Expert catfishermen know when the shad make a move, the blue catfish are likely right with them, and the forage and predators have made that transition at Lake Wateree.
Drew Reeser of Blythewood had the kind of day on the water last week that is representative of the action fishermen are having targeting cats. Fishing with his 92-year-old grandfather, George Madewell, he found big blue catfish piled up in the backs of creeks and large coves. Madewell, visiting from Tennessee, caught a 35-pound blue and a 20-pounder on back-to-back drifts, plus a lot more in the 6- to 15-pound class. The pattern held in every creek and cove fished over the course of several days.
Reeser said the key was to find the shad in the backs of the creeks and then simply fish there.
"We'd been fishing a drop at the mouth of a creek on the main channel when I saw a lot of shad in the back of the creek," Reeser said. "The shad we're popping the surface like popcorn, so we went back to water about 10 foot deep and began drifting using standard drift rigs.
"We hooked the 35-pounder within the first five minutes, then several more good-sized cats. On the very next drift we caught a 20-pounder just after we began, and it was game on. We stuck with the pattern, and the fish just kept on biting, and we kept on fishing."
Reeser was primarily using chunks of gizzard shad and bluegill as his primary baits.
"Most of the gizzard shad were about 4 to 6 inches long, caught fresh with a cast net," he said. "We primarily used the heads as bait, fishing them behind the drift rig. However we caught plenty of big catfish on bream – again, using mostly heads – but we also caught some big catfish on chicken breast chunks soaked in WD-40.
"I think the key was not so much what bait we fished, but just getting a reasonable bait in front of these vigorously feeding fish in the creeks and coves loaded with forage. We did best drift fishing, but when the wind was slack, anchoring and fan-casting around the boat in 10 to 20-feet of water worked, too."
Reeser said that the bite is very consistent throughout the day, and multiple hookups occurred frequently.
"We found the sandy and hard bottom areas in the mid-to-back of every creek and large cove we fished held lots of hefty, pot-bellied, aggressive blue catfish."