Just let me start off bye saying that searching for that elusive big Blue is often times challenging, frustrating, and down right nerve-racking. If you’re one of these individuals, with one or all of those symptoms then you need to sit down and think about what you are doing, have you overlooked something? There are many variables to consider; what time of year is it, what time of the day or night are you fishing, are the fish spawning, have the fish finished spawning, did a warm or cold front move in, what temperature is the water, how deep is the water, what kind of structure does the body of water you’re fishing have, has it been raining, has it been sunny, what baits do I use at different times of the year, am I using the right tackle, or am I using the right gear? When you put all these things together, it can get a little confusing. I’m going to go over some of these things, and I’m sure they’ll help you catch more and bigger Blue Catfish.
Lets start at the beginning. Selecting the correct rod and reel will affect the size of the fish you’re able to land and it will contribute greatly to whether you hook up or not. If you intend on hooking up will a giant Blue, I recommend that you use a 6’6 or 7’ Medium-Heavy or Heavy Bait Casting Pole with a line weight of 8-20lbs or greater. If you prefer an open-faced pole, you’ll want a 6’6 or 7’ Medium-Heavy or Heavy with the same line weight. Select a pole with some flexibility. One way to check this is to grab the tip of the pole and pull down. If you hear cracking then you need find yourself another one. A pole like that will break when you do get a large Blue on. There is nothing worse than having your pole break when you’ve just hooked up with a once in a lifetime fish, so be selective when it comes time to buy one. When selecting a reel, be sure that it’s the right one for the rod. There are a few essential items you’ll want to look for if you decide to use a bait-caster. Look for a gear ratio of 4.7:1 or better, anti-reverse, power handle, and a release button behind the spool. The release button behind the spool makes it an ideal reel for Blue Catfish. Focus on a reel that has good casting abilities, is easy to use and maintain, and most importantly, has cranking power. When a large Blue strikes that cranking power helps to pull them out of the structure that they might be in, before he can tangle you up. This also applies to open-faced reels. Just remember that you get what you pay for when it comes to reels. With the wide selection of reels that are on the market today, trying to locate the correct one may be like finding a needle in a haystack. If you are having troubles finding one or you are unsure about the abilities of a reel, then go to a fishing tackle store and ask the a sales representative for help. I wouldn’t recommend going to a Wall-Mart or K-Mart and asking for help. Sales representatives in their sporting goods departments tend to have good intentions, but often aren’t knowledgeable enough when it comes to fishing equipment.
Your fishing line is the connection between you and the fish, therefore good fishing line is essential. If you are using a pole that has little to no flexibility then you’ll want to find a line with some stretch to it. If you have a pole that has some flexibility then you can either use line, with or without stretch to it. If you’re fishing clear water then you’ll want to stay away from the moss green lines. It’s just the opposite when you are your fishing murky water. When using monofilament line, you’ll want to your line weight to be 15 - 30 lbs. The diameter of the line is very important when it comes to fishing for Blues. The smaller the diameter the better. Which brings me to a line that hasn’t been on the market for very long. SpiderWire Braid and SpiderWire Fusion are ideal for Blue Catfish. The smaller diameter of these lines will increase the number of strikes, and at the same time, you have a heavy line weight. When using a bait-caster, SpiderWire is easy to cast and will help you from getting that unwanted backlash. Another benefit is that there is little to no stretch in the line which results in better hook sets. The reason for the thinner line is that Blues will generally pick up the bait and move with it before they actually take the bait. The thinner the line, the less likely they’ll feel the weight and/or resistance from it.
There are many reasons why most people have trouble setting the hook on a Blue. Setting the hook on a Blue is a little different then setting a hook on a Channel or Flathead. Like I said before, Blues will pick up the bait and move with it before they actually take it. The most common reason for poor or no hook sets is that an individual will try to set the hook on the fish’s initial run. Yes, you may hook a few this way, but I bet you loose just as many as you hook. The idea here is to let him run, and most importantly, give some slack. The reason for this is that Blue Catfish normally school. Once a Blue finds food, it’ll move it away from the school so that he can keep it for himself. So, let the fish take it and stop. On the second run, set the hook. If you use this technique, I guarantee that you hook 95% of the fish that strike. If you’re fishing a float, then you’ll want to let him run for 2 - 3 seconds and then set the hook. Another reason is that some individuals tighten up their line once the bait has settled on the bottom. When a Blue picks up the bait and feels the resistance from the line, he will normally drop it and your chances of him coming back for it are very slim. So once the bait settles open the guard on your open faced reel or if you’re using a bait castor, depress the line release button. This will allow the fish to move the bait freely.
