Mississippi River, Memphis

James “Large Cat” Patterson of Bartlett, Tennessee, has been fishing for blue catfish for nearly 30 years, guiding professionally for the previous decade on the Mississippi River within the neighborhood of Memphis, Tennessee. Most of his days are spent pursuing trophy blues, though he is additionally sensible to the methods of the river’s channel and flathead catfish. He is an achieved match angler, too, with massive finishes at a wide range of occasions.

Patterson is acquainted with the quite a few wing dams jettying from shore into the Mississippi, and has caught many notable blues from the scour holes round these constructions. “Wing dams may be good any time of the yr, however they’re additionally feast or famine,” he says. “One of the best ones have well-defined holes, however these have gotten scarce as a result of most of the older dams have crammed in with sediment, and the remaining good ones get fished so closely that it is typically exhausting to get on a great spot.” So Patterson typically focuses on different places that may maintain blue cats.

“A few of my favourite spots to fish in summer season and early fall are sooner present areas adjoining to revetment banks,” he says. Expansive revetment blankets, consisting of concrete slabs tied along with cable, are laid alongside the shoreline and infrequently lined with riprip for added stability. Revetment is put in by the U.S. Military Corps of Engineers to stabilize and defend extremely erodable riverbanks the place the drive of the present is biggest.


“These banks present construction and canopy engaging to massive blue cats and their prey, particularly the place older sections of revetment are falling aside,” he notes. “Over time, riprap is redistributed, cables break, and the water washes out holes between and beneath the slabs the place they’ve damaged aside. In different places slabs have buckled, creating areas of present safety close to backside that maintain massive blues.

“I keep away from fishing revetment banks when the present’s so quick that I can not use any sinker weighing lower than a pound,” he says. “In summer season and early fall, I choose fishing a decrease water stage, bringing the financial institution nearer to the channel edge in about 35 to 40 toes of water. At decrease river phases, the present continues to be swift alongside revetment banks and the blues like the present, however I can fish them with sinkers of 12 ounces or much less.”

Patterson makes use of primarily skipjack herring for bait, both freshly caught or beforehand vacuum-sealed and frozen for later use. He baits with the top, chunks or steaks from the bigger again portion, or with fillets. Earlier than steaking, your entire belly-meat part, together with entrails, is reduce out and wrapped along with rubber bands, creating one other dandy bait. At instances, he additionally makes use of entire gizzard shad.

Baits are delivered on three-way rigs with a 7/0 to 10/0 Kahle or wide-gap hook, tied to an 18- to 24-inch part of 60-pound-mono chief, and a 3-ounce or heavier casting or cannonball sinker tied to a 20- to 30-pound-test dropper, with present pace dictating sinker weight. Whereas fishing from an anchored place and for weights as much as about 4 ounces, he makes use of 7-foot heavy-power Quantum Cabo PT rods. In sooner currents requiring heavier sinkers, he switches to medium-heavy to heavy-power Quantum Large Cat rods. He prefers utilizing stiffer rods for really feel and hook-setting energy. Quantum Cabo PT level-wind trolling reels spooled with 65-pound Stren Tremendous Braid full the setup.

“Alongside a typical revetment financial institution, I anchor in about 25 to 30 toes of water, positioning baits alongside the slope from about 25 to 40 toes deep. Some of the efficient displays in summer season and early fall is to ‘stroll’ baits behind the anchored boat. If I am fishing alone, I set one bait to fish stationary whereas I stroll the opposite,” he says.

After a brief solid behind the boat or after releasing the rig boatside, he thumbs the open spool whereas the bait drifts barely downstream and to backside. As soon as backside is felt, the spool is once more thumbed and the rod tip lifted barely, to permit the present to hold the sinker and bait downstream briefly increments of 6 inches to a foot.

“It is essential to really feel the sinker thump backside as you stroll a bait,” he says. “A few of my shoppers not acquainted with feeling backside, proceed to let loose line on a snagged rig; so the present carries line downstream whereas the rig is caught in a single spot. As a result of the best sinker weight helps keep backside contact and really feel, I deliver sinkers within the vary of three to 12 ounces to swimsuit completely different present speeds. Sinkers which are too gentle transfer too shortly; ones which are too heavy do not permit the bait to maneuver downstream on the refined lifts. The texture of sinker on backside can also be what makes a stiff and delicate rod essential,” he notes.

