TECHNIQUES & EQUIPMENT
The techniques that I use will vary as to the time of year, water temperature, river level and other variables. In the spring time, say April thru June, I will usually anchor for Blues, Channels or Flatheads and use the appropriate bait for each:
Blue Cats will require the Quantum Big Cat Rods in medium, medium heavy or heavy actions, depending on the current fished. The reels will be Quantum Cabo CLW20PT loaded with Stren Super Braid in 65-80lb test. Large chunks of Shad or Skipjack herring are baits of choice. The Eagle Claw Black Platinum (L141BP) hooks in sizes from 7/0 to 10/0 or for the circle hook lover the Eagle Claw Black Platinum (L7228BP) circle hooks in 6/0 to 8/0.
Flatheads can also be a good specie to go after this time of year and the tackle used will be the same as for the Blues but Live bait is always the bait of choice for the Flathead. Many times the Flatheads will be caught in the same area as the Blues. We have very little timber (wood) cover along the banks of the river, due to the natural silting of the river, therefore rocks and concrete deposited by the U.S. Corp of Engineers is our cover.
Channel Cats are the fun and action fish in the Spring. They are not only in a feeding frenzy but they are searching for the right place to spawn. Baits will vary but Shad Guts are hard to beat for Channels any time of the year. The tackle will be downsized with the Quantum 7ft. Medium Heavy Blue Runner rods (BRIC70MH) with the Quantum 1420MG reels being an excellent choice. Stren Super Braid in 30-40lb. test and Eagle Claw L141BP Kahle hooks in #1-2/0 sizes work best.
* NOTE: Most all my fishing is done with the 3-way swivel rigs as illustrated #1 or the slip sinker rig as illustrated #2. Weight sizes depend on the current speed, with just the minimum required to hold the bait on the bottom being just right. All my Monofilament leaders are Mamoi Diamond in 20-60 lb test. I use light test lines on my sinker leader and no more than 10-15 lb. less than my Braid, for the hook leaders.
In the warmer summer months of July, August and September, the Blue Cat is the main target. I fish two methods, one is anchoring and the other is drifting with the current. When anchoring, I use a lot of cut bait loaded on a 7/0-10/0 Eagle Claw Kahle Black Platinum (L141BP) hook tied to 50-60lb Mamoi Diamond mono leader. Rods are either the medium heavy or the heavy action Quantum Big Cat rods with the Quantum Cabo CLW20PT reels. The reels are loaded with 65-80 lb. Stren Super Braid. Swift currents, requiring 4 to 12 oz of weights, are where the fish will be, which will usually run from 5 to 20 lbs or larger.
My second method is drifting with the current. This is done by floating along the bluff sand bars or channel edges of revetment banks , bumping the bottom with a 4 oz weight and a chunk of cut bait the size of a golf ball or bigger. The rod of choice is the Quantum Cabo (CBIC70MH) 7 foot light weight but stout inshore graphite rod equipped with the Quantum Cabo (CBC20PT) casting reels loaded with 40-50 lb. Stern Super Braid. This is a relatively light weight rig allowing a customer to hold the rod for several hours without too much tiring. Bumping the bottom requires constant feel of the bottom and some customers have trouble maintaining proper contact with the bottom, that is when we go to my other method of drifting. That method being, casting the baits upstream and just dragging the bait along the sand bar bottom. This new rod has a sensitive tip which vibrates with every bump of the bottom since we have to fish the relatively smooth sand bars to avoid hangs. The control drifting and Bumping the bottom, in my opinion, is the best technique but if my customers can't get the hang of it, we will DRAG. Early morning hours are usually best and will beat the heat too!
When the weather begins to cool in October, I will start targeting the Flathead Cats again as they begin to fatten up for the winter. The equipment will be the same as we have been using while anchored for the Spring and Summer time Blues. Of course, live bait will be used along the structure of the rip-rap banks with moderate current. The largest Flatheads of the year are caught at this time of year. Also during October, I fish for the Blue Cats and will have good luck. Many times we catch Flatheads while fishing for Blues and Blues while fishing for Flatheads. It will be a mixed bag most days. This is a very good month to fish this area because of the mild weather, with late October, normally, being the best.
In the months of November and December, fishing can get outstanding. When the water temperature falls below 50 degrees, as it usually does this time of year, the Flathead fishing will slow down and the Blue Cats will put on the feed bag. The Blue Cats will also start moving toward their wintering holes as the water temperature dips below 40 degrees, and that is when large numbers of 5 to 50lb Blues can be caught. We fish the wintering holes with the Quantum Big Cat rods, Quantum Cabo CLW20PT reels, Stren Braided line and Eagle Claw Kahle hooks just like we use in the Spring and Summer. The water clarity is best from late September through December. Memphis usually has a lot of mild days during November and December with air temperatures ranging from a low of the 20's to highs in the 50's. Cut baits and whole baits are used this time of year.
January and February can produce some good fishing, however, the weather can cancel a day of fishing. High winds or rain can make a day miserable and with changing climatic conditions the fish can become very stubborn. I don't recommend persons traveling long distances to come to Memphis, just to fish, this time of year because we might not get to go out. I want my customers to have a pleasant visit and catch some fish, not shiver and get skunked! I will always give my customers a 100% effort for them to catch fish but all I can guarantee is a boat ride. I am happy with my success rate over the past 10 years as a Guide, but some days are just not as good as others. That is why we call it "fishing" instead of "catching"!