John's Journal...

August Fishing for Catfish with Brian Barton

Day 3: Monster Blue Catfish at Dams 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: Brian, you mentioned that you fish Wheeler Dam for big blue cats. Where and how do you fish there?

Barton: If you’re facing Wheeler Dam, and look to the left, you’ll see a big circular concrete structure about 150- to 200-yards from the dam in the lock. The locals know this as the Blowhole. When a boat’s going through the lock, it’s filled with water to raise the boat from Wilson Lake to Wheeler Lake or to lower a boat from Wheeler Lake to Wilson Lake. Click for Larger ViewAfter the flood gates open, and the boat passes through, the lock tender will flush the water out of the lock from an underwater pipe that goes to the Blowhole. As the water comes into the Blowhole, it often looks like a fountain of boiling water in the middle of a concrete structure, since the water is being released into Wilson Lake through the holes around the Blowhole. Near the Blowhole, if you use a depth finder, you’ll find big underwater boulders in 18 to 20 feet of water. So, search for these kinds of places where you fish. That’s where the 20-pound-plus monster cats often hang out. I use a slip cork up the line and a 3/4-ounce sinker with a glass or a plastic bead below the sinker. Then I tie-on a barrel swivel to the main line with about 2 feet of leader and a No. 5/0 to a No. 7/0 circle hook, I use a cut piece of hickory shad for bait. I set my sinker, so the bait will float about 1 or 2 feet off the bottom. I’ll put-out six to eight rods and slow-troll the area around the Blowhole for catfish. My favorite bait is a skipjack with about 2 to 3 inches of meat still attached behind its head or a large skipjack fillet.

Click for Larger ViewRecently, my son caught a 31-pound blue cat and I caught a 24-pound cat, in the same afternoon below the dam - my trophy-fishing area. We try to go to this spot at about 6:30 pm and fish until 8:00 pm or 8:30 pm. With the longer days in August, this region may not even be dark at 8:30 pm. Click for Larger ViewThere are very-few nights when we don’t get a big blue cat in this area using this technique. Usually the current is turned-off at about 9:00 pm or 9:30 pm. So, one of the reasons my trophy area is good late in the afternoon is because the big cats are feeding-up just before the current is turned-off. When the Tennessee Valley Authority is running the turbines on the left side, we’ll often get a back current all the way over to the dam.

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

Tomorrow: Fish Bridge Pilings for August Big Channel Blue Cats

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 3