“Strolling is an effective way to remain in touch together with your bait and for figuring out backside objects like rock, concrete slabs, and different cowl that accumulates in revetment areas,” Patterson says. “Baits may be walked successfully way back to 200 toes, and I feel this mimics pure meals gadgets that slowly tumble downstream over backside. The sinker thumping backside may additionally appeal to fall catfish to the bait. The farther downstream the bait is and the flatter the road, the extra slowly you possibly can stroll the rig. As a common rule, the sooner the present is flowing, the more durable a blue cat strikes a strolling bait.”

Drifting sandbars from summer season into early fall, Patterson’s most popular methodology for finding and catching massive blue catfish is to float the Mississippi’s expansive sandbars. “One of the best sandbars are these with rollercoaster bottoms,” he says, “with depths usually starting from 25 toes on the tops of the sand humps to 45 toes within the troughs. I’ve caught blue cats drifting in water as shallow as 15 toes and as deep as 94 toes.”

Large Cat’s rigs for drifting are three-ways, with a Kahle hook tied to an 18- to 24-inch chief of 40-pound mono, and a 20- to 30-pound mono dropper of the identical size to carry the sinkers, 4 ounces typically, which is normally a lot to really feel backside. He prefers the cannonball-style sinker for drifting as a result of it makes thump on the sand, utilizing a 7-foot medium-heavy to heavy Quantum Cabo PT trigger-handle casting rod, and a Cabo PT trolling reel spooled with 40-pound-test Tremendous Braid. Purchasers can maintain the light-weight rod for lengthy durations with out fatigue, and the graphite is delicate for feeling sinkers on backside. He baits drift rigs with golfball-sized chunks of skipjack.

“I take advantage of a managed drift, slowing the drift with a trolling motor whereas protecting the bow pointed upstream,” he says. This methodology, sometimes called “slipping,” permits baits to be fished extra vertically and on a shorter line, serving to to manage them whereas sustaining really feel and make contact with with backside. “Drifting is greatest utilizing a brief line, with the bait bouncing backside about 20 toes downstream of the boat. The road’s normally at a couple of 10-degree angle. It is essential to not jig the rig too aggressively. Delicate lifts and drops of the rod tip are simply sufficient to assist the bait scoot alongside on backside within the present. The steep line angle additionally retains the bait swimming downstream barely above backside, whereas the sinker thumps it alongside the way in which,” he explains.

Most of Patterson’s catches whereas drifting happen on the upstream parts of the drop-off from a hump right into a gap. “When approaching a gap, it is essential to sluggish the drift and let loose line to keep up contact with backside, protecting the steep line angle. The additional time additionally permits blues to seek out the bait. They typically hit it on the autumn as line is let loose to succeed in backside,” he says, “and so they generally swim straight up with the bait of their mouth, which is why I like a reasonably lengthy rod to take up slack in a rush.”

He depends on good electronics to regulate the depths of his rigs to work backside, because the depths change over the collection of humps and troughs, and in addition makes use of a GPS unit to regulate course to remain on trails of productive drifts.

“If I am fishing with shoppers who’ve a troublesome time sustaining contact with backside whereas on a managed drift, I swap to dragging baits over the identical sandbar areas,” he says. “It is a neater manner for rookies to fish, and it is also efficient. I shorten the sinker dropper on three-way rigs or use Carolina rigs to pull baits. The sinker dragging backside creates a plume that could be a further set off. When blue cats take a bait, they’re infamous for swimming downstream in the direction of the boat, so it is essential to observe for slack line that usually signifies a chunk. Reel up slack shortly and set the hook.”

Missouri & Mississippi Rivers, St. Louis

Carl Roberts, St. Louis, Missouri, is a fast examine in finding and catching massive blue catfish. He wasn’t uncovered to fishing rising up, reasonably, he performed a wide range of sports activities till three knee surgical procedures sidelined him. Then he took up catfishing, starting as a financial institution angler. After a few years he purchased his first boat and caught a continual case of the catfishing bug. He now guides professionally and is a critical competitor in catfish tournaments.

