Putting a Line on Cats

by : Daniel Eggertsen

With all the talk about catfishing rigs of various sorts, the focus is frequently on the terminal gear, and the bait, and the rod and reel, and where and how to fish for the Big'uns, but not much is often said about the line used to fish for these monsters. To cover this subject, though, there are several key considerations to think about.

For one thing, catfishing is a sport, right? As such, putting a line in the water isn't just about hooking into a fish and hauling it in, but it's also about fighting the fish on its own terms, and seeing if skill can triumph over sheer power, and land a big cat, in the offing.

On the other end of this balance, is using insufficient gear for the intensity of the scrap you are getting yourself into. The old adage is, "don't bring a knife to a gunfight". Big cats are some of the most powerful fish in fresh water, and fighting them is a tough job, during which time, your rig will be put under tremendous pressure to perform... or, it will fail, and you will lose the fish.

Further, just when you thought you had decided on the required balance of strength and finesse in gearing up for your fight, there's the issue of underwater conditions, such as wood structure, rocks, snags and anything else that can come into contact with your line. Sharp edges of any kind can seriously impair your line strength, and big cats seem to know this, and will try their best to tie up or fray your line... and, zing!... Fish: 1, Angler: 0. So, in choosing your line, you'll need to consider i) the size of the cats you're after, ii) the type of structure in your fishing area and iii) the sort of terminal rig you intend to use.

There are three main types of lines, most all made of essentially the same base materials, and loosely grouped as monofilament, copolymer and braid lines. Monofilament ("one thread", as it translates from our ancestor's tongue) can be made of either nylon, or fluorocarbon. Monofilaments can then be sheathed one over the other, and bonded, creating copolymer, or they can be braided into a "superline".

There are several manufacturers of each of these types, each one offering what they consider the superior line in their category. The real issues, for the average angler, as stated, are not, which designer brand to buy, but, how heavy of a line is needed for the fish, what conditions are being fished, and maybe, what type of rod and reel are being used?

Strictly speaking, the "sporting" use of far too light of a main line, for catfish, is not really sporting, but just a good way to lose a lot of terminal tackle. If you want to use a lighter rig, use a light leader, tied to a swivel below your sinker rig, to combine sportsmanship with economics. Your main line, though, should not be less than 20 - 25 lb. test, with many braided lines pushing 40 or 50 lb., when cats are on the agenda. These fish can pull like tugboats, so coming unprepared is not a good plan, in general.