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Late Summer And Fall Catfish Patterns

by In-Fisherman   |  August 23rd, 2012 2

Mississippi River, Memphis
James “Big Cat” Patterson of Bartlett, Tennessee, has been fishing for blue catfish for almost 30 years, guiding professionally for the past decade on the Mississippi River in the vicinity of Memphis, Tennessee. Most of his days are spent pursuing trophy blues, although he’s also wise to the ways of the river’s channel and flathead catfish. He’s an accomplished tournament angler, too, with big finishes at a variety of events.

Revetment banks—Patterson is familiar with the numerous wing dams jettying from shore into the Mississippi, and has caught many notable blues from the scour holes around these structures. “Wing dams can be good any time of the year, but they’re also feast or famine,” he says. “The best ones have well-defined holes, but those are becoming scarce because many of the older dams have filled in with sediment, and the remaining good ones get fished so heavily that it’s sometimes hard to get on a good spot.” So Patterson often focuses on alternative locations that might hold blue cats.

“Some of my favorite spots to fish in summer and early fall are faster current areas adjacent to revetment banks,” he says. Expansive revetment blankets, consisting of concrete slabs tied together with cable, are laid along the shoreline and often covered with riprip for added stability. Revetment is installed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to stabilize and protect highly erodable riverbanks where the force of the current is greatest.

“These banks provide structure and cover attractive to big blue cats and their prey, especially where older sections of revetment are falling apart,” he notes. “Over time, riprap is redistributed, cables break, and the water washes out holes between and under the slabs where they’ve broken apart. In other places slabs have buckled, creating areas of current protection near bottom that hold big blues.

“I avoid fishing revetment banks when the current’s so fast that I can’t use any sinker weighing less than a pound,” he says. “In summer and early fall, I prefer fishing a lower water stage, bringing the bank closer to the channel edge in about 35 to 40 feet of water. At lower river stages, the current is still swift along revetment banks and the blues like the current, but I can fish them with sinkers of 12 ounces or less.”

Patterson uses primarily skipjack herring for bait, either freshly caught or previously vacuum-sealed and frozen for later use. He baits with the head, chunks or steaks from the larger back portion, or with fillets. Before steaking, the entire belly-meat section, including entrails, is cut out and wrapped together with rubber bands, creating another dandy bait. At times, he also uses whole 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 section of 60-pound-mono leader, and a 3-ounce or heavier casting or cannonball sinker tied to a 20- to 30-pound-test dropper, with current speed dictating sinker weight. While fishing from an anchored position and for weights up to about 4 ounces, he uses 7-foot heavy-power Quantum Cabo PT rods. In faster currents requiring heavier sinkers, he switches to 71⁄2-foot medium-heavy to heavy-power Quantum Big Cat rods. He prefers using stiffer rods for feel and hook-setting power. Quantum Cabo PT level-wind trolling reels spooled with 65-pound Stren Super Braid complete the setup.

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  • robert

    Ok In-fisherman . Got a question for you , i am constantly in search for the next trophy blue . But i am here on the Arkansas River with at the time no current -0-10CFS. what would you do in these conditions . Thanks ,

  • Gloria De Castro Jamiro

    good read … another way to catch a big catfish

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