Jug Fishing Tips to Catch More Catfish
Tony Adams, of Eufaula, Alabama, is one of the best catfish catchers I know. In four hours, using what he considers the best jug line setup, Tony can produce 200-400 pounds by jug line fishing for catfish in Alabama and most of them individually will range from 8-20 pounds or better.
Tony jug fishes water that most catfishermen don’t fish, including the edges of underwater river channels, 20-60 feet deep, with jugs on Lake Eufaula. One of the most-important components of catching catfish while jugging southeast Alabama on the Chattahoochee River is the bait.
Great Days Outdoors asked Adams to test Fishbites Yeh Monn! Freshwater Catfish Baits that are biodegradable and made from all-natural ingredients to compare their catchability to his best jug fishing setup.
“I’ve discovered that the most-productive bait for deep-water catfish is hickory shad, often called skipjacks,” Adams explained. “We can catch them with a cast net here on Lake Eufaula, but they’re hard to find. Not only that, but after we get them, they must be frozen quickly and placed in the freezer, which requires a lot of time and effort that I don’t have. So, instead of trying to catch these hickory shad, I buy them from a guy who catches them on the Tennessee River, vacuum seals them and freezes them, while they’re still fresh. But, I have to pay $3 per shad.”
When Adams is jug line fishing for small catfish, he can get 20 baits out of one shad. However, if he’s fishing for big catfish, he only may get 12 baits out of one shad. To test Fishbites, Adams used the same number of jugs that he did while fishing with skipjacks on his best jug fishing setup.
“There was no difference between the amount and the size of catfish I caught with the Fishbites compared to those I caught with skipjacks,” Adams said. “I also liked how the Fishbites were more accessible, cost less and didn’t have to be kept frozen. I actually found more reasons to use the 5/8-inch-wide and 12-inch-long ribbons of Fishbites’ Yeh Monn! Freshwater Catfish Baits that are available in crawfish, liver, shad and worm scents than to go through all the trouble required to get, keep and fish with frozen skipjacks.”
Tony Adams moved to Eufaula, Alabama, in 1989, and when he arrived, he decided he would learn where and how to catch catfish there.
Today, during the hot summer months, Adams runs the lines coming from his jugs down to 40-60 feet deep, and in the fall, 18-60 feet deep, because he says, “The bigger catfish at Lake Eufaula and other lakes will hold in that deeper water. I’ve caught cats weighing from 20-60 pounds each on 60-foot deep lines.”
How to Rig and Bait Jugs for Catfish
Generally when Adams goes jug line fishing for catfish in Alabama, he puts out about 72, 20-ounce plastic jugs that he often rescues from ballpark garbage cans.
“During the summer months, we’ll catch about 300 pounds of cats by putting out those 72 jugs and fishing for 4 hours,” Adams said. “Then during the fall, I’ll usually catch 150-200 pounds of catfish in a 4-hour period to have a fine fish fry.”
Adams can produce that many fish in that short time, partly because he uses a Humminbird Helix 12 depth finder that features down imagining as well as side imaging.
Adams Puts his Best Jug Fishing Setup out on the Edge of the Main River Channel
Adams paints all his 20-ounce Gatorade and Pepsi plastic bottles orange. The jugs then fit neatly into the racks that drink salesmen use to carry Gatorade and Pepsi into the stores, and they’re stackable. So, Adams’ jugs don’t take up very much room in his boat.
“My jugs are easier to see on the water when they’re painted orange than any other color,”
Adams explained. “I use 50-60 pound test line coming off my jugs and either No. 5/0 or No. 6/0 stainless-steel circle hooks.”
Adams fills the insides of some of the jugs with foam, especially when he’s jug line fishing for very-big catfish in Alabama.
“A big catfish can pull a jug down so deep that the sides of the jug will collapse. So, by spraying foam in the jugs when I’m fishing for big cats, I solve that problem. The foam creates more flotation, and even if the jugs are pulled down deep in the water, the sides of the jugs won’t collapse.”
Why Place Your Best Jug Fishing Setup in a Straight Line
On some of his jugs, Adams uses an egg sinker above a swivel with about 18 inches of leader line below the swivel going to the hook.
According to Adams, “The weight helps the bait reach the bottom faster, and the swivel prevents the cat from rolling up in the line. On some of my jugs, I won’t use any lead, and I’ll only have a swivel to keep the cat from twisting the line. So, when the catfish picks-up my bait, the fish won’t feel any resistance on the line, until it gets the bait well into its mouth.
“I like to use No. 5/0 or No. 6/0 stainless-steel circle hooks when I’m trying to catch big cats – generally larger than what most anglers use. When I want to catch eating-size cats, I use a No. 7/0 or a No. 8/0 hook. I’ll also put about three turns of electrical tape around my jugs to have a place to put the points of my hooks when I take in my lines. Putting the points of the hooks under the electrical tape keeps the line on the jugs from unrolling, and it gives me a good place to store my hooks after I’ve finished fishing. I have reflective tape on some of the jugs to spot them easily when I fish at night.”
