Target anchoring for big cats.

The winter time Bluecats become predictable and will school up or congregate in wintering areas that offer some sort of thermal or stable comfort zone and food availability. February one of the best times for hooking up with one of them monster cats along the Ohio River or its major tributaries like the Green or Kentucky rivers. Other areas like outside bends, drop-offs, creek beds and deep ledges. Look for the deepest contours and water depths that have been carved by nature. Blucats remain fairly active and aggressive in the winter months and will travel in and around these deep lairs looking for its next meal.

Target anchoring is my preferred method for wintertime catfishing. It involves the use of a GPS/Depth finder to find, mark and fish areas such as natural or manmade structure or cover, places where catfish will frequent for food, travel or spawn.
Anchoring on specific spots known to be high traffic areas such as ledges, humps or holes will increase an angler’s success, but if an angler can find certain that spot within the spot such as a big log laying among some rocks along the edge of a channel break, then you will more than likely have a productive day.

fishing map

Custom Mapping your favorite fishing spots

(Custom Mapping your favorite fishing spots)
Gps mapping lake charts has made fishing more productive as it allows the angler to discover, map, mark and return to these spots like clockwork. The mapping card technology in fish finders makes it a lot easier to understand, pinpoint and mark certain underwater structure, cover and contours that will most likely produce some action. Most lakes or impoundments map cards are very well defined in the contour terrain of the bottom which gives an angler the edge by taking of a lot of the guess work out of finding certain types of structure and it can position an angler precisely on a ledge or other obvious mapped contour changes.

Marking and setting up on specific fish that have been spotted on the sonar is another good use for this GPS technology. However the Rivers maps are not as defined in the contour terrain but more concentrate more on the navigational aspects. But with effort spent manually mapping the rivers bottom contour changes, an angler can still reveal those same productive types of contour or structure changes that are so well defined in the lake cards. Combining the depth finder and GPS to determine depth changes and GPS co ordinances to precisely mark spots to give anglers a blank canvas to personalize their own mapping charts of favorite locations either recently found or previously mapped. This is useful when scouting new areas marking the data that the angler inputs from their mapping also serves as a fishing log.

Find and anchor above your target about 80 to 100 feet and then cast the baits out of the back of the boat into the target area, staggering or fanning them out behind the boat in different depths. Lift your rod tip up and down a few times with the bait/sinker tension. This will straighten the line and remove any un wanted slack.
Channel bends in a river are great wintering holes and the best place to start your search, the river continuously keeps the bottom cut out and creates deep holes or runs in the bottom contour with lots of ledges, wood and irregularities, in general a catfish magnet.
Fan cast your baits to cover a wider areas, Anchor the boat closer to the bank so that it’s in the positioned in middle so to say of zero or the bank and its deepest point which is 50 feet. This way we can cover more area by spreading the baits, throw one rod out of the side of your boat in the deeper 50 ft. section, a couple straight out of the back of the boat one In the 40 foot section the other in the 30 ft section and the last one out of the opposite side towards the shallower 20 foot of water.

anchor for big catfish

Target anchoring for big catfish.

(Target anchoring)
In rivers, the deep winter holes are often found along outside bends or old river channels that run alongside a hard rock bank. In reservoirs, the old creek and river channels or in the reservoirs’ lower reaches. Channel confluences where the creek channels collide with the old river channels also tend to have deeper holes associated with them, run-ins or ditches will also provide some deep water habitat or HOT SPOTS.
Once you’re anchored on a spot, give it 30-35 minutes to see if you get any interest. If it’s been inactive it’s time to move down river a bit, but you don’t want to go far. The idea is to keep the scent trail close to the structure your fishing for the catfish to follow but to move just simply pull your anchor up and move your boat 40-50 feet down and re-anchor where you last placed your baits on the previous anchor and cast out again, keeping your bait in the same scent trail just a little further downstream. Because some of these channel bends can be up to a half mile long, you may need to bound down 4-5 times until you find the concentration of catfish.

Target anchoring

Aaron Wheately Director of Monsters on the Ohio with a nice winter time blue cat.

Using fresh bait
Big Shad and skip jack is the popular baits among trophy blue cat anglers, but cut or whole pan fish will also work well.
When finding and catching bait is not an issue, I like to have enough to re-bait on every move to keep the bait and scent trail fresh. Re-baiting often doesn’t seem to be as important in the spring or summer when the water is warmer as much as it does in the winter months.
In the frigid winter water the scent trail doesn’t seem to dissolve or disburse as well as it does in the warmer months, so keeping the freshest bait on each anchor in the winter time will attract the best results.
Winter time is a great time to land some huge trophy blue cats and there fun to catch but they are also kind of vulnerable this time of year as they are easily patterned.
Please remember to keep conservation in mind and put the big ones back after you’ve snapped some braggin pictures. Keep the smaller cats for fryin! Selective harvest works.

Steve Douglas

Where to find and catch Shad for catfish bait

Shad is one of the most abundant forage fish in the south so it only makes sense to think the catfish feed heavily on the shad too. Well you would be right in thinking that as shad is on top of the list for most consistent for catching catfish of all sizes and species.  Whether you use it live, or cut it up shad will attract the more mature cats available in the waters you fish.

What do shad look like?

