David Magness on Fishing for Suspended Catfish

David Magness on Fishing for Suspended Catfish

October 26, 2020

David Magness on Fishing for Suspended Catfish

By Phillip Gentry


Anyone who has ever fishing for catfish understands that practically all the catfish species that exist are bottom dwellers. For this reason, most catfish anglers either troll the bottom, anchor up and throw out baits on the bottom, or use a technique that integrates the location in its name “Bottom Bumping.”

After spending the majority of his life fishing for catfish, including years as a catfish tournament angler and now part time catfishing guide, B’n’M pro David Magness from Hernando, Mississippi has come to realize that catfish are not always bottom dwellers.

Magness said one of his secrets when fishing this time of year is that he does not fish on the bottom, not all the time. In fact, he prefers not to anchor the boat if he can find the right hole with minimal amounts of current.

Even when using a heavy weight to keep the line vertical in the water, the B’n’M Silver Cat Elite rods still have plenty of backbone to land big fish.

A lot of catfish guys are just now starting to realize that catfish will suspend up off the bottom, even higher on some days. As a rule, he starts just off the bottom and works his way up as conditions, and his sonar unit, dictate.

“I’ll get in a deep hole with little to no current and use the Spot-Lock feature on my trolling motor to keep the boat still,” he said. “I’m basically dropping the bait straight down, but I use enough weight to keep the line as vertical as possible in the water column.”

Magness has a special rig he uses for suspended fishing for catfish. He ties an 18-inch leader of 50-pound High-Seas Quatro mono line to the hook. Above that is a 90-pound barrel swivel that connects to the main line, 80-pound braid. He uses a Rig Rap sinker slide with a Hawaiian swivel that connects to his weight, which generally weighs between 20 and 30 ounces. Because there is some considerable friction on the line at the connection, he adds a rubber bead between the slide and the barrel swivel to protect the knot from chafing.

“It sounds like a heavy weight and I know I said I like slack water holes, but this is the mighty Mississippi River we’re talking about,” he said. “I want that line to be straight up and down. The weight will keep it that way, especially with the way I fish it.”

Skipjack herring is the bait of choice for most catfish anglers.

His rod of choice is a B’n’M 7 ½ Silver Cat Elite rod. It is a one-piece construction rod and that plays into his presentation.

“That rod, placed in a rod holder is going to bend over pretty dramatically and point toward the water,” he said. “Bites when fishing for suspended fish are often upward bites, meaning the fish takes the bait and moves up in the water rather than going down.”

Magness said he can describe the bite as two distinct bites, either a “Hammer” bite that pulls the rod tip down in the water or a lifting bite where you see the line go slack. The Hammer bite will often take the rod 4 eyes deep in the water and the hook is already set. The other bite is different.

“When you see the line go slack, or move off dramatically to one side, you need to turn that handle on the reels fast and get that circle hook set,” he said. “My favorite weight size is 24 ounces, but they’ll still bring the lineup, weight and all.”

The typical scenario is to motor across a deep, slow moving hole and look for fish on the graph. If he likes what he sees, Magness deploys the trolling motor, hits the Spot Lock function to hold him in place, and drops the baited rig to the bottom and turning the handle on the reel three cranks to get the bait off the bottom.

The anchoring features on the Minn Kota motors make holding in one place and moving at controlled increments a breeze.

Rather than move if he does not get a bite, he may bump the boat the boat around to different locations within the hole and wait a little longer.

He may not cover the entire hole in such fashion, but by moving his boat around in the same locations without reeling in and taking the bait out of the water gives the fish time to decide if they want the bait or not.

If he gets no takers after re-positioning the boat two or three times, it is probably time to stow the trolling motor and head for the next hole.

Catching fish is what we are all about at B’n’M Fishing. For more tips and tactics, visit our website at




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