The best bait to use for trophy winter time blue catfish is cut bait. Big baits equal big catfish. Use shad, skip jack herring, sunfish-bluegills, suckers and chub minnows. The best bait size for blue catfish really depends on how big the fish grow in the waters where you are fishing! But it’s not uncommon to use a 1-2 lb piece of bait cut in half or used whole.
Big shad and skip jack is the popular baits among trophy blue cat anglers, but cut or whole pan fish will also work well. In the winter months you can obtain shad and skip jack around hot water discharges found near factories on the Ohio River.
But most anglers will anticipate the winter time trips and will catch these baits in the fall and freeze them for the winter time use.
The Carolina rig, sometimes referred to as a slip rig, is probably the most common catfishing rig used for winter time catfishing for a few reasons.
- It’s easy to tie up.
- It’s versatile.
- The slip feature allows the catfish to take the bait without detecting any resistance from the weight.
Bounding down is the best technique for locating and patterning winter time blue catfish. Once you’re anchored on a spot give it 30-35 minutes to see if you get any takers. If you get no bites it’s time to move, but you don’t want to go far. The idea is to keep a scent trail for the catfish to follow, so bounding down is the best method. This means that you pull your anchor up and move your boat down and re-anchor where you last placed your baits on the previous anchor and cast them out again, keeping your bait in the same scent trail but just a little further downstream. Because some of these areas can be up to a half mile long, you may need to bound down 4-5 times until you find the fish.
Winter time is a great time to land some huge trophy blue cats and they’re fun to catch, but they are also kind of vulnerable this time of year as they are easily patterned.
Please remember to keep conservation in mind and put the big ones back after you’ve snapped some braggin’ pictures. Keep the smaller cats for fryin’! Selective harvest works.
Click here to read my guide on the best places to catch trophy winter blues.