Catching Summer Catfish From Reservoirs With David Magness

Catching Summer Catfish From Reservoirs With David Magness

May 30, 2019

Catching Summer Catfish From Reservoirs With David Magness

By Phillip Gentry

With summer time and school break right around the corner, many families visit their local reservoir to do some fun family fishing. A great way to catch a mess of catfish for the whole family in one single outing is by trolling for them.

David Magness of Hernando, Mississippi is a trophy catfish man and part time catfish guide in northwestern Mississippi. His first love is fishing for big blue catfish on the Mississippi River. As his home is only a stone’s throw from Lake Arkabutla and not too much further from Enid, Sardis, and Grenada, he and several other catfishing fans have realized that they might be overlooking some good potential catfishing right under their noses.

“There are definitely some good fish to be found in these lakes,” said Magness. “I’ve caught several catfish in the 20 – 30 pound range and you’ll see hand grabbers catch them almost twice that size. They’re in there along with numbers of smaller fish.”

Magness’ Catfish Drift Rig uses a dragging weight on a three-way swivel to keep baits on the bottom without hanging up.

Most catfish anglers are lost without current. It’s ingrained in trophy catters that water flow brings food to the fish, dictates boat control when setting up, and even determines how much lead is attached to the terminal tackle in order to keep the bait on or near the bottom where catfish feed. The only logical conclusion if a catfish man is fishing on water that doesn’t move is to make the boat move. The answer is trolling for catfish.

“We call it draggin’, but in other parts of the country they just call it trolling or drifting, even though you’re relying on the trolling motor to move the boat forward. Average speed is about .5 or maybe even .7 miles per hour as the water warms up,” said Magness.”Some folks just use flatlines, but in the last couple of years, we’ve started using planer boards to move the lines out away from the boat.”

Trolling catfish anglers use bottom contour charts as a roadmap, looking for holes, ledges and channels to troll through.

Magness explained that the basic set up involves 6 – 8 rods stationed around the rear gunnels and stern of the boat. He uses 7’6” and 10’ B’n’M catfish rods spooled with 80 pound braided line. His bait rig revolves around a three-way swivel. One eye is tied to the main line while the second eye has a 3 – 4 foot section of 50 pound Hi Seas mono leader terminated with an 8/0 hook. A split crappie float, pegged at both ends, is attached to the leader about 4 – 6 inches from the hook. The float helps float the bait off the bottom and clear of snags. He attaches a specially made slinky weight to the third eye to weight the rig and crawl over the bottom.

“You want to look for humps, ledges, holes, and channels, the same kind of stuff you would anchor up on to catfish, but you’re just going to troll through them,” said Magness. “I especially like a ledge. I can troll on top or get down in the channel.”

To find such areas, Magness relies on a Navionics Platinum Hot Spot map integrated with his sonar unit mapping system. He will get on a contour line and use that as a road map.

“Through the summer, the catfish, and I’m mostly referring to blue cats, but this tactic will catch plenty of bigger channels as well as the occasional flathead too, but the blues are in post spawn, so they’re going to be dropping back into deeper water and they’ll start to get hungry again to build back strength.” he said.

Magness said trolling for catfish is a great tactic for lakes as well as big rivers.

Magness said his top bait choice is shad, and preferably any bait that he can catch from the lake he is fishing. Surprisingly, catfish can be picky about their food, especially during the brief post-spawn period, and home grown baits are hard for them to turn down.

Trolling at .5 - .7 mph, he keeps an eye on his electronics to search for bottom contours like holes, ditches and ledges to troll across as well as bottom structure like stumps, laydown timber, and rock piles.

Whether you fish for catfish, crappie, bream or even bass, check out B’n’M’s line up of quality fishing rods and tackle. Visit our website at


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