How to Catch Catfish in A Lake From The Bank

Some people are honestly curious about the question, do catfish even live in lakes?

Yes, they do!

You have so many options for catfish fishing. From river fishing from a boat to enjoying a beer casting out on your Grandfathers pond. Point being, each method has ways to improve your overall ability to catch catfish.

Learning how to catch catfish in a lake from the bank is easy in nature and what we are going to cover in today’s post will give you a full guide on how to do so with ease.

If you haven’t done so already, you can learn quite a bit in my ultimate guide for catfish fishing. I understand your searching for just bank fishing on lakes now, but that article gives some details of core principals to follow and goes into in-depth detail, so it could be a good starting point for you. Especially if you’re a beginner with catfishing.

A few simple tools, a nice bait selection and knowing where to find the catfish will give you everything you need to get the job done successfully. It’s that easy.

Let’s get started so we can all hit the waters and begin landing fish. Here’s what we will cover in this post, so you have a quick idea.

Table of Contents

Disclosure: At BonfireBob, we recommend products based on unbiased research, however, is reader-supported and as an Amazon Associate we earn from qualifying purchases if you shop through the links on this page. For more information, see disclosure here.

Where do Catfish Hide in Lakes

Catfish will hide in lakes close to old creeks and channels in deep water. Catfish usually move to shallower depths to feed and you’ll have chance to find them regardless of a bottom with rocks, mud, clay etc.

Catfish are in nearly all lakes and rivers everywhere around the United States. Some bodies of water will naturally contain more than others. Some will also have the bigger giant catfish compared to other bodies of water. It just depends on your area and the body of water. Nonetheless, they are there and ready to be caught if you’re ready to fish for them effectively.

What do Catfish Eat in Lakes?

The easiest way to answer what catfish eat in lakes is simple. Catfish eat basically anything.

Doesn’t really matter if it’s channel catfish, blue catfish or flathead catfish either. They are all hungry and not really too picky. When fishing the lakes, you can use anything from nightcrawlers to the following list of catfish baits.

  • Crickets
  • Meal Worms
  • Chicken liver
  • Minnows
  • Stink Baits
  • Dough Baits
  • Hot Dogs

And I’m sure plenty of others. You see, catfish feed on the bottom so they are used to sludging around looking for anything to get their mouths on. If you can present a decent bait to them during the optimal times and areas of the lake. You shouldn’t have many problems at all landing a nice size catfish.

Now we just have to find them to present the baits to them.

How to Find Catfish And Choosing a Location

When your fishing from the bank, staying mobile is going to be a quick tip for you. If your getting bites where you’re at, do you need to move?

Obviously not. But on the grand scale of fishing from the bank on lakes for catfish, you must be willing to move around when the going gets tough.

So where are you going to move and what you should be looking for?

coght catfish in mans hands

The Core Principals Don’t Change

When you’re trying to locate and effectively catch catfish some core principals never change. Big hefty catfish often remain in the deep water in channels and other deep holes in the water so that they can avoid heat and other elements. It’s also an excellent food source for them. This, however, holds especially true during the daytime or during peak temperatures.

Outside of that, catfish will always flock to cover. Downed branches, rock ledges, sandy and rocky bottoms, and other logs and structure are where you can find the catfish with the most ease.

How do we Know Where The Structure And Cover Are?

This depends on a few things. If you’re not willing to invest in any sonar technology or a depth/fish finder then you will have to do it the hard way which will be trial and error or asking other anglers who fish the lake often. More specifically, you need to ask the anglers that are bank fishing just like you.

Billy Joe Bob fishing at the middle of the lake in 30-foot waters and just dropping a line is obviously doing something slightly different than you and has a boat to help guide him to these locations. You do not have this luxury.

The Non-Sonar Way of Doing Things

If you’re not using sonar you can actively scout the area beforehand or before targeting your cast areas.

Look for signs of cover and natural food flow. Sometimes this will be near overhanging trees, or it could even be something as simple as near a boat dock on the lake where you know the cover is provided for the catfish. It’s a little common sense, a little luck, and a little preparation and you will still be just fine.

The Sonar Way of Doing Things

Let’s say you are using sonar and know how to use it to locate structure for catfish effectively. First off, I can’t stress enough how helpful this can be if your willing to spend a little money and invest in the hobby. Let’s hit on that real fast.

Here are a few quick benefits of using sonar technology to locate catfish:

  • Allows the New Fisherman to learn the Structure of the Water
  • You can see Underwater structure in various ways. Super Helpful
  • It doesn’t only track structure but it tracks the fish. A Win Win in my book

Obviously, we aren’t using the big fancy sonar screens that you have installed on your fishing boat. No sir. We are using the newer technology which is sonar you can merely send out in the water from shore and learn various lake composition such as weeds, rock, and other structure.

An example and one I’d recommend would be the Deeper Smart Sonar Pro+. I’m not going to review it here, but you can always find it on my recommended gear page, but overall this puppy is fantastic.

Once you have used the sonar to locate the structure, you’re in business. This should give enough detail on the water structure for you have an idea of where to cast and aim for your bait presentation.

With that being said, let’s discuss which bait you should toss out once you have found the structure from the bank.

two man fishing

Best Catfish Bait For Bank Fishing

The best bait for catfishing from the banks on a lake, in my opinion, is hands down dip bait/stink bait. Blood or cheese flavors.

