John's Journal...

August Fishing for Catfish with Brian Barton

Day 2: Brian Barton Drifts to Catch Big Catfish in August

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.

Click for Larger ViewQuestion: What’s another method of catching cats when the weather’s hot?

Barton: My second-favorite method is to drift-fish from 50 yards to 1/2-mile below the dam when current’s running. I use a 1- or a 2-ounce sinker and fish either cut skipjack or hickory shad minnows. I put my trolling motor on the side of the boat like Brad does, so I can control my drift, and put-out eight rods. Click for Larger ViewI prefer to drift slowly, while I make about a 1/2-mile drift. I’ve found this tactic to be the best late in the evening when the shad minnows are schooling further-down the lake. When I see the hickory shad bust to the surface and feed-on those minnows, I know that the minnows have moved down the lake, and that more than likely a large number of catfish have pulled-away from the dam and are feeding further-down the lake. Remember that highly-oxygenated water coming out of the dam will stay highly oxygenated as it moves downriver. By using this tactic and eight rods, I can cover more water more quickly and catch more cats in the afternoon than I can closer to the dam.

Click for Larger ViewIf I’m using big bait and trying to catch big catfish, I’ll fish with either a No. 5/0 or a No. 7/0 circle hook and a big chunk of hickory shad. If I’m fishing for decent-sized cats, I’ll usually use a No. 2/0 or a No. 3/0 circle hook. Click for Larger ViewOn a good day, either fishing the grooves below the dam or fishing like I’ve just described, we’ll usually catch and release about 80 cats that will weigh from 1- to 5-pounds each with an occasional 20 pounder. On a bad day, we only may catch 20 cats. But if you have 20 cats that weigh 3- to 5-pounds each, you still have a lot of catfish to eat. In the afternoon, I’ll only drag-fish for 2 to 3 hours. Catching 20 to 25 cats is a good afternoon of fishing.

To fish with Brian Barton, email him at, or call 256-412-0969.

Tomorrow: Monster Blue Catfish at Dams in August

Check back each day this week for more about "August Fishing for Catfish with Brian Barton "

Day 1: Brian Barton Explains How to Fish for Hot-Weather Cats
Day 2: Brian Barton Drifts to Catch Big Catfish in August
Day 3: Monster Blue Catfish at Dams in August
Day 4: Fish Bridge Pilings for August Big Channel Blue Cats
Day 5: Best August Catfish Baits

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Entry 624, Day 2