Monster Hunt: Ledge Lunker Blues Part I
Originally published in Procats Online Magazine
Summertime angling for trophy-sized blue cats on huge reservoirs can be tough. Peer across an expansive lake and the sheer vastness will seemingly swallow you whole. Where do you start? Do you just go out and look around with a good locator and hope to see some arches and begin fishing? Based on past experiences you know two things. Sometimes you have to drift. Other times you'll have to anchor. How do you know which to do first and what types of structure are you looking for that will hold big burly blue cats?
Procat pro-staffer Jeff Williams ardently targets big blues on Truman Reservoir and Lake of the Ozarks in Missouri. A lifetime of big-lake catfishing has taught him a thing or two about catfish behavior in reservoirs, and according to Jeff you can put more fish into the boat if you learn a few keys to summertime blue cat location. Before we get into the fishing part let's look at the two lakes Jeff fishes.
Many lakes around the country have different bottom styles from sheer drops down into as much as 180 foot of water on canyon terrain reservoirs, to relatively shallow featureless bowls with subtle drops in depth. Not all lakes are built alike but trophy-sized blues behave in similar ways wherever they swim - especially when it comes to relating to the same types of cover and depth according to the season you are fishing.
While Jeff targets cats in a variety of situations during the summer period, he reports that during the warm-water post-spawn period, drift fishing is in his most productive pattern for most days on both lakes for numbers of fish.
He looks for areas where the bottom has subtle rises and drops going from just below and well above the thermocline. "During the hotter water period, the thermocline is everything." Jeff uses his locator to mark fish on gently sloping ledges with the right depth before he deploys his baits and begins a drift. "You can find fish holding on steep ledges in the summer but steep ledges are difficult to get the right drift to stay in contact with numbers of fish. I prefer gentle rises and drops in a long diverse bottom contour area. Once you catch a few fish, make a note at what depth you're catching them in. If you're catchin' fish in 16 foot of water around a 12 foot hump - you'd better find some more 16 foot of water to drift around in."
Why Drift During Summer
Jeff anchor fishes ledges, flats, trenches, wood cover, and steep drops during most of the year except during the hot-water post-spawn period. Big blues will hold on specific cover part of the time and roam around in tight areas looking for food before relocating during the cooler months which allows him to set up on a good number of fish. He still has to look for fish with his finder during the colder water periods but once he finds them, he can anchor up and fish a specific area. Jeff's theory about blue cat metabolism may hold the key to understanding why he does better while drift fishing during summer and the opposite during the cooler water period.
"I think as the water gets hotter, their metabolism rises with it and the blues need to roam around searching for food a lot more. It seems that I have to move around a lot more as well so I drift over areas targeting the active fish and don't worry about fish holding in one area. In hot water, when the fish are active - I can set up on them and by the time I've caught a few fish they've moved. When the fish are acting this way I feel like I've made the right choice by drifting."
The Controlled Drift
Jeff admits that drift fishing for blues isn't really targeting big fish specifically, but he is still targeting structure that holds big fish. He finds an area that is showing the right drift scenario according to his experience on his lakes. He looks for fish arches on his locator holding the right distance off the bottom according to the thermocline. He likes to see fish on the graph holding either really close to the bottom. "Somebody out there might have some success with these loosely suspended fish but I haven't done well trying to target them yet."
Make sure to read Part 2 of this article to learn more about catching monster ledge lunker blues!
Copyright © 2004-2005 Jeff Williams and Procats