Veteran catmen know that blue catfish, more than channel catfish or flathead catfsih, are creatures of big rivers and impoundments. They know, too, that big blues like more current than either of their whiskered cousins. Until recently, however, few people were aware of the blue cat’s love of cold water. Instead of sticking their belly to the bottom of a hole for the winter, these fish continue to forage in chutes of swift current when water temperatures drop to 35 F. In river-run reservoirs across much of the blue cat’s range, the period from December through March may be the best time to tangle with a monster blue.
Rod: 6- to 8-foot medium-heavy-power casting rod. Reel: large-capacity casting reel with a freespool clicker. Line: 20- to 40-pound-test abrasion-resistant mono.
A basic slip rig consisting of a 1- to 6-ounce egg sinker sliding on the main line, which is tied to a 1- to 3-foot leader consisting of a hook, line, and swivel. Several 1-inch cubes of cutbait packed neatly on a 7/0 Kahle-style hook don’t roll as much in current as a long strip of bait.
During winter and early spring, big blue cats run the river channel, feeding along channel ledges. They rarely move onto adjacent shallow flats. Even hot-water discharges don’t attract big blue cats, although they do draw one of the blue cat’s favorite baitfish, the skipjack herring. A discharge area is a prime spot to gather fresh herring for cutbait.
Area A – The head of a narrow river section before the river widens and flattens is a prime area for blue cats that hesitate to move farther upriver into decreasing current. Use sonar to run upriver along the channel ledge, looking for nooks and debris that attract and hold fish. A particularly good area is where the ledge begins to push away from the bank to form a large shallow flat.
Area B – The entire ledge is a potential holding area for blue cats. Try the ledge area near the final barge tie-off. Should be a big eddy here, too. Note also how the ledge pushes away from the bank near the beginning of the discharge area — good spot. The head of a deep channel area as it pushes into a shallower area is another hot spot for big blues.
Area C – First check the ledge area where the shallow flat extends into the channel below the discharge inlet. Then note how the flat cuts back toward the bluff bank, creating another possible holding area. Be sure to run along the ledge near the bluff bank — limestone outcroppings are particularly craggy and difficult to fish, but often hold big blues.
- These rigs can perform well for panfish, like crappies and perch, that are feeding near bottom. One rig is called the dropper-loop rig for the looped snells holding the hooks off the 6- to 12-pound-test monofilament mainline. Sinker size ranges from 1/2 to 2 ounces depending on conditions. Typically, one to three pre-tied snells are secured 12 to 18 inches above the sinker for presenting multiple baits simultaneously, state laws allowing.Drop-shot rig—The drop-shot rig is a type of dropper rig, often used in bass fishing. On a drop-shot-rig, the hook is attached directly to the mainline rather than on a loop or leader shooting off the mainline. Below the hook is a sinker fixed to the end of the mainline. The rig allows baits to be presented off bottom a set distance, and is effective with livebaits, as well as with artificial softbaits such as worm, grub, and minnow imitations. On a drop-shot rig, baits can be worked very still, or jiggled and twitched, to attract fish and trigger strikes.