Lake Sam Rayburn

Because Life is Better at the Lake

Drifting For Catfish


It’s getting to be that time of the year again when drifting for catfish works great on any lake that has a good population of catfish, and that just about includes all of lakes in Texas.

Some of the better lakes in east and central Texas are Lake Palestine and Lake Texoma. At Palestine, drift live bait between Hawn Point and the bridges on Highway 155; at Texoma drift shad and cut perch in the creeks and more shallow areas at night.

Chad Ferguson, catfish guide and author, said he uses the Whisker Seeker XL Rattler and the X3 Big Bertha Rattler when drift fishing. “It’s like the Santee Rig. The biggest difference being that the Whisker Seeker Rattlers make noise in the water when they’re moving.”

A traditional drift fishing tackle and rigging consists of a medium bass rig. The majority of the fish will be under 10 pounds with an occasional giant on good days. Tie a 1/0 or 2/0 Aberdeen crappie hook on leaving 12-18 inches of line. The hook may seem a little light for this job but can be straightened out to pull free of snags. The crappie hook will land a big catfish. Just use judgement with the drag system. On the end of the line attach a ½ ounce bell sinker. A stronger wind will require a heavier weight.

Bait is a matter of choice. Catalpa, earth or nightcrawler worms, chicken livers, live crawfish, shrimp, cut bait, live shad, live minnows, commercially prepared or homemade blood cheese baits are just a few baits preferred by catfish anglers. I have seen some catfish anglers using wieners.

I began my catfish learning cycle using long, juicy nightcrawlers, but learned chicken livers stayed on the hook much better.

Drifting is simple. A couple of anglers can manage multiple rods until the action really gets intense. Define the wind direction, positioning the boat perpendicular with the wind.

Find a flat that will give you a long uninterrupted drift. If you have electronics look for a flat with bait. Seeing shad schools is a sure sign the catfish will be nearby. Cast or freeline you reel that you have about 20-25 feet line out. Experiment with length of line and sinker weight until you find what the catfish want.

Even a small catfish can remove an unattended rod in the blink of an eye. Many drifting experts will use an array of rod holders that hold two or more rods. These holders keep the rod in the boat even with a fish on. This comes in handy, allowing an angler to fight and land one fish, then reel in the second.

Some lakes seem to produce better for drifting than others, but the techniques here described will work on any lake that has a good population of catfish.



Tom Behrens has over 50 years experience in fishing and hunting across the United States. Much of this time was spent in Oklahoma and Texas where he became very familiar with the outdoor opportunities in these states. You may contact him by email at:

Tell us what you think!

Lake Sam Rayburn Real Estate with Rayburn Realty

Lake Sam Rayburn Email Updates


Visit our Lake Sam Rayburn Sponsors!

Lake Sam Rayburn on Social Media


Lake Sam Rayburn Current Weather Alerts

Lake Sam Rayburn Weather Forecast


Partly Sunny

Hi: 95

Saturday Night

Mostly Clear

Lo: 77


Partly Sunny

Hi: 96

Sunday Night

Mostly Clear

Lo: 78



Hi: 97

Monday Night

Mostly Clear

Lo: 78


Mostly Sunny

Hi: 96

Tuesday Night

Mostly Clear

Lo: 77

Lake Sam Rayburn Water Level (last 30 days)

Water Level on 7/11: 163.37 (-1.03)

Lake Sam Rayburn Fishing Report from TPWD (Jul. 8)

FAIR. Water stained; 82 degrees; 0.97’ low. Largemouth bass are fair with all success coming early, late, and now at night. Fishing lights have helped attract some bass. The best habitat is still vegetation edges with topwater, worms, and jigs. White bass have slowed with minnows seeking depth. Crappie are good on minnows and jigs vertically fishing thick vegetation, and among structures less than 20 feet deep. Catfish are good on live and stinkbait.