I also noticed that Adams tended to put his jugs out in a straight line, and he told me, “The easiest way to determine if you’ve got a cat on a jug or not is to put your jugs out in a straight line. Then when you start running your jugs, if you see a jug off to the left or to the right of that line, you know you’ve either caught a cat, or a cat has taken your bait. However, most of the time, if a jug isn’t in that straight line where you’ve put it, it will have a catfish on it.”
Adams uses a fiberglass Bream Buster pole with a large bass hook on the end of the pole tied to the last eyelet on the pole to pick-up his jugs quickly and play a catfish down. Then he can get the catfish to the surface quicker and up to the side of the boat.
Where to Put Out Your Best Jug Fishing Setup to Catch Catfish
When I fished with Adams, we started putting our 72 jugs for catfish out in the mouth of Barbour Creek. Then we headed north toward the railroad trestle. Adams uses his depth finder to pinpoint the water depth where the shad are concentrating on a river channel.
“When you put your jugs on the edge of a river channel, the wind either will blow the jugs on top of the river channel or out over the river channel,” Adams explained. “The catfish will relate to that river channel, especially in the hot summertime, as well as in the fall of the year when they’ll often suspend over the river channel.”
Adams cuts his baits into two sizes, big baits for big catfish and smaller baits for catfish 1-1/2 to 8 pounds.
“I put my bigger baits out in the deeper water, and my smaller baits in the shallow water,” Adams said.
As we put out the jugs, I saw that the main river channel had a bend on it. Instead of placing the jugs in a straight line there, Adams motored his boat around the bend and placed a few extra jugs in that bend of the old river channel.
“I’ll place a few more jugs in this spot than I do when I’m putting them out in a straight line,” Adams mentioned. “For the last 2 years, I’ve hooked a ‘gorilla-size’ catfish that stays in this bend. Once this catfish gets hooked, it goes to some underwater structure and breaks my line. I’ve watched for my jug to come up for 30 minutes before, but that ole catfish will keep it down underwater, and I’ll lose my jug. But I’ve never seen this large catfish.”
Why Use Large Baits to Catch Big Catfish
I asked Adams, “How often do you lose a jug when you put jugs out to catch catfish?
“If there’s little or no wind, I may not lose any jugs,” Adams said. “But on a windy day, I may lose three or four jugs, even if I’m working them, taking fish off the jugs and rebaiting, for the full 4 hours. There have been days when I’ve jug fished just ahead of a storm, and the big catfish have been biting actively. When that happens, I easily can lose as many as 12 jugs out of the 72. When those big catfish feel the pressure of the jug, they will run to structure and hang my jug up underwater.”
When I asked, “Tony, how often do you change out your hooks when you are jug fishing for catfish in Alabama?” he answered, “I usually change my hooks about once per year. But when I break a line off from a jug that’s gotten into structure, I’ll change out the line, the weight and the swivel and put a new hook on that jug. I fish with stainless-steel circle hooks, because they don’t rust, and they’re really strong.
“The lines on my jugs will get my hook and bait down to 18 – 60 feet deep. Most jug fishermen don’t fish with lines that long. I use lines that long from the springtime until the weather starts to cool down in early winter. Once winter arrives, the cats will move into the creeks. Then, I’ll put my jugs out in the creeks and shorten my lines to 8-16 feet deep. I can catch catfish all winter long jug line fishing for catfish in Alabama on Lake Eufaula.”
Adams likes the skipjack’s head for a big bait. He doesn’t catch a big catfish on every skipjack head he baits with, but if a big catfish does find that bait, it really will enjoy the head of a skipjack for breakfast or lunch. And, the same is true of the Fishbites Yeh Monn! Freshwater Catfish Baits Adams tried for “GDO.”
What Tips Will Help You Jug Fish for Catfish Better
* A 20-ounce Gatorade or a soft drink bottle with the cap screwed on is an ideal size of jug for the best jug fishing setup. It’s not too big and doesn’t take up much space in the boat.
* Those 20-ounce jugs rigged and ready to fish can be put in a drink case they’ve been designed to fit in and take up far less room and are much easier to handle than gallon jugs or bigger.
* The line will free-spool off the end of the jug just as fast as line free-spools off a spinning reel, by throwing the bait in the water and keeping your big engine running. (No lead necessary).
* Deep-water fishing produces more and bigger catfish than fishing in shallow water, or at least, when fishing Lake Eufaula.
* Stainless-steel circle hooks require much less maintenance and can help you land bigger cats than wire hooks will.
* A Bream Buster pole with a large bass hook tied to the end of it makes picking up jugs, as well as fighting and landing big cats, easier and quicker than trying to pull the cats in hand-over-hand with the line.
* A strong, oversized rubber-coated dip net is a must for success when jug fishing for catfish in Alabama.
* You must spend about 4 hours of the day baiting and landing the catfish you catch on your jugs to take the most catfish. However, using Fishbites’ Yeh Monn! Catfish Baits saves time.
* Jug line fishing Adams’ style is one of the quickest ways I’ve ever seen to catch the most catfish in the shortest time for both the table and the freezer.
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