Canals like the Diversion Canal, which connects lakes Marion and Moultrie, have bottoms that range from mud to rocks, and are covered in debris, like fallen timber. These areas can be drifted with a Carolina rig, but they frequently snag on the many, many snags that line the murky depths.
So, I learned a rig that many locals use to fish these areas – a “bump” rig.
At first glance, this rig looks like a sheepshead rig or something you'd use to fish off a pier. The three-way swivel is at the heart of the rig. This allows the leader and hook to be independent of the bottom-bumping weight, which will be tied to the swivel with lighter line. This allows easy breaking in case of a snag.
I like to use 25 lb. leader material for the business end, along with a J-style hook. The hook size can vary – I like 2/0 or 3/0 hooks for rigging most cut bait. If you expect bigger fish, or use big chunks of cut bait, you can up the hook size accordingly.
For the weight-line, use the lightest line you can – 4 lb. test monofilament is a good size. For a slow-current drift, a 1 oz. bank sinker is sufficient. When drifting, my goal is to have the rig somewhat straight down in the water.
How do I fish it? I get situated in the canal where I want to drift. My preferred bait for catfish here has always been raw shrimp. They have good scent, and the curly shape laces perfectly onto the J-hooks. I drop the rig straight down in the water. When it hits bottom, I reel in a little slack and “bump” the weight along the bottom as the kayak drifts down the canal. As the depth changes, I can let out more line or reel in as needed.
I like to hold the rod and reel in my hand while fishing this rig. When the catfish hits – set the hook by pulling straight up! The anticipation of a strike is half the fun of fishing this rig.
You'll occasionally snag something on the bottom – it happens to the best of us. Usually it is the weight that gets bumped along the bottom that does it. Don't fret – you got that easy-to-break 4 lb. test line on there. Pop it, bring it up, and tie on another weight.
You can make variations: maybe a longer weight-line to keep the bait higher off the bottom, or perhaps a circle hook for the leader-line in case you are fishing multiple rods and want to keep one in a rod holder. Don't be afraid to change it up to suit your needs.
Next time you are out on the lake or canal targeting catfish, give this rig a shot. It might turn into your go-to setup for Mr. Whiskers.