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Juglines for Catfish
written by Don Wirth

"Catfish go berserk on a jugline. They run all over creation, and chasing after them is half the fun!" Jim Moyer, Catfish Guide
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Jugline Catfish

Shiners and small bluegill are great for juglines and especially tempting to flathead. Blue and channel cats can be tempted with chicken livers, raw shrimp or chunks of gizzard shad.

Catfishermen use a variety of esoteric methods besides hook-and-line fishing to catch their quarry, including limblines, yo-yos, even grabbing the fish with their bare hands. According to Clarksville, Tennessee, catfish guide Jim Moyer (931/358-9264), juglining is one of the most popular of these alternative techniques. "It's easy, effective and fun," he claims. "You'll seldom catch a huge catfish on a jugline, but if you're after a mess of fish for the table, juggin' is a great way to catch them."

The genius of the jugline technique lies in its ability to catch suspending catfish. "Most anglers view catfish as bottom-dwellers, but they'll often move up to feed on passing baitfish schools," he claims. "When they do, a jugline is an ideal presentation. As when bobber fishing, bait dangles beneath the jug."

Juglines work especially well in current. You can toss out several baited jugs, then drift along with them, watching for one of them to take off. Which is, Moyer says, an accurate description of what happens when a good-sized catfish takes the bait. "Catfish go berserk on a jugline. They run all over creation, and chasing after them is half the fun!"

Rigging Jugs
Moyer collects plastic 2-liter Pepsi bottles and spray-paints them bright yellow for maximum visibility. "Plastic soda bottles are cylindrical and take up less room in your boat than gallon milk jugs," he says. "Store them in a plastic garbage bag." Jim writes his name and phone number on each bottle with a waterproof marker; he advises readers to check state fishing regulations to see if this or any additional information is required.

Next, Moyer cuts a 10- to 20-foot length of tough nylon trotline cord, wraps one end around the neck of a bottle, then ties a 2/0 O'Shaughnessy trotline hook to the tag end. A sinker is attached from 6 inches to a foot above the hook, weight depending on conditions. It may take a 1-ounce bell sinker to keep the bait down in current, but only a BB-sized split shot in slack water. 

A fat rubber band is used for adjusting the distance of the hook from the jug when fishing, and for corralling the line during storage. Simply peel off the length of line desired and secure the remainder against the jug with the rubber band. "Keep the bait well off bottom," Jim cautions. "Remember, you're going for suspending cats, and you want your jug to drift freely for a wide-ranging presentation." He normally runs his lines from 5 to 15 feet below their respective jugs.

Live baits like shiners and small bluegills are great for juglines, and are especially tempting to flathead catfish. Blue and channel cats can be tempted with chicken livers, raw shrimp or chunks of gizzard shad.

Jug Methods
Juglines are highly effective in both slack and moving water. In lakes, spread out baited jugs in a wide circle in a bay or creek arm with your boat in the middle (this method works especially well after dark for flatheads). In rivers, toss out several jugs about 20 feet apart, letting them drift down rock bluffs, across gravel bars and close to banks with fallen trees and logjams. Jim sets all his jugs out on the same side of the river so he can watch them, then backs his boat a safe distance away and drifts along with them. What a relaxing way to fish!

More jugline tips from Moyer

  • Attach a metal gaff hook to one end of a broom handle for easy jug retrieval. 
  • Don't leave jugs unattended. Stay with your jugs and collect them before you leave the water.
  • Don't set out juglines in high-traffic areas.
  • Never set out more jugs than you can handle. Use fewer jugs in high wind or fast current.
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