Illustration by Ryan Kirby
Winter is prime time to catch a giant blue catfish. "Big blues actually become more aggressive once the water temperature dips below 40 degrees," says Jim Moyer, a veteran guide from Clarksville, Tenn., who has bagged cats close to 80 pounds during winter. "I've had fast action on monster blues in water as cold as 35 degrees." Here's his plan:
Moyer looks for fast-sloping ledges in 30 to 50 feet of water. "This is way deeper than most guys fish," he says, "but it's where the biggest blues hang out now." Another key factor: heavy current. "Current oxygenates the water and sends food in the form of dead and injured baitfish tumbling along the bottom."
Drop On In
The area where a feeder creek enters the main river is a good place to begin your quest, Moyer says. "Idle your boat out from the creek mouth and look for places with a rapid drop into deep water on your graph. The best drops have scattered wood and rock cover on them, providing ambush stations for fish."
Moyer drops a 35-pound anchor well upstream of his target, then lets out rope until he can reach his target with a long cast. Once in position, he prepares his tackle, careful to make as little noise as possible. "Big blues are very spooky. I've seen them quit biting when I dropped a sinker on the deck of my boat."
Moyer's bait rig consists of a 4- to 6-ounce sliding egg sinker on the main line and an 8/0 Gamakatsu Octopus circle hook at the end of a 3-foot leader. He baits chunks of fresh-caught skipjack herring onto the hook, lobs the rig downstream, sets the rod in a holder, then waits for the rod to bend over.