Finding Falling Water Catfish with Capt. Ben Goebel
By Phillip Gentry
With high water conditions persisting across the expanse of the Mississippi River for most of the year, falling water levels are currently the norm for the upper reaches of the river over the last couple of weeks.
That’s good news for River City Catfishing guide and B’n’M catfish pro-staffer Ben Goebel from Mt Vernon, IN. Currently, Goebel spends a lot of time fishing both the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers but is currently concentrating on a catfish-rich area around Cape Girardeau, Missouri. Goebel said water levels are the most frequent dictator of where catfish will hold.
The guide says falling water levels are a very predictable pattern for catching catfish on the Mississippi River.
“The River has been up almost all year,” said Goebel. “That gives catfish a lot of different places to go, but when the water recedes, they drop back into more predictable, and dependable locations.”
Like many Mississippi River catfish anglers, Goebel’s go to tactic for 90 percent of his fishing is bumping. He uses a variable speed trolling motor to keep the boat pointed up current while the river slowly moves him downstream. In this manner, he and his clients can “bump” baits along the bottom to target catfish.
Slower currents mean more control for anglers without blowing by catchable fish.
“Most people think about still fishing while anchored in deep holes on the Mississippi,” he said. “This time of year, with falling water levels, catfish are more likely to be holding on deep water flats in 45-50 feet of water. They’re orienting to ledges and current seams.”
While bumping for catfish, Goebel will target deep flats that have what he refers to as a “roller coaster bottom”. Some of his bumping runs may be as short as 200 – 300 yards while others may be nearly a mile long.
He said that with fish vacating shoreline areas in favor of the historic river channel areas in the Mississippi, he finds that these fish out in the middle of the river are more inclined to feed.
“It’s all a big puzzle and for me it’s what makes catfishing interesting,” he said. “In one particular spot, I might have a run where fish are holding next to some structure at the top of the run and then a little further back, there might be a few more fish that are simply orienting to a seam in the current out on a flat, then toward the edge of the run, there could be some more fish holding on a ledge that drops into a deeper area of the river.”
Using cut skipjack herring for bait, Goebel will get into a rhythm when he’s bumping. Another plus from having lower current flows is the ability to do a slower, more controlled run.
Using as light a bumping weight as he can get away with, usually something in the 4 – 6 ounce range, he will find that rhythm with enough boat speed and enough line out that the bait is double and triple tapping the bottom with every lift of the rod.
B’n’M’s Bumping Rod is the leader in the catfishing market with strength and sensitivity to put big fish in the boat no matter what mood they’re in.
“That’s one of the best features about using these B’n’M Bumping rods,” said Goebel. “You’ve got amazing feel of the bottom. That’s so important, especially for beginners, because you can let the bait get away from you and be way back behind the boat or even up in front of the boat with a big bow in the line.”
He’s also going to keep an eye on his sonar. When he marks fish on the graph, it’s usually after the bait has already passed them, but that’s OK. He learns a lot just from watching.
Marking both bait and fish on the graph while bumping along good bottom contour is a great recipe for catfishing success.
“I can get a feel for the fish’s mood,” he said. “If they are just off the bottom and out in the current, it’s usually a sign they are feeding or at least willing to feed.”
Marking bait while bumping is another big plus. Anytime he can establish a good trolling speed, periodically mark fish and bait up off the bottom and move the boat over favorable bottom contours, it won’t be long until someone on the boat has a rod bent over.
To contact fishing guide Ben Goebel with River City Catfishing, call him at 812-568-8716 or visit his website at rivercitycatfishing.com
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