Overall, even if it’s a professional catfish angler who comments below, you’re going to have a tough time convincing me that there is a better bait for catfish outside of stink bait or chicken livers. Yes, I understand that all the baits we listed work great and it’s true.

Even with that, nothing has ever held a candle to the catch rates I experience using a dip/stink bait in either blood or cheese flavors. It’s just an untouchable catfish bait, and I swear by it.

Runner-up for me has always been chicken livers. The problem I have with chicken livers is the limited hook selection and limited casting abilities if you want to keep the perfect presentation and the liver neatly on the hook. Yes, it works great, but I prefer to use chicken livers when I’m keeping short cast or shallow water fishing for catfish at night on the lake from the banks.

Just my opinion and will tell you that chicken liver works excellent as well. In all honesty, all the baits we listed earlier in the post will catch you a catfish at one point or another if you can locate them successfully.

Also read this: What is the best hook to use for catfish.

Options for the Stink bait when Bank fishing

If you have decided to trust me and use the stink bait approach you will need a few things. First, you will need a sponge treble hook or some form of bait holding hook set up.

The sponges and the Tube sponges work best for me. They hold the bait, get nice and stinky and slimy and disguise the hook perfectly.

Not to mention they come in tons of colors and options to really put off a signal to the catfish beneath the water surface.

You will also want to either find a stick or using some form of a straight edge tool to apply the bait. I always just found a stick, gently placed the sponge over the bait container and pressed down, rotated once in a circle and was good to go and it works like a charm.

Alright well, we know where to look for the catfish and what bait to use but when should we do it?

Best Time to Catch Catfish in a Lake From The Bank

Ultimately one of the best times to catch catfish in lakes from the bank is going to be nighttime. This is because catfish doesn’t like direct heat and the water’s still heated after a whole day with high sun.

As you have probably read in my other blogs, I believe catfish can be caught any time of the day if executed properly. I also think that there are clearly better times to do so. Early morning before the temperatures are rising too much, you can catch catfish on lakes much easier. Often, in much more shallow water.

Catfish prefer the water temperature to be warm, but they don’t prefer to be blasted by direct heat. They will naturally stay in areas during this time to keep cool and remain near cover. The ideal temperature outside for catching catfish is when the sun is not at a peak level which leads to my next point.

Not to mention it’s just a ton of fun.

fishing rod with spinning reel

Night Catfishing in a Lake From The Banks

This is going to be some of the prime-time real estates you will run into for bank fishing for catfish.

They are active, they are hungry, and they are moving to shallow waters to feed. When night fishing for catfish on lakes, you can still target the rock ledges and cover but it’s going to much easier and not as much luck will needed. Stay in more shallow waters, stick to the stink bait and let the fun begin.

It won’t be long. Trust me.

This is a nice surefire way to catch big catfish from shore.

The Importance of Using Your Legs When Bank Fishing

Don’t get lazy if you want to have success fishing from the banks for catfish. If you go more than about 30-45 minutes with no activity, grab your gear and get to a new spot. Be strategic and don’t be lazy if you want to catch catfish.

Overall, you don’t need much else than what we have already discussed in this post to have luck catching catfish in lakes from the bank. The only other big recommendation I have is to use multiple rods, and a rod holder so you don’t lose those rods.

Be willing to try different baits if necessary, as well. If you do these things and avoid some rookie mistakes, you will be just fine the next time you hit the waters for a night of catch fishing.

Here’s a quick list of the biggest mistakes I see or hear of from anglers trying to catch catfish from the banks on lakes.

The top 8 mistakes for new catfish anglers on lakes:

  • Not searching and Scouting the Lake – You need to find the cover and rock ledges.
  • Being Lazy. Your Legs. Move around and find a good fishing spot where the catfish will bite.
  • Staying to shallow at the wrong times of the day. Shallow at night and deeper cover in the day!
  • Not willing to change baits or not being prepared to do so. Sometimes they don’t want what you got.
  • Not using the Proper Gear- Spend some money and use actual catfish tackle and proper fishing line. Monolfilament 12-20lb test will get the job done.
  • Not Having a landing Net. This is funny to watch but a terrible idea for the angler. Get a good net.
  • Allowing the fish to get into cover to fast. Set the hook and begin the landing process quickly after the bite.
  • Changing and Checking your Bait way to often. Be patient and let the catfish come to you.

Are you going to try bank fishing the lakes for catfish?

My hope is that this guide could have at least helped in the slightest way aid one of your newer catfish anglers into a more successful trip the next time you hit the waters. Follow this guide, remember to have fun and to have patience and you will be picking up the skills in no time.

As always, I love to hear from you and hear the fishing stories from the BonFireBob Blog. If you have anything to add, please don’t hesitate to leave a comment below. Also, if you haven’t done so already, please remember to subscribe to my email newsletter on your way out. You will be kept up to speed on my latest post and all my recommended gear for catfishing.

Anyways, I’ll let you all go and thank you for reading. I appreciate you. See you next time here at BonfireBob!

Bob Hoffmann

The author of this post is Bob Hoffmann. Bob has spend most of his childhood fishing with his father and now share all his knowledge with other anglers. Feel free to leave a comment below.

Recent Content