John's Journal...

Billy Blakely Catches All Kinds of Fish at Blue Bank Resort on Tennessee's Reelfoot Lake

Catfish and Bass by Starlight

Click to enlargeEditor’s Note: Billy Blakely, the manager and the head guide of Blue Bank Resort on Reelfoot Lake near Tiptonville, Tennessee, says Reelfoot’s fishing in the late spring and all summer is as hot as a recently-shot pistol. The first week in May, while at Bluebank, my fishing friend and I saw good limits of crappie, bluegills, catfish and lunker largemouth being brought in every day, even on the days when the rain was pouring down. This week we’ll show and tell you what’s being caught at Reelfoot, and how anglers and guides are catching them.

Question: One of my favorite ways to catch cats out at Bluebank Resort on Reelfoot Lake is Yo-Yo fishing. Billy, when did you first start fishing with Yo-Yos?
Blakely: I started Yo-Yo fishing when I was a little kid. Back then I was catching catfish and selling ‘em to make spending money. I was primarily fishing with trotlines I’d run through the standing cypress trees out in the middle of the lake. One day, I saw this fellow fishing with these little reels tied to the limbs of the cypress trees. Just about every one of those limbs with a reel on it had a cat fish on it. I was fishing with big trotlines and baiting 800-1000 hooks a night, and this guy was using 50 Yo-Yos and catching more cats than I was catching on 1000 hooks. Too, he was catching his cats much faster than I was catching mine. I found out where he got his Yo-Yos (Mechanical Fishermen) from, and I ordered me some. Since I first started fishing Yo-Yos, I’ve never Click to enlargefished any other way for catfish other than with a Yo-Yo or a rod and reel.

Question: When you go out fishing at night to catch cats, how many Yo-Yos do you usually put out?
Blakely: The number of Yo-Yos I put out is dependent on the number of cats I want to catch and how many cats I want to clean. If I just want to catch cats to have a big fish fry, I’ll only put out about 4-dozen Yo-Yos. But if I’m serious about catfishing and want to put catfish fillets in the freezer, I’ll put out 7- or 8-dozen Yo-Yos. When you put out 7 or 8 dozen about an hour before dark and fish until just before daylight, you can count on a full night of baiting hooks and landing catfish and often catch 500 to 600 catfish. Then you’ll need about a half a day for skinning and filleting those catfish you’ve caught. If you stay out all night and run Yo-Yos regularly, you can usually expect to catch two to three catfish per Yo-Yo.

Question: How much do Yo-Yos cost?
Blakely: They’re about $30 a dozen.

Question: What do you bait with, Billy, to catch catfish?
Blakely: I use large night crawlers. I cut those night crawlers to get about four baits from each. You don’t want to put a lot of bait on the hook when you’re fishing with Yo-Yos. You want to have just enough bait so that when the catfish comes to eat that bait, he can get the entire bait in his mouth at one time. When the catfish hits that bait, the fish will trip the trigger on the Yo-Yo, and the coil spring inside the Yo-Yo will uncoil quickly and set the hook. Then as the catfish tries to swim off, the catfish will pull the coiled spring inside the Yo-Yo tighter, putting moClick to enlargere pressure on the line. When the catfish slows down or quits running, the coiled spring inside the Yo-Yo will begin to unwind and pull the catfish back to the tree and right under the spot where you’ve got the Yo-Yo tied.
Besides night crawlers, I’ll also bait with Strike King Dynamite lengths because they put off a strong smell that’s easy for the catfish to find.

Question: What size hooks are you using?
Blakely: I use a No. 1/0 hook, and I always tie my Yo-Yo to a green limb that the catfish can’t break.

Question: What’s the biggest cat you’ve ever caught on a Yo-Yo?
Blakely: The biggest catfish I’ve ever caught weighed 46 pounds. One of the reasons I like Yo-Yo fishing is because you can tie the Yo-Yos close to the base of the tree where the catfish like to feed at night. And, Yo-Yos are much easier to set out and take up than a trotline or bush hooks. I don’t put any lead on mine. I let the weight of the hook take my bait down. Ever now and then I’ll have a big cat get inside the roots of the tree, but most of the time the Yo-Yo will keep the catfish out from under the roots and up nClick to enlargeear the surface where they’re easy to land and take off the hook.

Question: You usually fish with Yo-Yos at night, don’t you?
Blakely: When we fish with Yo-Yos really depends on our customers. You can catch a good number of cats by fishing late afternoon until late after dark, but you can Yo-Yo fish all night long if you prefer. Yo-Yo fishing also works well for fishermen who like to fish for bass, bream or crappie and Yo-Yo at the same time for cats. You can put your Yo-Yos out, go fishing, come back to your Yo-Yos and collect your cats. If someone just wants to go Yo-Yo fishing, we charge $200, and we provide the rigged Yo-Yos, bait, dip nets, an ice chest and ice. All the fishermen have to do is get in the boat, and we’ll go. You also can Yo-Yo fish for bass. If we’re Yo-Yo fishing for bass, we’ll generally leave the dock about 2:00 or 3:00 pm and come in about 8:00 or 9:00 pm.

Question: One of the problems with catching that many catfish is cleaning those cats. Do you have people available for cleaning the cats for the fishermen?
Blakely: Yes, we do. I think they charge about 25 cents a pound for cleaning catfish. They’ll clean them any way you want them - skinned and headed and left whole or filleted. They’ll put the catfish in plastic bags and put them in the freezer if you want them to, or they’ll ice them down for you to take them home.

For further information about Blue Bank Resort, you can call (877) 258-3226 or (731) 253-8976 or visit Until May 31st, Blue Bank has a special where you can fish (includes boat, motor, gas, bait and ice) for 4 days and stay either 3 or 4 nights for $169/person, with the $209 per person after that time. And, as Blakely explains, “If someone chooses not to hire a guide, we try and tell the folks where to go and how to fish.”

Check back each day this week for more about "Billy Blakely Catches All Kinds of Fish at Blue Bank Resort on Tennessee's Reelfoot Lake"

Day 1: Bluegills and Shellcrackers at Their Best
Day 2: Bass Fishing at Blue Bank Resort
Day 3: The Crappie King at Reelfoot
Day 4: Catfish in the Sunshine
Day 5: Catfish and Bass by Starlight



Entry 404, Day 5