Have you ever had a fish hit your bait once and that was it? The reason for this could be the type of weight you’ve tied or placed on your line. Tying a weight onto you're line will cause some problems. One is that it will weaken the strength of your fishing line, causing your line to break easier. Second, if a fish is moving with the bait it could get caught up in some kind of structure, causing the fish to drop the bait and snagging you up. Third, the fish will feel the weight and resistance, causing it to drop your bait. If you are fishing in a body of water that has little to no current then use a slip weight with a bobber stop. This will allow the fish to take the bait without the weight moving. In addition, another way to solve this problem is not to use a weight at all. The weight of the bait is normally enough to cast it wherever you want, but that depends on the type of bait you are using. I’ll get into baits later. Bodies of water with some current call for slightly different techniques. If you have a body of water with current but not much structure, then a slip weight will work wonderfully. If you have a body of water with current and rocks as structure, you’re probably getting a lot of snags. A great way to solve this problem is to use a large nail as a weight. The nail will slip down into the rocks and will act like a flag. When you want to bring in the bait all you have to do is flip the tip of your pole upwards a couple of times and the nail will slip right out of the rocks.
Oh yes, now on to baits. Blues prefer their food to be dead. Once and a while you may catch one on live bait, but your most productive baits will be dead, smelly, oily baits. If you’re fishing a lagoon, there are variety of baits you can use. Stink dough baits work well for smaller fish, but your larger fish will prefer cut baits or blood worms. If you’re fishing a pond then try bloodworms, beef, or chicken livers, stink baits, or smaller pieces or cut mackerel. Beef and chicken livers in ponds will produce more fish. If you’re fishing the lakes, the only two baits you should be using are livers or cut mackerel. When cutting mackerel, you should cut pieces of the fish relative to the size of the fish you plan on catching. For example: For 30+lbs Blues you’ll want to cut a 2 pound mackerel into 4 - 6 pieces. Slice the fish down the middle from head to tail and then in half. Cut up three mackerels and place them in a small bucket. I recommend that you add some cheese and garlic flavor to the blood. For the cheese, a Macaroni and Cheese packet will work. With the garlic, you don’t want to use too much, one tablespoon of garlic powder or salt should do. Once you’ve cut the bait and added the ingredients, let the bait sit in the refrigerator for at least one day. This will allow the ingredients to soak into the meat of the fish. If you don’t have any mackerel then any oily baitfish will do. For example, popular river baits in the Mid-West are Shad Strips.
Selecting the correct hook for the type of fishing you’re doing will either make or break a fishing trip. When fishing cut baits on the bottom, you’ll want a size 2, 4, or 6 treble hook, depending on the size of the fish. For 30+lbs fish, you’ll want to go with a size 2. When fishing dough baits or livers on the bottom, you’ll want to use a size 4 or 6 treble hook that has a wire spring that runs up the shaft. That spring will help to hold the bait onto the hook. When fishing a float with cut bait, use a size 4, 6, or 8 straight hook. When fishing bloodworms on the bottom, try a size 6 or 8 straight hook.
I can’t stress enough about understanding the body of water you’re fishing. You may have the best gear in the world, but if you can’t find the fish then you can’t catch them. Learning depths, underwater structures, and water temperatures of lakes, ponds, or lagoons aren’t easy things to do. I recommend that you scout the body of water you are going to fish before you actually try to fish it. For large lakes, try to find deep holes that are adjacent to coves and inlets. You’ll also want to locate areas with sharp drop-offs, areas with underwater structures such as stumps or rocks in about 15 - 30 feet of water, target areas around buoy lines by the dam. Most importantly, learn the feeding areas of the fish for each season. During the winter months, focus on the deeper holes. As the water warms up the fish will move up. Keep these things in mind when you’re trying to locate a good spot.
Weather patterns will either enhance the bite or destroy it. When a cold front moves in, Blues will to go deeper and cause the fish to become sluggish. When a warm front moves in, the fish become active, and they tend to feed very aggressively for a few days. When you’re witnessing consistently warm temperatures without cloud cover focus on the shallower water with some kind of structure in the early morning and in the late evenings. As the sun moves up, focus on the drop-offs. Also, focus on the drop-offs as the sun is going down. On the other hand, cloud cover in the mornings will add a few hours to the feeding time of Blues, so you’ll be able to fish the shallows a little bit longer than you normally would. Just remember that the fishing will remain slow if the water temperature is below 64 degrees. When the water temperature of the lakes is still a little cool, fish the shallow ponds and lagoons. These bodies of water warm up quicker and the Blues will become active sooner than the Blues in a lake. Lagoons and ponds are great for fishing floats in the mornings. You’ll want to place your floats near under water structure or around cottontails. So, try not to fish only one body of water. Find yourself 4 or 5 different bodies of water with different depths. When one lake isn’t producing yet, go to the other.
Following these tips will help you catch more and larger Blue Catfish, consistently. Good luck and don’t forget the camera.