3 Ways to Catch Catfish in Table Rock Lake

How To Catch Catfish in Table Rock LakeI can’t think of anything I would rather be doing than catfishing on Table Rock Lake.  And I can’t think of anything I would rather eat than fried catfish.

In this article, I’ll discuss three ways to catch catfish on Table Rock Lake.  The first is fairly simple but the second two are for the more adventurous or serious catfishermen.

There are two types of catfish in Table Rock Lake:  channel cat and flathead.

When we set out to catch catfish, my son Thomas and I use one of three methods.

Here they are…

Method 1 – Rod and Reel

You know the drill on this one.  Get yourself a fairly heavy fishing pole with some fairly heavy line on it —- say 20 pound or more.  You’ll need this heavy pole and line to set the hook and to pull your hook through snags.

For bait?  In all three methods discussed in this article I use perch or goldfish.  Nothing brings them in like a live fish.  And, flathead catfish (my favorite table fare) won’t strike anything but live bait.

There are a lot of ways to set up your catfish rig, but my suggestion is to use this slip sinker rig.  I’m not sure what kind of bait they are using in the below (looks like bubble gum) but, again, I recommend using live perch.  If not, use night crawlers.

Catfishing in Table Rock Lake

The only other thing I will mention here is concerning the fishing hook you use.  I recommend using a circle hook, Size 6 or so.  The circle hook is great for tight line fishing where you leave your rods unattended — while you attend to a cold beverage, maybe?


To the right is an image of a circle hook.  I’ve found that I hook more fish when I’m tight line fishing with these circle hooks than any other hook type.

I do, in fact, recommend using the circle hook for all of the types of catfishing discussed in this article.  It just works.

Rod and reel fishing for catfish is a great way to relax in the evening with friends and family.  Throw your lines out there and grab a chair.  Me?  I like to listen to the Cardinals game while I catfish.  :)

Method 2 – Juglines

If you’ve got a boat, setting jug lines at night (or even during the day) is a lot of fun and a great way to catch catfish.  On Table Rock Lake, I’ll usually motor back into a cove and set out the jugs to stay out of the main channel.

This type of catfishing is pretty easy once you get your jugs made.  Here’s what the set up looks like.


My dad and grandpa used to set lines that were tied to milk jugs and such.  That will work but these noodles work better.

First, when you have a fish on, the noodle will stand up or start “popping” up and down in the water.  With a bit of reflective tape and a good flashlight you can keep good track of these suckers in the water.

Lastly, when you pick up your lines and store them, wrap the line around the noodle and stick the hook into the foam.  Simple.

You can make your own jugs or buy them pre-made.  It’s up to you.  They are fun to make but you’ll need at least a dozen of them to have some real fun.  Your choice.

There are a number of regulations involved in jugline fishing in Missouri that can be seen on the Missouri Department of Conservations website.

Method 3 – Trotlines

At the moment, this is my method of choice.  I really love setting trotlines for catfish in Table Rock.

I do it a little differently than most people I’ve seen.  You can use my method or pick one of the other methods of setting trotlines.  I can tell you that this method works.

Here’s how it looks.  Sorry this is so rough, I’m no artist. :)

Trotline for Catfish in Table Rock Lake

The black box at the bottom is a weight — usually a brick or something like it.

I know there a number of other ways to set a trotline but here are the three reasons I set them this way.

  • I can fish a lot of water – I usually set 5 or 6 of these lines at a time, each with 5 or so hooks on them.  This way I can fish in a lot of different spots rather than just one big spot with a single long line.
  • It’s easier to set these lines – Stringing a single line across an entire cove is hard.  Setting five or six hooks on a short line is easy.
  • I don’t lose the whole line – If, god forbid, my line gets cut or hung up badly, I don’t lose my entire line when I set 5 or 6 of these short trotlines.

I keep these short lines wrapped around a swimming noodle and my hooks in a 5 gallon bucket with some grooves cut into it.


There are a number of regulations involved in trotline fishing in Missouri that can be seen on the Missouri Department of Conservations website.

So, that’s it.  Get out there and catch some catfish at Table Rock.  Bring your friends.  Bring your kids.  Bring a radio.  It’s one of the most relaxing and enjoyable types of fishing on the lake.

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  1. […] paradise.  Table Rock Lake supports excellent numbers of crappie, white bass, walleye, and catfish, but is perhaps best known for its black-bass […]

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