John's Journal... Entry 53, Day 2
EDITOR'S NOTE: To consistently catch very big catfish, you must have knowledge of where to find and how to catch these monster-sized fish. In many lakes and rivers throughout the United States, catfish weighing more than 50 pounds cruise the bottoms.
When you check the record books at the National Catfish Championship held on Lake Santee/Cooper in South Carolina, one name stands out -- K.C. Mims of Royston, Georgia. Kent Mims has won the National Catfish Championship three times in the last several years. In 1986, Mims weighed in 210 pounds of catfish for 30 hours of fishing with his biggest cat weighing 62 pounds. Mims won in 1987 by only catching 160 pounds of catfish with the biggest weighing 30 pounds. Then in 1988, Mims brought in a whopping 410 pounds of catfish with four of the fish weighing more than 50 pounds each. The largest catfish weighed 54 pounds.
Mims believes several factors produce the monster-sized cats on Santee/Cooper.
"This lake homes plenty of shad and herring for the catfish to feed on, and the warm, shallow waters cause the cats to grow at a rate of 5 to 6 pounds a year," Mims mentioned. "The fish themselves are descendents of some Arkansas blue cats that originally came from Arkansas in 1964 when South Carolina swapped striped bass for 83 blue cats."
Mims, who annually guides anglers to the big cats at Santee/Cooper, on an average trip finds a party can expect to catch 70 pounds of catfish with probably two trips required to produce a 40-pound plus cat. Time and patience, Mims believes, are the key ingredients to catching big catfish.
According to Mims, blue cats are roamers, which means an angler must have his baits in the water instead of running all over the lake. The best time of year to catch the huge catfish at Santee/Cooper is either during the prespawn in April or in the late post-spawn in July and September. To take the big cats, Mims uses a 7-foot casting rod and 30- pound test Trilene XT or XT Solar line.
"I like this line, because it picks up the sunlight and allows me to see the line as it disappears under the water," Mims explained. "The ability to watch my line is very important when I'm trying to land a big catfish. Then I can see the direction in which the cat is headed and chase the catfish down. I like a Daiwa bait-casting reel."
Mims rigs his line by using either a 3/4- to a 1-ounce sinker on the line, a barrel swivel below the sinker, 3 feet of 30-pound test leader and a No. 5/O Eagle Claw hook. In the spring, Mims baits with herring or gizzard shad.
"When I'm fishing for big cats, I'll use a whole 3-inch gizzard shad, or I'll take a 12- to 14-inch gizzard shad and cut it up into chunks," Mims reported. "Either bait will produce big cats."
Mims drifts in his boat over humps, drop-offs and along creek ledges to find the big cats.
"When wind conditions are right, you can drift with your lines almost straight down under the boat," Mims said. "However, often on Santee, the wind will be so strong you won't be able to fish that way. I let a lot of line out behind the boat and actually drag my baits across the bottom. That's how I cover more water and find more big fish. My anglers and I do get hung up quite often using this method. But if we're not getting hung, we're also not catching catfish."
To learn more information about catching catfish, go to Night Hawk Publications' Home Page, click on books, and then go to fishing books to see John Phillips' "The Masters' Secrets of Catfishing." You can buy the book by sending a check or a money order for $13.95 to Night Hawk Publications, 4112 Camp Horner Road, Birmingham, AL 35243 or use a credit card by calling (800) 627-4295.
Tomorrow: Otis Smith