Summer Catfishing Tips from David Magness

Summer Catfishing Tips from David Magness

July 07, 2022

Summer Catfishing Tips from David Magness

By Phillip Gentry


B’n’M pro-staffer and Mississippi River catfish guide David Magness said catfishing during the summer months can have its challenges, particularly during the spawning season for blue catfish. Unlike other fish species that become a little easier to pattern and catch during the spawn, catfish are notorious for being hard to catch while procreating.

Always up for a good challenge, Magness doesn’t give up and had a few tips to help catfish anglers when the annual spawn was in full bloom, particularly on big waters like the Mississippi River.

  1. Understand what’s going on – Magness said catfish are still located in the typical areas but are pretty much in hiding during the spawn. He said females look for holes to back into and effectively take themselves out of the equation. Males are also finicky because they lose their appetite as a measure to protect the young.

When targeting smaller blues and channel catfish, target water in the 3 – 12-foot range where the juveniles are feeding heavily.

“When you get a bite from a male catfish, it will be a grab and smash before spitting the bait out, he said. “The bait will look like it’s been squeezed with a pair of pliers.”

  1. Watch Your Calendar – Magness said on the Mississippi, the spawn typically lasts from late May till the end of July. As a consolation, he said males will start to bite with more predictability around the middle of July.

“By mid-July, you can expect to catch those 30 – 50-pound males again but they’ll be in poor shape,” he said. “Those fish are long and skinny and look like they been beat up from spawning and wrassling with other males for dominant females.”

Spawning season is a good time to stock up on eating sized channels and blue catfish.

Magness said despite their condition, they may come off the spawn beat up but they are ready to eat and mad at the world. He said to expect some of the hardest bites and fights of the year with post spawn males.

  1. Target Non-Spawning Catfish – While Mama and Daddy Blue Catfish are off making babies, Magness will target juvenile blues up to 10 – 12 pounds as well as larger channel catfish. He has no qualms about putting these fish in the cooler for a good ole fashioned summer fish fry.

“We turn back every fish over 12 pounds on my boat, but I like eating catfish as well as the next guy and these smaller blues and channels are some good eating,” he said. “It’s not so bad to take a break and restock the freezer or invite some friends over for some fellowship time.”

  1. Look shallow – Magness said the smaller fish have often been barred from deeper waters by mature fish and he seems to find a lot of the juveniles in water that’s only 3 – 12 feet deep. In fact, he said these smaller blues and channel catfish will eat a variety of baits and seem to congregate everywhere there’s a decent food source.

“If there’s an active grain bin loading onto barges somewhere, that’s gonna be a good bet for finding smaller cats,” he said. “They spill some of that grain during loading and the bottom will be covered in channels and small blues.”

If you’re after a trophy catfish when blue catfish are spawning, try targeting flathead catfish.

5 – Head Inland – Magness said he doesn’t do a lot of reservoir fishing for catfish, but the exception would be during the spawn. He said reservoirs seem to be a better fit for channel catfish and the blue catfish that are there seem to spawn earlier or get done quicker.

“A good way to locate catfish in a reservoir is by trolling, something I never get much chance to do in the river because of the current, but you can drag baits on the bottom in any catfish reservoir and you’ll find them pretty quick.”

6 – Don’t forget about Flatheads – If he’s after a trophy catfish in the river, Magness will target flathead catfish. He said the flatheads spawn in early May and are usually done before July 4th.

“Occasionally you can find them during the daylight, but to consistently catch good flathead catfish, you need to fish real early in the morning or the last hour or two before dark and of course you can fish at night when they’re the most active,” he said.

One thing to remember about flatheads is they love to move from deeper water into shallow water heavy cover like fallen trees or holes in a revetment bank at night. He’ll anchor up and throw live shad to them to get a bite.

“Real fresh cut bait will often work, but it seems the better fish just want something live and they’ll eat a really big bream or perch in a heartbeat if you can get some for bait,” he said.  


To book a guided fishing trip with David Magness in the Tunica area, contact him by phone at 901-356-1008 or from his website at


Don’t miss our complete lineup of catfish rods, tackle and accessories that will help you catch big catfish 12 months out of the year. Check out our catalog at



Also in Weekly Tips and Techniques

Finessing Pre-spawn Crappie with Kent Driscoll
Finessing Pre-spawn Crappie with Kent Driscoll

April 08, 2024

Pre-spawn crappie are typically aggressive biters, but there are times when some finesse is required.

Read More

Playing The Odds with David Jones
Playing The Odds with David Jones

March 04, 2024

B’n’M pro-staffer and Green River Lake crappie fishing guide David Jones said playing the odds is a great way to catch crappie any time of year.

Read More

Early Season Flatheads with Joey Pounders
Early Season Flatheads with Joey Pounders

February 09, 2024

B’n’M Catfish pro-staffer Joey Pounders said moving water during the late winter is his favorite time to target flathead catfish.

Read More

Join the B'n'M Fishing Club to earn points for every purchase, plus stay informed about the latest deals and specials.

Net Orders Checkout

Item Price Qty Total
Subtotal $0.00

Shipping Address

Shipping Methods