Old school vs high-tech tactics for blue cats
Photo courtesy of Jeff Dodd.
Cat fishing has come a long way, baby. Once upon a time, like five years ago, the most common approach to catching all whiskered species was to sit on a bucket and throw something smelly into the water. Now tournament cat fishermen (yes, there are big-priced catfish derbies) use remote-controlled trolling motors, drift socks, side-imaging sonar, and complicated rigs. to target blue cats.
We spoke to two veteran catfish gurus who use a combination of old-fashioned and high-tech methods. However, we forced everyone to pick sides and detail their most productive tactics.
Jeff Dodd, 51, of Trenton, Tennessee, is a farmer by trade but has been fishing for catfish ever since he can remember. Dodd used to sit on a creek bank soaked in stinky bait, but now he’s addicted to high-tech approaches. He has won seven catfish tournaments since 2006.
Chad Ferguson, 41, of Fort Worth, Texas, is a longtime cat fisherman who has owned the Catfish Edge Guide Service since 1998. He enjoys new cutting edge tactics, but sticks to traditional practices.
Outdoor Life: What’s the best way to locate blue cats on a massive fishery?
Chad Ferguson: If you’re talking about fall through winter, it’s pretty straightforward where I live. All you have to do is walk around a lake and see where the cormorants roost. Wherever there are perched cormorants, there will be a bundle of catfish.
Jeff Dodd: The first thing I do is turn on my Lowrance HD10 Gen2 sonar and scroll down to the mapping page. I will be looking for hard edges, like ledges and other structures in deep water. If this is an area where current is present, I will cross it with my sonar and my downscan. If I tag a single fish, I’ll go back and try to catch it.
OL: Why, exactly, are the fish there?
CF: Where cormorants roost, half-digested shads fall into the water overnight, creating a turd buffet for the catfish. It’s a little mean but, man, it attracts fish.
JD: Big blues, which I prefer to target, use deep edges like a railing on a highway. They kind of bump into the wall and let themselves be guided along the river or lake. If there is a submerged tree or a deep hole where they can stop and rest, even better.
OL: Once the fish have been located, what is the strategy to catch them?
CF: Position your boat as far as possible from the bunkhouse while still being able to throw down to the base of the trees. Cast a high, overhanging cast so that the bait splashes onto the surface. Fish respond to noise as well as bait.
JD: Once I tag a fish, I adjust a drift using my MinnKota iPilot trolling motor. This electric remote control allows me to set a very precise drift speed, which I can measure on the Lowrance unit. You want to drift half the speed of the current and follow the edge as it winds.
OL: What’s your choice of tackles and bait?
CF: I prefer bait throwing gear with a 50 pound braid and a 40 pound fluorocarbon leader. Load a triple with a punch bait on a float and throw it at the birds.
JD: I prefer to walk on a three lane platform when drift fishing with heavy duty bait fishing equipment. This is simply a 2-8 ounce sinker (weight depends on current and depth) 18 inches below an improved Daiichi 13/0 circular hook, which sits on an 18 fluorocarbon leader. at 30 inches. My favorite bait is fresh cut bonito.