fishing with a fishing pole

Catfishing on a Budget – 3 Tips That Will Save You Money

If you’re fishing for catfish, chances are you’re already saving money.

I know a few bass fisherman who spend insane amounts of money on gear, not to mention having a boat and all that comes with that.

Lures alone can cost around $5-$10.  For example, I know some bass fisherman who won’t even fish without a Rapala series lure.  It only takes a couple of snags a day to be out $20 just like that.  It’s kinda crazy.

When you fish for catfish, you don’t have to worry about that.  I mean, you can go all out if you want (and some people do), but you certainly don’t have to.

In this article, I’d like to share some tips and tricks for catfishing on a budget. There’s no reason to break the bank when fishing, especially when targeting catfish.

1. Fish from the bank

This is one of the easiest things you can do to save large amounts of money: commit yourself to being a “bank fisherman.” I like to call it a “poor man fisherman.”

There’s no need for a boat when catching catfish. Sure, there are times when having a boat would be nice, but it’s not at all necessary.

Yeah, if you’re struggling to get bites, it’s nice to be able to move spots quickly, but there’s no guarantee that moving will start producing more bites, either. Fisherman can still get “skunked” when fishing from a boat.

The nice thing about fishing for catfish happens when using “stink bait.” What happens is you start to “chum” the area you’re fishing by stinking it up real good with a bait that works (more on that in a minute).

If the catfish are close, they’re gonna come. If they ain’t biting on a bait you know that works, they’re simply not there. That’s why it’s best to use a bait that works, one that has a good track record; mine would be CJs MonsterBait.

Find an area on the bank that looks promising, cast out a good stink bait, and start catching some catfish.

You don’t have to worry about fueling a boat, boat repairs, buying a boat, storing a boat, or having a truck to haul a boat. Whew!

Just hit the bank and start fishing; that’s all you need. You will save a ton of money not worrying about a boat and all the stuff that comes with it. Boats are expensive, high maintenance, and sure to cause you more headaches than you could imagine. Save time, money, and heartache by fishing from the bank.

2. Fish state lakes

There’s no reason to fish some fancy community pond or lake that requires additional permits to fish. There are plenty of state lakes, rivers, and reservoirs that are free to fish with a simple state license.

I have a lake right down the street from my house that requires a special permit to fish.  So you need a state license and a county permit to fish it. I think the permit costs more than the state license, which is ridiculous.  There’s no reason for that.

As long as you have a simple state license, you can fish any state lake, river, or reservoir free of charge.  And that’s the way it should be.

Make sure you are not paying extra for permits to fish some “special location.”  You will save more when you fish lakes that only require a state fishing license; this certainly helps when catfishing on a budget.

3. Buy minimal gear

One of the greatest benefits of fishing for catfish is this: you don’t need a whole lot of gear to begin with. But you may have to keep reminding yourself of that in order to keep from spending money unnecessarily. If you don’t need it, don’t buy it.

You obviously do need a few things, and those few things are pretty inexpensive, so keep that in mind. The three things you need are simple: rod and reel, a few bits of tackle, and a bait that works.  Here’s what I do.

Rod and reel combo

I always buy rod and reel combos because there’s no reason not to, especially if you’re trying to save money.  I recommend a spinning reel with a decent action, and probably something close to seven foot long.

They have some $20 rod and reel combos at Walmart that I think work just fine for catfish. I have used those for many years, and that’s really all you need for all around catfishing.

What I like about these cheaper rod and reel combos is that they’re pretty much expendable.  If you lose one, snap one, or get mad and throw one in the lake, it’s no big deal to replace one (I haven’t had to yet). You can get them at Walmart everyday, all day, and they work great for catfishing.

You can also get them on Amazon; I have one similar to this one, but mine is 7′ long.

Most of the time, they come pre-spooled with fishing line, so you don’t need to worry about buying line and spooling it yourself, either. But if they don’t, no big deal; you can get that stuff cheap, too.

As far as the fishing line is concerned, if it’s pre-spooled, I would just use what’s on there.  If it’s 6 pound test, 12 pound test, it really doesn’t matter.  As long as you have your drag set right, if you hook into a 50 pound fish, you’ll be just fine.  You might be surprised to know that there have been record sized catfish caught on 4 pound test (usually from anglers fishing for crappie) because these anglers used the drag system properly to reel in a fish weighing triple digits.  You don’t need to be that concerned with the line you use, but if you want a good all around test, I would go with 12 pound.  This is light enough to be manageable, but also strong enough to reel in some monsters (assuming you work the drag properly).

If you purchase a combo that isn’t pre-spooled, or want to re-spool it for whatever reason, I would recommend this stuff here.  It’s a good all around 12 pound test that works great for catfish of all sizes.

