How to Trotline for Channel Catfish

Photo by: Keith Sutton

Commercial trotlines will catch you a few whisker fish, but diehard longliners are largely do-it-­yourselfers. They know how to modify their rigs to make them more efficient, easier to deploy, and less of a pain to store. These four pieces of gear are key to their success and can easily be worked into your trotlines.

Brass Tactics
Tying the anchor directly to the trotline can make deployment and storage problematic, with a big weight always hanging and banging around. Instead, tie a large brass dog-lead clip to the tag end of your main line. Now you can run the line out weight-free, snap the anchor on when you're ready, and bombs away.

Gang Time
Two hundred feet of line festooned with 30 permanent droppers invites tangles. So tie 3-inch stainless-steel gang-rig clips to each dropper, which allows the hooks to be baited, attached, detached, and stored separately. Tie off the main line, run it out, and drop your weight. Return to the start, and clip prebaited droppers at regular intervals.

Power Wheels
Quickly spool your main line—without hooks, thanks to the gang clips—onto a plastic extension-cord reel for off-the-water storage. At the fishing hole, 250 feet of trotline unreels as fast as you can backpaddle or run the old 6-horse Johnson in reverse. It's the best $10 you'll ever spend on a piece of trotlining equipment.

Smear Campaign
Considering how much catfish rely on scent to find food, keeping your hands free of unnatural odors is trotlining 101. But you can also use their sense of smell to your advantage. Rubbing Catcher Co.'s Smelly Jelly Sticky Liquid on your droppers and main line can make a big difference in the number of fish that end up in the cooler.