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John's Journal... Entry 247, Day 3


Don't Anchor Down When Fishing For Cats On The Rocks

Editor's Note: Although you can catch channel catfish around rock walls, riprap, rocky bluffs and almost anywhere you find rock cover in shallow water, from now until the end of June, the channel cats will be spawning in many areas of the South. Phil King, of Corinth, Mississippi, one of the nation's top competitive catfishermen, has a string of catfish-tournament wins that will embarrass a show pony. Before King fished in catfish tournaments, he was a commercial catfisherman, feeding his family with his knowledge of where, when and how to find and catch cats. This week, King tells us where and how to catch cats on the rocks with Strike King's new Catfish Dynamite, Catfish Dip Bait, Catfish Bites and Catfish Dynamite Dough.

Question: Phil, when you're fishing for cats on the rocks, you never use an anchor like many cat fishermen do. Instead you use a trolling motor and cast down the bank, like a bass fisherman will. Why do you use this technique?
King: I'm targeting craggy rock banks and any visible wood I can see in the water. I look for anywhere there's a hole in the bank that channel cats can get into and spawn. One of the advantages I have is that I fish Pickwick Lake in the wintertime for cats also. During the winter months, the lake often will be 6-feet low, and I can see all the chunk rocks, holes in rocky bluffs, wood cover and broken rocks where cats can spawn. So, I may be fishing down what appears to be a straight rock bluff that looks like solid rock going down into the water but actually has some holes in it underwater. Most fishermen who only see catfish in the spring and summer don't see all that structure that is under the water that is visible in the wintertime. I've learned that there is plenty of structure down most rocky banks, and I feel that the more moves you make until you find catfish, the more cats you'll catch. That's why I use my trolling motor and cast towards the bank until I start catching cats. Oftentimes, you'll catch from one to six cats in one spot. But, then you need to continue to move on down the bank until you find another hot spot.

Question: Phil, how many cats will you catch at one site?
King: If I'm fishing down the bank, and I see one big crack in a sheer rock wall, I may catch five or six channel cats by casting to that crack. Most days, I'll often catch two or three cats out of that same general area before I move down the bank. If there is a catfish in or near the area where you cast your bait, he'll attack rather quickly. If a catfish doesn't hit quickly, more than likely there's not one there.

Question: Why do you use such light line on these catfish?
King: I like to fish the Cabela's SSI Guide Reel and a 7-foot medium-action rod, and with an ultralight outfit like this, you can have a lot of fun catching cats. The fun of catching cats on hook and line is the fight, and on ultralight, the fight lasts longer and is more challenging.

Question: What is the best day of fishing you have had when you've been fishing for cats on the rocks?
King: I've had several days where I've caught 120 to 140 pounds of cats in a day. About three weeks ago in April 2004, I had a party that caught 75 channel cats fishing down the rocks like this, and those cats probably weighed more than 140 pounds total. If you watch your water temperature, you can start catching these cats on the rocks in April in the South. The best month is May, and by the end of June, the spawn is almost over. The most-productive time to fish for the cats in shallow water is just before, during or just after the full moon, during April, May and June. When the cats aren't spawning, they usually will hold in 10 to 15 feet of water waiting for the conditions to be right to move into spawn. But you can catch these channel cats on rock bluffs throughout these three months in either shallow water or that 10- to 15-foot depth near the shallow water.

Question: Do the cats leave the rocks after the spawn?
King: No. You can still catch them on the rocks, because channel cats look for more-shallow water to feed in than blue cats do. Usually you'll find mussels and algae around the rocks on which the cats can feed. Also, if you fish a wind-blown rock bank, the wind will blow the shad up against the bank, and the cats will feed on the shad. There are all kinds of bait for cats around rocky banks. Any lake that homes channel cats where you find manmade riprap is another great spot to look for channel cats at this time of the year.

Question: Where can you catch the cats after June?
King: I go below Pickwick Dam and fish the rocks when there's no current. For some reason, the channel cats and the blue cats will move onto rocky banks to feed when there's no current being generated from the dam. I think that fact's true in the tailraces of most dams during the hot summer months.

If you'd like more information about Phil King, how he fishes, where he fishes, how he can clean a catfish in 11 seconds, and some great recipes for catfish, call (662) 286-8644 or go to www.h2ow.com/catfish/. To learn more about fishing below the dam at Pickwick, contact the Hardin County Convention and Visitor’s Bureau at info@tourhardincounty.org, call 731-925-8181 or 800-552-3866, or visit www.tourhardincounty.org. Pickwick Landing State Park offers fishing, boating, hiking, camping, swimming and golf. Lodging includes the lakeside inn with over 100 rooms, cabins that sleep eight and a campground that contains 48 sites with grill and electric/water hookup at each site. A restaurant at the park offers delicious southern cuisine. Call 731-689-3135 or 800-250-8615 to learn more.




Check back each day this week for more about CATS ON THE ROCKS ...

Day 1 - Cats On The Rocks
Day 2 - How To Rig To Catch Cats On The Rocks
Day 3 - Don't Anchor Down When Fishing For Cats On The Rocks
Day 4 - After The Spawn
Day 5 - Dynamite And Cats

John's Journal