He primarily targets massive blues, though he fishes for channel catfish, as properly. Most of his pursuits are within the lowermost attain of the Missouri River, from its mouth on the Mississippi upstream to Weldon Springs, Missouri; and from the Mississippi north of St. Louis upstream to Grafton, Illinois. Though he finds daytime fishing productive, his day job forces him to be on the water most frequently throughout the night and after darkish.

Roberts places skipjack herring on the prime of the listing for giant blue cats. Within the areas he fishes, this baitfish usually begins to seem in late March to early April. “I catch them on small curlytail jigs with a pink head and white physique, however different colours like chartreuse and black work properly, too,” he says. “I additionally use Sabiki rigs with 4 jigs, typically catching a number of skipjacks at a time. One of the best spots are the place they focus in turbulent water under dams and round wing dams. Because the river cools in October and November, they are often caught at warmwater discharges.” He vacuum-seals and freezes entire baitfish to maintain year-round.

Bluff banks: Whereas he additionally fishes wing dams when circumstances are proper, a few of his favourite spots for concentrating on massive blue cats are the bluff banks scattered alongside the decrease Missouri. “The bluffs are at all times my first cease,” he says, “as a result of the traits of backside alongside these banks appeal to massive catfish.”

Over lengthy durations of time, weathering and erosion have loosened chunks of rock that fall from the bluff and accumulate within the river. “The bigger chunks on backside function present deflectors, with catfish holding downstream of them. You snag and lose a variety of rigs, however the catches outweigh the prices of dropping lead. I additionally duck behind bluff banks to fish when excessive winds forestall efficient fishing in open-water areas,” he says.

To fish the bluffs, Roberts makes use of slipsinker rigs consisting of an 8/0 Gamakatsu Circle hook tied on a 12- to 18-inch chief of 50-pound-test Berkley Large Sport. The chief is tied to a powerful barrel swivel linked to 80-pound Spiderwire Stealth mainline, after sliding on a No-Roll slipsinker from 3 to eight ounces, relying on present. He pours his personal No-Rolls utilizing Do-It Molds. “I choose the No-Roll sinker type when fishing rocky areas, as a result of flat sinker design retains it from settling into and snagging in cracks much less typically than egg sinkers,” he says. He makes use of Shakespeare Ugly Stik Tiger rods matched with Shakespeare Tidewater T20L or Abu Garcia 7000 C3 reels.

The river subsequent to a typical bluff is about 18 to twenty toes deep. Roberts pinpoints doubtless catfish holding areas alongside the bluff and anchors about 30 to 40 yards upstream. “I set baits to cowl depths the place the chunk rock has settled, which is in about 20 to 25 toes as the underside slopes from the bluff into the channel. I let baits drift alongside backside in present, permitting them to settle behind bigger chunk boulders. If my rig snags, I let it fish, as a result of blue cats typically pull it free once they strike,” he says. He depends on a 15-pound Digger Anchor to carry steadfast in present over bottoms from sand to rock. Jerking the rope on the Digger journeys a mechanism to straighten the flukes for simpler retrieval.

Bridges: “The large concrete pilings that help the bridges spanning the rivers are good spots for giant blue cats,” Roberts says. “One of the best pilings have a variety of quick present speeding by. The quick water scours holes, and the pilings break present on the downstream facet. I anchor about 40 yards upstream from the piling and solid, letting baits drift and settle within the scour gap on the facet of the piling and in addition behind it on the downstream facet.

“Blue cats gap up in these areas consuming meals that drifts alongside and will get washed behind the pillars,” he says. Certainly one of his favourite bridge pilings has a scour gap about 24 toes deep on one facet that wraps barely across the downstream finish to a depth of about 16 toes. An 80-pound behemoth blue, Roberts’ largest, was caught on a piece of skipjack positioned behind that bridge piling in April of 2006.

No fisherman hits the bull’s-eye for giant blue cats every outing. Blues may be nomadic, moody at instances, and circumstances could make their whereabouts and eagerness to feed unpredictable, typically sending essentially the most skilled catters off target. Specializing in good places and fishing them with the best displays ought to put you on higher goal to extra and larger catfish.

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