John's Journal...

August Fishing for Catfish with Brian Barton

Day 4: Fish Bridge Pilings for August Big Channel Blue 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.

Click for Larger ViewQuestion: Brian, how do you fish bridge pilings?

Barton: I went down to the new bridge when I saw a big rainstorm coming. I wanted to get under the new bridge out of the weather, so I put-out my anchor to hold me under the bridge and out of the rain and let one rod drift behind the bridge pilings. The current was running from the dam, and before my bait could reach the bottom, I caught a 2-1/2-pound blue cat. I started fishing directly behind the piling and caught fish. When the cats stopped biting behind one bridge piling, I’d move to another. We caught a large number of catfish with this tactic. I don’t fish behind bridge pilings very often, but the few times I’ve tried this method, I’ve caught good numbers of catfish. This bridge I fished is only about a 1/2-mile from the dam. The cats are lying behind that bridge piling, behind the current, and attacking bait that comes by them. Usually these catfish are channel cats; I don’t catch many blue cats using this technique.

Click for Larger ViewQuestion: Where’s another place you like to catch catfish in the August heat?

Barton: I like to fish around an old steam plant, which is just below the bridge. Some big circular piers block the water between the old railroad bridge and the O’Neal Bridge, and this is where there are some backwater eddies. When the water hits those current breaks, it causes a backwater eddy, because the current coming-down the river hits that concrete, turns and starts flowing back upstream. For the catfish to hole-up in there, you need a really-strong current. These areas can produce great catfishing. The ideal place to fish is in the groove where the back current goes upstream next to the down current that’s going downstream. Most times the catfish we catch are 2- to 5-pound channel cats, but we’ll occasionally catch a nice-sized blue cat. I rig with a three-way swivel in the same way as I do when I’m fishing below the dam and fish straight down the side of the boat. I also use a modified Carolina rig. I’ll use a 2-ounce egg sinker up the line, a bead below the egg sinker, a barrel swivel below the bead, a 36-inch leader and a hook. About halfway between the hook and the swivel, I put on a crappie fishing cork that crappie fishermen use. I use a small, thumb-sized green cork, because the catfish can’t see it. The float in the middle of my leader keeps the bait from coming-up off the bottom and prevents a lot of hang-ups.

Click for Larger ViewQuestion: If you want to catch one really-big channel cat, where do you go, and how do you fish?

Barton: I’d anchor-down on the old river channel and use a bottom bumping rig, like I did to fish the grooves, or use my modified Carolina rig and wait on the big catfish to bite. I’ve caught channel cats that have weighed up to 15 pounds fishing that old river channel.

Click for Larger ViewQuestion: Where is another place on Wilson Lake to catch catfish?

Barton: I’ll fish some 60- to 65-foot-deep holes on Wilson.

Question: What do you do with those cats when you catch them?

Barton: I release them, after weighing all the big channel cats.

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

Tomorrow: Best August Catfish Baits

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 4