John's Journal...

How to Find and Catch Catfish

Day 4: Fishing Tailrace Waters’ Grooves for Catfish

Click for Larger ViewClick for Larger ViewWhen you talk about catfishing, many anglers’ minds flash a vision of bubbling, swift-moving, tailrace waters. In most areas of the country, the swift water below power plants and dams generally holds large concentrations of cats, such as the Wheeler Dam on the Tennessee River in north Alabama. One day, all day long, I watched a fisherman and his wife load the boat with catfish as they drifted through the swift water and bumped the bottom with heavy leads and shad gut for bait. At times, I moved to within 8 - 10 feet of these folks to try and catch catfish like they did. However, they consistently caught four or five catfish to my one. At the end of the day, when my pride could stand it no longer, I went up and introduced myself to Poker Parker and his wife. I asked what they were doing that I was not.

“We’re fishing the groove, and you aren’t,” Parker replied. Now I was totally bewildered. I could see no grooves in the water - just the bubbling discharge from the 12-discharge holes of the hydroelectric plant. “What do you mean - the groove?” I asked. “Well, John, doesn’t the water come out of one of the 12 holes when the water is discharged out of each of the turbines?” Parker said. “Yes,” I answered. “Between each hole is a concrete divider,” Parker explained. “As the water comes out from the turbines, those concrete dividers break the flow of the current and leave a ‘groove’ or water that’s not moving as fast as the water on either side of the groove. When you drift back and bump the bottom, the water in the groove is moving just a little slower than the water on either side of it, although all the water appears to be moving at the same rate. Also the two currents come together in the groove and bring food from both sides of the turbines. Even though the water is swift, the water between the two turbines is less swift than on either side of the turbine, something catfish prefer.

Click for Larger ViewClick for Larger View“As we drift back in the tailrace grooves, we use two, three-way swivels. A lead heavy enough to get the line to the bottom is attached to the bottom of the first, three-way swivel. On the next eye of the swivel, we tie a 12-inch piece of leader and a #1 Eagle Claw catfish hook. To the next eye of the three-way swivel, we attach 12 inches of leader and fasten a second, three-way swivel to which another hook and line is attached and the line going to our rod. Then we pull up to the turbines, slow our motor down and let the boat drift back while we bump the bottom with our catfish rigs. We’ve found that since shad gut is the natural food of the cats in this area, the catfish will hit this bait more readily than they will any other type of bait. By drifting with the current and bumping our baits along the bottom, we feel we present the bait more naturally to the catfish than any other way.” And after fishing a day with Parker, I soon learned the potency of his groove-fishing technique for catfish.

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About the Author

John Phillips, winner of the 2012 Homer Circle Fishing Award for outstanding fishing writer by the American Sportfishing Association (ASA) and the Professional Outdoor Media Association (POMA), the 2008 Crossbow Communicator of the year and the 2007 Legendary Communicator chosen for induction into the National Fresh Water Hall of Fame, is a freelance writer (over 6,000 magazine articles for about 100 magazines and several thousand newspaper columns published), magazine editor, photographer for print media as well as industry catalogues (over 25,000 photos published), lecturer, outdoor consultant, marketing consultant, book author and daily internet content provider with an overview of the outdoors. Click here for more information and a list of all the books available from John E. Phillips.

Tomorrow: Trotlining to Catch More Catfish

Check back each day this week for more about How to Find and Catch Catfish

Day 1: Learn from the Late Carl Lowrance - Mr. Depth Finder - about Catching Catfish
Day 2: More Tactics from Mr. Depth Finder Carl Lowrance on Catching Catfish
Day 3: Fishing Small Streams for Catfish
Day 4: Fishing Tailrace Waters’ Grooves for Catfish
Day 5: Trotlining to Catch More Catfish

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Entry 829, Day 4