Fall Reservoir Catfishing with Kevin Tindall
By Phillip Gentry
Although he lives only thirty minutes or so from the Ohio River, B’n’M Catfish pro-staffer Kevin Tindall said for fishing during the fall, it’s hard to beat one of the impounded reservoirs of the Tennessee River for some great catfish action. Tindall and his tournament partner Steve Collins love to head south and fish Wheeler Lake, Watts Bar, Nickajack or even Guntersville this time of year.
Tindall said when fishing any of these reservoirs during the fall or even most other times of the year, it’s hard to beat drift fishing for them. With primarily blue catfish as their target, especially in a tournament, he said they never head to the lake with a preset location in mind and spend a lot of time during pre-fish days graphing the whole lake.
“You have to start somewhere so I guess I could suggest water that’s at least 35 feet deep and not far from the main lake channel this time of year,” said Tindall. “The pattern is always different and there are a lot of variables that dictate where blue catfish will be in the fall.”
B’n’M’s Silver Cat rods allow anglers to fish a variety of patterns and tactics.
Tindall described some of these variables as water levels, weather patterns, current flow/and or release schedules in the lake, and water temperature.
Along with looking for fish, obviously, Tindall said the pair make note of potential catfish-holding structure, but they don’t pay a lot of attention to bait during their scouting forays.
“Our focus is what’s near the bottom or on the bottom of the lake when graphing,” he said. “While catfish do suspend off the bottom in a reservoir, we’ve found if the fish are suspended, they’re usually not catfish.”
Another pre-tournament activity for Tindall is to spend as much time as necessary to catch fresh bait. There’s a commitment to time for both graphing/scouting and making sure the bait they have to offer the catfish is quality.
Fresh cut bait, either skipjack herring or gizzard shad, is an important part of successful drift fishing.
“Like a lot of catfish guys, our favorite is skipjack herring,” he said. “Sometimes we can catch bait on the way to a tournament or a couple days before if there are skipjack available at the lake or nearby. A second option for us is gizzard shad so between the two, we usually have pretty good bait.”
Once on the water, Tindall said there are two strategies. As mentioned, the team will drift fish, deploying B’n’M Silver Cat Baitcasting rods paired with 7000 series Ambassador reels and 60 pound braided line. The most common rig used is a standard Carolina rig, weighted to compensate for whatever current is in the lake at the time, usually somewhere between 6 and 8 ounces. An 8/0 or 9/0 Bottom Dweller Charlie Brown Circle hooks round out the rig.
“Drifting is what we do 90% of the time,” said Tindall. “If we mark catfish in an area, we’ll motor upwind and drift as far as we need to or as long as we’re still marking fish, whether that’s 100 yards or a mile.”
Drift fishing can be as little as a 100 yard stretch or a mile long drift, Tindall said as long as he’s still marking fish, he continues to drift.
To control the drift of the boat, it’s pretty common for the team to bump around with the trolling motor while drifting, particularly if catfish are relating to a channel break or edge.
In catfishing circles, the style of drift fishing that Tindall and Collins prefer is known as dead sticking or down rodding. The idea is to drift with the rig just off the bottom of the lake floor.
As a back up strategy, the team will on occasion anchor and fish. Tindall said they rarely anchor unless it’s in the river portion at one extreme end or the other of the lake. The pair will look for a likely piece of structure in the river and anchor the boat from the front. The rods, tackle, and bait are generally the same as drift fishing.
If we’re anchored, things usually aren’t going well and we’re in the river trying to catch a flathead,” he said, “but on occasion, it has paid off for us.”
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