PICTURE: May 7, 2014
Client David Evans, PA
70# Blue Catfish Tennessee River
Title: TENNESSEE RIVER MONSTERS
Captain Scott Manning-US Coast Guard,
Outdoor Writer & Professional Fishing Guide
I have spent the past twenty years pursuing monster fish all on the Tennessee River and surrounding lakes. Each year; I catch, photo and release (CPR) monster catfish and stripers in excess of 50 pounds with many catfish over 80 pounds. Thus, I receive a steady stream of questions on my Facebook site and website concerning where and what tactics I use. In this segment I want to discuss the major variables on monster fish to include locating bait and fishing hot spots in East Tennessee.
First of all, to catch a monster fish three elements must be present. First is a constant supply of food (Bait fish) throughout the year particularly pre-spawn and post-spawn. It’s kind of elementary; but for a fish to reach enormous size it has to eat and eat often.The Tennessee River provides an excellent source of bait fish ranging from skip jack to gizzard shad. In addition, there are suckers and bream in vast numbers as well.
Below dams provide fresh cut bait from shad and other fish they get caught in the generators and are thus washed downstream. TVA steam plants provide warm water year around and warm water attracts tons of bait fish. Find the food; find the monster fish. When fishing for monster fish I prefer live bait over cut bait or lures. However, there are times early in the morning that top water lures work great on stripers. When catfish fishing I drift fish with live skip jack or gizzards and the head portion of a skip jack.
Second, you must fish places that don’t have a lot of fishing pressure. Fish have to reach a certain age to obtain monster status. Long stretches of waterways not accessible by bank fishing will hold vast amounts of monster fish. Areas that provide accessible bank fishing translates into more fishing pressure. smaller fish and less CPR. I prefer long remote stretches of river water or deep pockets near or around local dams. Please keep in mind safety first when around or near dams.
Third, you must fish places that actually hold numbers of monster fish. For example the Clinch River holds tons of Channel Catfish; but they only will reach around 5 to 10 pounds. The water it too cold to hold monster fish such as Blue and Flathead Catfish. Furthermore, the cold water decreases the need to eat as much. If your looking for a monster catfish then find warm water lakes and river basins.
The Tennessee River has received national attention as one of the top catfish and striper spots in the US. In addition, you must put your time in on the water. Pick peak times before and after fronts to target monster fish. Barometric pressure plays a big factor in fish activity as well.
When chasing monster fish you must trust your tackle and gear to handle a heavy load. I always use circle hooks in either 8/0 or 9/0 Team Catfish Double Action Hooks for both stripers and catfish. A sharp hook is a must. My rods are a 8 foot Heavy-Action Team Catfish, which are specially designed for big fish. I always use mono fishing line and use clear Off-Shore Angler 30# for stripers and 40# Berkely Big Cat mono for catfish. Please remember to always re-tie after hooking a monster fish or becoming snagged on the bottom. A weak line will always result in a lost fish.
I use Penn Fathom LW25 and Shimano Calcutta 700b reels. My rig of preference is the Carolina rig with a 2 or 3 ounce no-roll sinker with a sinker bead and Spro barrel swivel. I use a 80# mono clear leader and try to stay around 18 to 24 inches. I will sometimes use a wire 24″ leader specially designed by a sponsor when in or around rocky ledges or tight cover.
Hopefully; I have shared a little insight on where and how to catch monster fish in East Tennessee. Feel free to contact us on Facebook at ” Tennessee River Monsters “ if you have any questions or call us to book a trip of a lifetime. (865) 680-7672