How to Fish for Catfish by Free Drifting

Free Drifting was the first strategy I ever used when learning how to fish for catfish from a boat. Growing up it was the only was my family would fish for them. The concept is simple and easy to apply. It works great in rivers and on windy days. It works great for catching plenty of eating sized catfish and the occasional big one. Free Drifting might be the one of the best strategies to introducing someone to catfishing. This article is dedicated to introducing you to using this technique  effectively so that you can catch more catfish.

How do you Free Drift?

Free drifting is a simple concept. You will be letting the wind and current push you around your lake or river to catch catfish. You don’t do anything to control where you go after you have stopped. Once you have stopped your boat, you will drop all your lines vertically below the boat. Then you sit  back and watch your rods for any bites. Simple right!

To be most effective, you should take note or which way the wind is blowing or current is flowing. You should drop your line up wind or up current from the structure or cover that you plan to fish. This will allow you to float right past that cover, putting your bait in a higher percentage areas.

An example that I use regularly is fishing under water jetties on my river. I will stop 30 yards above the jetty that I plan to float across. Let my lines down and drift over the jetty. Once I pass the jetty, I will reel my lines up and go back up river to do it again. Typically I will make multiple drifts over my target jetty but I will do so making sure that I’m floating over a different section of the jetty each time. That could be starting at the section of the jetty that is closest to the bank and moving toward the section that is in the middle of the river or the opposite.

If I catch a few catfish on my drift, I will go through that same drift again. It is possible that most of the catfish will be in one section of the structure that you are fishing. That means that you can catch fish on each drift through that area.

This strategy works great for points, channels, ledges, you name it and it can work for it. The structure that you fish might change but the concept won’t.

Bait Presentation

Since we will be free floating over some nasty stuff, we want a presentation that will allow us not to get hung up every drift. My experience has been that using a suspended carolina rig is a great way to go. To perform this presentation, you need to drop your bait to bottom and then reel your line up to where your bait is a 1′-4′ off bottom.

I want my catfish rig to come right over the top of the structure while making sure not to get hung up. Contacting the cover is okay and works great but you will lose a lot of tackle that way. If you can keep it just over that cover, you will save your tackle and catch a lot of fish.

I talk a lot about the carolina rig when teaching people how to fish for catfish, but I will also use a drop shot rig and a Michigan Rig for structures have a large rise and fall. I will drop the drop shot all the way to bottom and leave it there. While free drifting, the rig will drag bottom but it will come up and over the structure hitting all the key spots that a catfish might be. This is a great way to catch fish but you will lose some tackle. The weight will get hung fairly regular. Its a give and take type of relationship. You will lose tackle but you will always be in the right zone to catch catfish.

What makes this technique so special? (The Short Notes Version)

The free drift is great for catching aggressive catfish. Its fast pace.  You are putting your bait in the face of a lot of fish which increases your catch rate by a large percentage. Sure, you’re not gonna catch a ton of big catfish with this method but that’s not always what its about. Getting bites and having a good time is want fishing is about to me.

We use this technique when we go on family fishing trips. My youngest niece has reeled in a hand full of catfish doing this and now loves to fish. Its such a simple concept that anyone can pick up and do it. You don’t have to watch your line all the time because bites will be obvious. You’re rod will have a nice bow when a fish gets on. You’re also not hung up ever few minutes and you have plenty of time to talk and catch up with your friends or family.

You also get to continually see new places because you’re always moving. If your guests get tired of that fishing hole, drive down river and start over.

You can figure out where the catfish are quickly. You can move around quickly, checking a lot of places until you come across your fish.Once you find them, you can work them until they quit biting. After that, you can move to another area.

That wraps up my spill about free drifting. I’m positive this technique will teach you more about how to fish for catfish. After you have tried this, I want to you come back and let me know how it worked for you. Please comment below when you do! Looking forward to hearing how it goes.

Good luck