August Fishing for Catfish with Brian Barton
Day 1: Brian Barton Explains How to Fish for Hot-Weather Cats
Editor’s Note: Brian Barton of Muscle Shoals, Alabama, earned money in high school and college as a commercial catfisherman, fishing trotlines and slat boxes. Barton believes that Wilson Lake on the Tennessee River in north Alabama homes more catfish than any of the other Tennessee River lakes. Barton recently began using his knowledge of catfishing to guide other fishermen to big blue cats and nets full of cats. To learn how to catch the most cats in the shortest time, Barton looked to crappie guide, Brad Whitehead of Muscle Shoals, Ala., one of the students he taught in high school. After seeing how Whitehead used his War Eagle Boat to successfully fish for crappie, Barton tried side-pulling for catfish. This tactic has produced 50 to 80 catfish per day for his customers. This week, Barton will tell us his tactics for side-pulling for catfish and explain how he catches 20-pound-plus blue channel cats.
Question: Brian, do you prefer to catch big catfish or numbers of cats?
Barton: I’ve caught large numbers of cats my entire life, especially in college when I was commercial fishing. So, the challenge for me now is to try to catch and release big blue channel cats. When I’m fishing by myself, I target the 20-pound-plus blue cats.
Question: What’s the biggest blue cat you’ve ever caught?
Barton: The biggest blue cat I’ve caught on a rod and reel weighed 58 pounds.
Question: How do you catch those hot-weather catfish?
Barton: Right now in August, catfish are looking for oxygenated and cooler water that holds plenty of baitfish. So, at this time of the year, I’ve found that you have to fish the current or fish extremely deep, oftentimes 60- to 70-feet deep, to find the cats. My best tactic right now is to fish below Wheeler Dam on Wilson Lake. I use 3- to 4-inch live yellowtail minnows, if I can find them, because that’s the natural bait of the catfish. If I can’t locate yellowtails, I’ll catch live hickory shad, cut them into chunks and fish them on the bottom. I’ll have a three-way swivel going-to the main line. On another eye of the three-way swivel, I’ll have 1 to 2 feet of leader tied to the lead to kick my bait about 2 to 3 feet off the bottom as it bumps the bottom. On the third part of the swivel, I’ll tie 2 to 3 feet of 20-pound-test Vicious monofilament line and add my hook and bait. I keep my motor in gear, go to the base of the dam and slowly bump the bottom where two running turbines are generating outflow. Where those two currents come together and collide, the water is less swift than it is on either side of the seams. That’s the quickest way to catch the most cats in the shortest time. I used to use 50-pound-test Vicious fluorocarbon line and 60-pound-test Vicious braided line on my main line. But now I’m fishing fluorocarbon line below the dams most of the time. Then if I get hung-up in the rocks, I can break the line and the hooks, wait and continue to fish. Trying to break braided line is difficult.
I point the boat’s nose toward the turbines, slowly let-off the gas to bump the bottom as we drift backwards and catch cats. Not only do I catch the most catfish using this technique, I’ll catch some really-big cats. I saw an unusual phenomenon the last time I caught catfish. The 5- to 6-pound blue cats were surfacing and feeding on bait in groups. The blue cats were so focused on that bait that I actually took my dip net and got seven blue cats in one swipe of the net before releasing them. And when I saw that the cats were biting on the surface, all we had to do was hook-up shad minnows with no leads and cast them out to the surfacing cats. Any place you can pinpoint those yellow tail minnows schooling at this time of the year, you’ll be able to find and catch catfish. I’ve been fishing below Wheeler Dam on Wilson Lake my entire life, and this is only the second year I’ve seen blue cats surfacing. Most of the time the cats either will be suspended in those groups or holding on the bottom. The water coming through the turbines is coming from the bottom of Wheeler Lake, so it’s cool, and when it goes through the turbines, it becomes highly-oxygenated. Oftentimes shad are sucked-through turbines and get cut-up, producing plenty of food for the cats. Because the water is so oxygenated, the shad minnows begin to feed. The water below hydroelectric plants is much like a tremendous buffet bringing a wide variety of food in air-conditioned comfort for the cats. So, the hotter the weather is, the better the catfishing will be below the dams that are running current. That’s where I’ll usually catch the bigger cats, and you can too in your area. I once used 50-pound-test Vicious fluorocarbon line and 60-pound-test Vicious braided line on my main line. But now I’m fishing fluorocarbon line below the dams most of the time. Then if I get hung-up in the rocks, I can break the line and the hooks, wait and continue to fish. Trying to break braided line is difficult.
To fish with Brian Barton, email him at email@example.com, or call 256-412-0969.