Tackle

Ever hear the old adage, “hook, line, and sinker?”  Well, that’s literally all you need to catfish, maybe a swivel, too, but that’s about it.

My favorite catfish rig is the “Carolina Rig” or “Slip-Sinker Rig,” which ever one you want to call it.  It’s the most basic rig that works for all types of catfish.  It’s a proven rig that works.  You can get crazy if you want to with knots, rigs, whatever, but you really don’t need to because the slip-sinker rig works just fine.  If you’re not catching catfish using a slip-sinker rig, it’s probably got nothing to do with the rig and more to do with the bait or location.

Hook

If you want to keep it as simple and as cheap as possible, I would stick to a treble hook that’s good for punch bait (more on that in a bit) and good for almost any sized catfish. I would go with a #6 treble hook like this one.

Line

We already talked about this earlier, but again, a 12 pound test line with a trusted brand like Berkley will be all you need. If you want to go a little lighter, or a little heavier, that’s fine (it won’t matter much).

Sinker

If you’re fishing in lakes, you don’t need anything too heavy.  A 1 ounce slip-sinker usually works fine.  If you get into a situation where current or wind is a problem, you can use a bigger one if you want, but you really don’t need to.  I would stick to something like this.

Swivel

To complete your “Slip-Sinker Rig,” you’ll need to add a swivel.  Nothing major, just a basic barrel swivel like this one will get the job done. Just make sure it’s not too big, or too small, but almost any size will work.

Bait

Like I said earlier, I like CJs MonsterBait.  You don’t have to use that kind (I just know it works); you can use any kind, really, as long as you’ve had good luck with it.

Prepared baits are the way to go.  You might have heard it called “stink bait” or “dip bait,” but it’s really about the same thing. Sometimes it’s even called “punch bait” because of how you bait the hook by punching it down into the bait.

Prepared baits are just a concoction of stinky stuff that attracts catfish.  Here’s what I like most about prepared baits.

It’s simple

Literally, all you need is a treble hook to punch down into the bait, and you’re ready to cast.

You don’t need to worry about keeping your bait alive, stored properly, or handled a certain way. You simply push a treble hook into the bait, pull it out, and you’re ready to go.

It’s affordable

It doesn’t cost a whole lot of money to buy punch bait.  You can even make your own, or buy cheaper kinds at Walmart.

Keep in mind that if you do go to Walmart, they usually only have “dip bait.” This usually requires more than just a bare treble hook. Dip bait is thinner, so it requires some sort of sponge to keep it on the hook. That’s the only thing you’ll need to pay attention to if you go to Walmart.

Either way, there are all kinds of options out there; I just like to stick with the ones I know work. At the very least, you can try some different kinds to see what works for you.

It works

When you use prepared baits, you can usually discover how effective they are pretty quick.  When you find one that works, just keep using that. You have peace of mind that way, knowing that if the fish are there, they’re gonna bite your bait. And that’s what you want.  All you need to do is find a prepared bait that you know works, and stick with it. If you know it works, and you’re not catching fish, you know that something else is wrong.  More than likely, it will be your location.  Very rarely is it anything else.

Another way it works is by what’s called “chumming.”  This is where you bait a certain area of water to attract fish, but prepared baits do this naturally.  Once you get that stinky stuff out in the water, you are technically “chumming” that area.  You are going to attract the fish.  The longer you stay, the closer they get. If, however, you are impatient and prefer a higher paced catfish experience, I would recommend doing this instead:

If you are using prepared baits and don’t get a bite in 15 minutes, re-bait and re-cast.  If in 15 minutes you still don’t get a bite, it’s time to move (the fish aren’t there).  You know they’re not there because you are using a bait you know they will hit if they were.

Another thing I like about prepared bait is that only catfish bite it. If you are targeting a certain species of fish, you want all your catches to be that species of fish. Occasionally you’ll get some turtle bites, but most of the time you won’t have to worry about that, nor will you have to worry about catching some other kind of fish (you’re not gonna catch bass using stink bait).

When you use worms or other baits, you will catch all kinds of different fish. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it might be for someone who only wants to catch catfish. Prepared bait will make sure that doesn’t happen.

Using prepared bait takes all the guess work out of it.  It’s simple to use, simple to store, and it will catch you a lot of fish (if you’re in the right area).

Final thoughts

There you have it.  Here are three simple tips that will help you maximize savings when catfishing on a budget (don’t let your friend with a boat convince you otherwise).

There’s no reason to break the bank (pun intended) when fishing, especially when catfishing.  You just need to remember a few simple tricks that will keep you from spending too much when you go. Commit yourself to these tips, and they will save you a lot of money, I promise.