Identifying Catfish Locations From Shore
By Brad Durick
These days, as catfishing gets more and more press, and more and more technical, it seems that some of the conversation has shifted from the traditional way of doing things. We read about drifting vast lake flats for giant blue cats or using high end side imaging to find mid river channel catfish. Still today a lot more people who chase the beloved catfish, fish them from shore rather than from boats. These shore anglers are no longer sidelined with a lack of technology and knowledge as they once were. Even the shore comes with high end tactics these days.
It is true that many catfish anglers will go down to the old honey hole and sit by the bank with the hopes of catching a catfish for dinner. Others base their fishing locations on where they can drive to easily and set up camp with little effort. Neither of these spot picking techniques are wrong if that is how you want to do it. Of course, there is the pack light and be willing to walk tactic that puts you on the road less traveled to the water less fished.
When you look for a fishing spot or new water to fish, how do you go about it? Where do you go? What do you look for? I recently posed this question to a few shore anglers who are hard core into how they go about dissecting spots. Some of their methods are pretty simple and typical of most anglers while others are really out there but one thing is for sure, you cannot argue with the results.
Pre Trip Research
The invention of Google Earth has really changed the game of fishing. With just the click of a mouse you can have a satellite shot of any body of water you want. It allows you to see the basic layout of the lake or river and identify areas that may hold fish.
Billy Brazier, uses it not only to identify “fishy” spots but to find roads and access points to get him off the beaten path to fish the water less tested.
Scott Ross also uses Google Earth, but says he also uses contour maps that have been made for his area lakes. This mapping allows him to get an idea of what lies beneath. He said he likes to find areas of steep banks near shore as well as shallow flats that will draw catfish up to feed at night.
Another great way to utilize the information from Google Earth is to go on a “dry run.” This means leave the fishing gear at home and just go for a walk to see what the access is like and get a firsthand glimpse at the spots you thought looked “fishy”. This will also allow you to find the best way in and out without dragging all your gear along.
A 21st Century way to do some pre-trip research as a shore angler is get a depth finder with a castable transducer. Some of the more known units on the market are the PiranaMAX from Humminbird or the new SonarPhone from Vexilar.
These units have transducers that can easily be attached to a line and can be cast out to the spot you would like to view. This allows you to have eyes in the water even from shore giving you the advantage of knowing what is going on, a luxury that was once only enjoyed by the boat guys.
Wayne Olson, says he takes many dry runs with just his SonarPhone with a T-Pod (the transducer) hooked to a heavy rod. He checks out the spots he thinks might be good then casts out his T-Pod letting the river currents float it down stream. As it floats he watches and notes the information as it comes back on his IPad. If he finds a hole or other structure that he wants to learn more about he just casts and floats, casting a little shorter (closer to him) each time while taking notes and eventually has a fairly accurate map of the area for later use.
Billy Brazier tells me he does something similar but more old school. He says he uses a sinker on a line with no hook and makes multiple casts to eventually find the drop off points, deep and shallow spots.
Chasing Catfish From Shore
Now that we have done the homework and we have the spots and fishing areas broken down it is time to go fishing. After all, nothing tells you how good a spot is quite like putting some bait down for a firsthand look. Olson and Brazier, both river guys will set up on a current seam that drops into a hole or runs into a snag of some kind. They are looking for feeding catfish along this current seam. They are also trying to put bait in the other area to call out a resting or ambushing catfish.
These guys look at many factors that might play into a bite or not when they arrive. They check water temperature to see if the fish are on a feeding pattern or a sluggish pattern. They also look at flows to see if rising or falling water have changed their preferred current seam. From there, they make longer or shorter casts to stay on the current seam. They can also adjust to faster current for feeding fish or slower water that is tighter to structure in the case of catfish being a bit negative.
Another thing to keep in mind, is adjusting weight to the conditions to keep the bait in the desired strike zone. I have heard Olson say that he was using five ounce sinkers to hold on a current seam while guys in boats in similar areas were fishing with three ounce lead. The reason for the heavier sinker is to keep the bait down with the current pulling on the line when it is perpendicular to the river flow.
While the river guys are adding lead to stay in the strike zone, Scott Ross is taking weight off to run his “no weight” line in the shallow flats of the lake. He says the no weight rig in shallow water allows the bait to act more natural for the fish to find. He noted that this works better with cut bait than live bait.
Ross is an advocate of playing the wind to stay on lake fish. He says that the fish rely on the wind of lakes as much as river fish rely on current to feed. Ross says “west is best” when referring to the wind. He likes to get the wind at his back or side to create an almost current seam where the waves break. This bunches up the shad along that wind break. Simply drop the bait right on that wave line and the fish will come to you as they feed down the seam.
No matter where you fish or whether you fish in a lake or river these are some solid ways to find new spots and stay out of the community holes and off the beaten path to catch more and bigger catfish. You can make the process as simple or advanced as you want it. Don’t let the idea of being on shore get in the way of catching fish. You have 21st Century technology and catfish tactics on your side to create success on the water.