The drought conditions and lack of current the rivers in the south east has created a different environment for cat fishermen in this 2012 fishing season.
Current plays a big role in where the bait and catfish will be located but with the lack of current; the rivers become more like a lake and the bait and blue catfish will become scattered throughout the river system, constantly roaming the vast stretches and depths in search of food rather than congregating in key spots that otherwise the current may have produced.
Anglers who can adapt to this lake like conditions on the rivers can still catch good catfish but they will need to change the way they approach the existing low water conditions and employ a different technique and rig.
When most catfish anglers think of catfishing, they think of a simple slip rig and anchoring up on a spot and waiting. This is a great technique when the bait and catfish are congregated on key spots because the current has put them there.
But in this low water condition we are facing now, it becomes more of a search method and to be successful, the bait is plentiful but also scattered throughout the system just as the catfish are, so you need to keep your baits in their faces and be on the move constantly because the blue catfish are doing that same exact thing.
They are roaming the still water in search of their next meal, and you have a better chance of running into an active fish that is searching for food when you’re on the move, rather than sitting on a spot waiting for one to finally run into your idle bait.
Dragging baits along the river bottom, searching for active bluecats is a very effective way to put catfish in the boat when other anglers are struggling in these low water conditions.
This technique works and has paid off very well for me this season, placing 3rd place in the Cabelas King Kat National Classic in Selma Alabama on the Alabama River in October.
This modified 3-way rig pulled along the contour of the bottom of a lake or reservoir with the use of a trolling motor, also some anglers who do not have a trolling motor will let the wind carry them over the contour. However I prefer the use of a trolling motor to precisely keep me in a good strike zone such as along ditches or drops and ledges.
Items needed for the basic 3-Way rig
Keep in mind item specs listed below will change according to the size fish your ‘re targeting.
Example below is a good all around combination of tackle required. It’s what I use to target trophy size catfish but is also effective on smaller fish also.
65lb braided or mono main line. (I prefer braid)
3- Way swivel
50 lb mono Leader line
20 lb mono drop line
#8-10 Circle hook
*(Santee option- 3 inch peg float)
Tip: Notice the break rating on the drop line is less than the mainline. This is one option you may want to take advantage of to save tackle and time when fishing with any 3-way combination. It’s called a sacrificial weight, meaning it will break before the mainline when hung up on structure, keeping the rest of your rig intact so all you have to do is retie the drop line and weight instead of the whole rig, this saves a lot of time and frustration.
WHERE TO DRAG BAITS
One of my favorite types areas to look at first is, the flats, meaning the bottom contour has no special features, just a consistent depth and a flat bottom with little or no contour change.
The flats can come in many shapes and sizes, whether it’s a shallow point that extends out to the main channel in a lake or a muscle bed in thirty foot of water in a river. Although the flats are featureless with little or no structure, they do attract catfish because of a flats ability to produce large amounts of algae and other crustaceans and invertebrates, attracting the shad or baitfish to the area which feed on the algae in turn creating a buffet for the catfish and other species as well.
Once you determine where you will pull your drift, just throw your baited rig behind your boat at different lengths of main line and place your rod in your Monster Rod Holder and begin to. I normally sling my first rod out far behind my boat and the second one a little closer than the first and so on, keeping them staggered at different lengths.
The idea here is to drag your baits along the contour of the bottom using your trolling motor. Although drifting with the wind will produce catfish, I prefer to control my (pull/drift) and target more precise contour structure, such as flats, humps and ledges. The drag speed will be determined by the catfishes activity level the size sinker you are using; the heavier it is the faster you can drag. After cold fronts and low activity levels I prefer to start with a 2 oz sinker and keep my speed at about .5 mph. but if the catfish are active I will use a larger sinker and speed my drift to about 1 to 1.5 mph.
Dragging your baits through a more likely lair will pay off more times than not, increasing your chances for a trophy catfish.
CAUTION- The Santee dragging rig is good method to search out feeding catfish, at the same time learning what your bottom contour is like and discovering new pieces of structure, however in the process you will get snagged and loose some rigs. (Don’t get discouraged), it just the way it is. I’ve fished places before where I’d lose 20 rigs a day and I’ve fished others and never gotten hung up. It is a proven fish catching rig.
This is also the rig and technique I used to place third, in the largest catfishing event in Kentucky this past October. The 3rd annual Monsters on the Ohio Catfish tournament will draw anglers from as many as 14 states from around the south east region to the Ohio River to compete for big bucks in Owensboro Kentucky.
And this method of dragging not only put me in the money in this event; it also enabled me to catch the biggest catfish of the tournament. Setting the new Monsters on the Ohio big fish record on biggest fish caught of 53lbs.