
  • Hook baits with care. Hook entire baitfish by way of their lips so their mouth is closed to reduce 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 generally fillets gizzard shad and hooks the slab of meat as soon as by way of the vanguard. “When you 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 “sluggish” 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 received to maneuver it previous her nostril slowly so she has loads of time to resolve if it’s definitely 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. When you do, you get a bow in your line and also you’re not as exact as you want to be. That’s necessary while you’re fishing over a thermocline in the summertime. I catch quite a lot 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 quit when studying to float. “It was powerful studying how you can drift,” Jason Masingale says. “We’d have 4 or extra traces snagged and twisted up on the similar time. We’d get annoyed and return to anchoring as a result of we knew we might catch fish that means. 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 received to be affected person till you determine how you can do it proper.”

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

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