Over the many years that Lynn and I have been fishing together we have mainly targeted Flatheads and Channel cats, occasionally we would encounter the Blue cat but not as often as the other two species.
We have been fishing the tournament circuit since 2004 and most of the tournaments have been in the lower portion of the Ohio River, mainly below Louisville, Kentucky and on down river, for us to be successful in tournament fishing we learned early that targeting Flatheads would not put us in the top ten.
Blue Cats are a bit different than the other catfish, at times they are moving around a lot, other times they are relating to structure, be wood or deep water channels, ledges, shallow sand bars, mouth of tributaryís, hot water discharges at power plants or near bridge structures. We have found them right out in open water with nothing to relate too except for baitfish in the vicinity.
There eating habits can change also, I have learned that at times they want cutbait, and then they want livebait, but sometimes they will throw you a curve ball and they want that bait in a certain size before they will move on it.
One thing is certain they love current, seem to really thrive on it, if there is baitfish in that current these guys are nothing but eating machines and if the bait moves so do they, so being mobile is a key to success.
I prefer to target outside bends in the river, if there is deep water nearby then they should be somewhere in the area, donít be afraid to change style and slide up into the inside of that outside bend, there are times when they need to get a rest from that current, barge cells and barges that are anchored down should also be looked at for a place that they may rest. A buddy of mine does real well when the water is high and rising by not even looking at his depth finder instead he reads the water using just his eyes focusing on the current patterns that he sees forming on the surface of the water. Looking for the water to roll back the wrong way will create a spot for a Blue to rest. Dams are about the one great place that I do not fish, I just donít feel real comfortable in that rushing water, and sometimes I just question is it worth taking a chance on a fish where others have died trying. In Ohio we are not allowed to go past the lock walls of the dams, but in Indiana and Kentucky you can get real close to the gates like within 150 yards, if that water is pouring out of there then I know Iím not going to be there but I know guys that can get over that fear and can pull some dandy fish from those boiling waters, they mainly target the seams between the gates where the water is not as fast as the normal waters. Me I just like targeting the areas down stream from the dam.
When Lynn caught her 88# Blue Cat she taught me a very valuable lesson, do not get in a big hurry on these fish, I guarantee you one thing, I was so excited from seeing that monster come up behind our boat that I really donít think I would have gotten that fish to the boat if the pole had been in my hands, it took several deep dives and Lynn was a master at handling the drag on this fish and even after we netted her and got her in the livewell she still had plenty of fight left in her, these fish are used to swimming in current and there bodies are solid mass of muscle so donít push them hard trying to get them in the boat as quick as you can, there mouths are soft and unless the hook is embedded in bone it will pull out if too much pressure is put on them.
We mainly use very large baits for Blue Cats we target trophy fish so I figure they want a large bait, wonít have to roam as far for there next meal.
Now a lot of people will argue what is the best rig, the sliding sinker rig or the three way rig, myself I use the sliding sinker rig, just a lot easier for me to use than the three way rig, I still have a lot to learn about the three way rig and until I do Iíll stick with the slider, I do use the bank style sinker and found it is a lot less prone to get hung up in underwater structure than any of the previous sinker designs I have tried. I like to use a long leader sometimes almost three foot in length, the bait will spin in the current and I feel that will attract them, but mainly I feel they are attracted to the scent of the bait, alive or dead. Not sure if it makes difference if the bait is on the bottom of the river or up slightly kind of floating off the bottom, tough to tell when youíre anchored down and the current is flowing along. I have guys that I fish against that use nothing but three way rigs and do very well; most times there baits are no more than a foot off the bottom of the river.
I target the deeper water during the spring then start working into the shallower water as the water warms up. By shallower Iím talking 20-30 foot depths, I have found them mainly in that 20-50 foot or deeper range, but at times the river you are fishing may never see those depths so again you have to know the rivers you are fishing. Spread baits out from shallow to deeper water and once you get a pattern established then fish it hard.
On the Ohio I have found that Blues want Shad or Skipjack, seems to be no preference for which one, but it does need to be very fresh as far as Shad, Skipjacks well in my book it is just a great bait, fresh or frozen but I prefer fresh, Shad just doesnít do well after it is frozen and thawed out, very hard to keep on the hook, fishing on the Cumberland river for years I have never caught a Bluecat on a Shad, everything has come off of fresh Skipjack.
Heads as bait are my first choice, then the gut pocket, then the filleted sides, again I like using large baits, so donít get small on your offerings unless they are not moving on your baits. I have had great success with using the very large Shad or Sumo Shad as I like to refer them, we catch these in the early spring March and April, I do vacuum pack them up and freeze them, they are good for only one thawing I take the vacuumed bag and put it in my livewell and fill the livewell with water 15 -30 minutes later they are ready to go, major bleeders when you cut them but there is just something about them that a big Blue cannot pass up.
Each of us has different ways to catch fish so there is no miracle bait, or a tried and surefire way to get these fish to take your offering and then get them in the boat, I do offer you several different ways to try, as each and every year I always find a better or different approach to catch these fish, keep an open mind, listen to the way people do things and success can be yours as none of us like that seven letter wordÖÖ..Skunked
Doc Lange 3-5-2006