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Spinning for catfish – unbeatable!

In life, we often have to make important decisions. The same is true when it comes to choosing the right method to catch a monster catfish. Should I settle in on the bank for a stationary session or would I be better off spinning? Let's consider these options in detail.

For me, a spinning rod remains the most exciting method around for tempting catfish. Any angler who has felt “one of those bites” down the rod will surely never want to do anything else. Before you’re faced with this decision yourself, I'd like to pass on a few valuable tips. On German waters in particular, I'm repeatedly amazed that catfish anglers with a spinning rod in their hand are such a rare breed. Since anglers are subject to so many limitations via legislation, spinning stands alone as the best method for landing a catfish in my eyes. Always consider the benefits! Firstly, we can cover stretches without restriction and fish numerous different spots in a short space of time. Secondly, we can target active and passive fish equally effectively (explained below).

Anglers in Germany who choose a single spot to target catfish can run into a number of problems depending on the water. Bans on night fishing, bans on using a boat, fishing from a boat or using a fishfinder, bans on tents and a comprehensive ban on livebaits. With a spinning rod, you bypass all of these bans and, for my money, you fish far more effectively. There is one simple reason for this. When you settle in on the bank for a stationary session, you choose one spot in the hope that this is the exact place where a hungry predator will find your bait. With a spinning rod, continuous casting and keeping on the move means you can cover a much wider area and target numerous spots.

You can also focus on the most prolific times of day, namely dusk and the early hours of the morning. And all you need to carry is a small selection of soft lures and an assortment of spoons. When fishing with a soft lure, you can make lazy retrieves to scan the bottom for passive fish, using the lure to wake up your target fish as it were and trigger an aggressive take. However, when the fish are giving themselves away at the surface when hunting or you spot panic-stricken silver fish jumping out of the water, the spoon comes into its own. This way, you can stalk catfish quickly, accurately and, above all, legally. You can also structure your precious time on the bank more effectively than with a stationary session.

Best times of year

There are two really good times of year for successful spinning, namely spawning season and winter. Let's deal with spawning season first since this issue often produces lively debates. When is spawning season? Where do the fish feed? Do they actually feed?
Leaving aside the biological aspects, the facts are that, firstly, catfish congregate in certain areas shortly before spawning once the water temperature reaches around 16 degrees. On rivers regulated via locks, in particular, you’ll find all of the fish from a large section of river beneath the locks during spawning season. Or beneath the turbines of hydropower plants where these are present. At no other time of year will you find so many fish in such a confined area.

Secondly, the fish (particularly the males) are aggressive at this time. Spoons that can be punched out over long distances and that make a racket in the fast-flowing, turbulent water are my favourites lures for this part of the year. Most locks require you to keep a minimum distance. However, since heavy lures allow long-range casting, distance does not come into the equation. After spawning season, the fish spread out again and it takes perseverance to tempt a big catfish or two.

The recommended spoon tactics are to repeatedly cast to the same spot and close the bail arm before the lure hits the surface! That way, the spoon makes a loud noise as it dives into the water, similar to the plop of a catfish clonk. So it makes sense to cast to the same spot over and over for ten minutes or more. Fish will hear the noise and seek out the source. This is why you often only get a bite after several casts to the original spot. You can retrieve the lure steadily and, in any case, most bites come as the lure dives into the water.
Is winter really the second peak season for spinning anglers? Incredibly, yes! While this may come as a surprise to many, the reason is simple. When the water temperature falls below eight degrees, catfish congregate in their winter refuges. Parts of the river where the current is slow are particular fish magnets in winter. One time on the Elbe, we discovered an entire shoal of catfish in the harbour and we were catching them at a water temperature of just four degrees! Most fish withdraw to such areas from the river and stay close together.
In terms of winter tactics, you should be using soft lures of no more than 16 centimetres in length. 11-centimetre models have often been the key to success for me. Cast out the lure and let it sink with your line tightened. Then turn the handle two or three times and let the soft lure sink to the bottom again. This allows you to systematically cover all areas directly from the bank in a fan shape. It’s crucial to select as light a weight head as possible. The rule of thumb is: as heavy as necessary and as light as possible. This is because, with this angling method, we’re triggering an aggressive take so the fish won’t suck in the lure completely, which is why a heavy weight head is a hindrance.

I hope this report has been convincing and that we’ll see more catfish anglers making use of this unbeatable fishing method. Then, you too can enjoy true “catfish theatre” with a spinning rod.


Benjamin Gründer
Team Black Cat