Shad come in different species and sizes but most are appear silverfish but are generally dark colored on the back and top of the head, with bits of bluish green silvery tints and white sides, sporting a black dot on their sides just behind their gills.

live shad for bait

Shad is a good catfish bait

Shad is good catfish bait

These thin bodied forage fish are very distinctive, having small mouths with big eyes and a forked shape tail.  Both the gizzard shad and threadfin shad are abundant in lakes, reservoirs and rivers throughout the country and both species are great for catching catfish.

The Gizzard Shad is the bigger of the two and can grow in lengths of over 12 inches, which makes them great as cut bait and are generally referred to by catfish anglers as, cutters. The Threadfin Shad are much smaller and will normally only grow to around 6 inches.

How do you catch Shad?

 A cast net is the best way to catch shad for catfishing.  My favorite size cast net is 5-6 footer, but sometimes it don’t matter what your favorite size cast net is, as in reality the size of your cast net will ultimately  be  determined according to each states netting  and fishing regulations. Some allow 10 footers while other states only allow 3- 4 footers. Be sure to check your states regulations before you cast your nets.

How to find shad?

Look in these types of places for shad.

Bay’s…. Look in the back of the shallow bays, large cuts, coves or feeder creeks on lakes.

Marinas…  Shad can be attracted to the Marinas because of their food source, algae and other microscopic creatures that grow on the docks and boats and other marina related structures.

Creek mouths…  Check in the mouths of feeder creeks shad will often gather around fresh water and also to find refuge from heavy current.

Bridges pilings……. will often attract the shad because of algae growth again and or a current break.

Water discharges……….. You can find these types of areas along the  many of the rivers in our country.   Factory’s  will pull river water within their facility to cool equipment and will discharge a continuous flow of water back to the river and these discharges are an excellent place to look for shad. Some of the factory discharges often produce hot water which will attract many shad and other bait fish to these even in the winter months.

Pockets and Eddy’s … Eddy’s are good place to search when current is present. The Eddy is a result of a current break of some kind like a point or a cut in the river bank creating some slack, still water next to the main current which makes a good place to look for shad at times.

Now these are some of the top spots or habitats to start looking for shad but I would like to just add that catching shad is just like fishing, in the since that weather can affect the outcome to some extent.

Most days you can cast your net  a few times and have all you need  but other days you will have to throw the net a hundred times only to catch a few. Sometimes we have to work for the best baits but shad can literally be anywhere but these top hot spots mentioned in this article have a higher percentage of producing shad on a regular basis.

When fishing new water and don’t know where the bait hot spots will be, Ive always turned to google earth for the answers. You can locate these types of areas just by zooming in on the area you will be fishing and seeing where the potential places are located even before you touch the water. This will save a lot of time and also somewhat familiarize you with this new area.

 

How to use shad as catfish bait?

The smaller shad can be use whole or cut them into sections as illustrated or just simply cut the shad in half.

How to cut shad

How to cut shad for cut bait

Cutting Shad for catfish bait

The size of your cut bait you use will really depend on what size catfish you are targeting but generally as a rule the bigger pieces of cut bait catches bigger catfish and smaller pieces for the small and medium catfish. But I will add this, I have also seen that general rule turn completely the opposite of said rule and have caught huge catfish on small pieces of cut shad and small cats on large pieces, Its fishing and anything can happen.

Another popular piece of cut shad is the fillets. The fillets can be attached to the hook in the same way you would a night crawler be sure to leave the skin on it for a tougher cut. The last cut I will mention on the shad is the guts.  And the best guts come from the large gizzard shad. They are used mainly for catching channel catfish.

Using Live Shad

Using shad live is a little more challenging as the shad can be difficult to keep alive in bulk without the help from  a good bait tank.

You can use shad live to catch all species of catfish but predominantly it is used for catching big Flathead or blue catfish. The Flatheads diet consist primarily of other fish like shad, carp, pan fish and even other catfish  so your chances of landing a large Flathead catfish goes up when you use live shad as catfish bait.

I would recommend the larger shad 6 to 8 inches because they just seem to stay alive on the hook longer than the smaller shad do. The more lively and active your bait is the better chance you have of success.

How to hook a live bait.

How to hook live shad

Hooking live bait for different methods of catfishing

Hooking Live Shad for catfish bait

When fishing in current I prefer to hook the shad through its nostrils and through the dorsal area when I’m in no current such as low flowing rivers or lakes. These are the two most popular places to place your hook for the best results. Hooking it in other places sometimes can cause the bait to hook back into its self which will cause a lost fish when that phenomenon happens so be sure to pay attention when your experimenting with hook placement.

The same goes with hooking cut bait pieces, be sure to hook it in a way that it will not hook back into itself. Here is how I like to hook my cut bait.

hooking cut bait

How to hook cut shad

Rigs used for catfishing with shad.

The two rigs I would suggest using with shad is the 3-Way or the Carolina rigs.

Both of these rigs are effective at present the bait in many different situations but I prefer the Carolina rig for my cut bait presentation and the 3Way rig for my live presentations when I’m anchoring  but when I’m drifting with live shad I prefer the Carolina rig..

Sometimes bait catching can be as challenging as the catfishing itself but when you get the right bait, it’s all worth the time and trouble spent by experiencing success but these are some of the most likely places to find your catfish bait. Good luck and be safe on the water.