Late Fall/Early Winter River Catfishing with Ben Goebel
In this second of a two-part series, B’n’M pro-staffer Ben Goebel shares his secrets for catching river catfish as fall gives way to winter.
By Phillip Gentry
Last time, B’n’M pro-staffer Ben Goebel, from Mt Vernon, Indiana shared some of his secrets for catching catfish during the fall to winter transition period. Initially, Goebel looks for catfish to move up on relatively shallow flats following baitfish such as shad and even Asian carp.
His other late fall/early winter go-to pattern is to head out into deeper water and find a ridge or hump in 30 – 35 feet of water that has woody cover on it. This deep-water pattern is particularly effective when water levels on the Ohio or Mississippi Rivers is low.
“When the water is high, like it’s been over the past three or four years through the winter, catfish seem to be everywhere or rather than can be everywhere,” he said. “With low water conditions, catfish tend to concentrate on the more predictable type catfish structure and are not so scattered out because they have a lot less area to be scattered in.”
B’n’M’s Magnum catfish series is a tournament-level, heavy-duty catfish rod, offered at a casual fisherman’s price.
Unlike spring fishing, when Goebel would break out his B’n’M bumping rods and cover all the water he needed to, in the colder months and in cooler water, catfish tend to be much more lethargic which requires a different approach.
When targeting deeper water wood-laden areas, he’s going to anchor up and fish these areas, except he’s not really anchoring in the traditional sense.
“Like I said before, trolling motors have done more for the catfishing world than any other technology, including sonar,” he said. “I can ease up over a place I want to fish, put the trolling motor on Spot Lock and I’ve got baits and rods in the water in under 5 minutes without ever having to touch an anchor.”
Consistent with his shallow water pattern, Goebel will allow each spot about 30 minutes before he moves the boat. He’s not as focused on marking fish and bait on these deeper holes as he would be in shallower water. He still wants to see something, like maybe a catfish or two, but these fish are not actively feeding like the shallow fish so he needs to work that area more thoroughly.
Goebel said it’s hard for a deep-water catfish to resist a big chunk of skipjack herring any time of year and he’s banked a lot of good tournament fish on this bait.
“I may jog over 20 feet and reset everything and put another 30 minutes on the clock,” he said. “That’s another great feature on many of today’s advanced trolling motors, you can lock on one point, then move it over just a few yards and lock it again.”
He said larger fish tend to hang out in lesser numbers on these deep-water haunts while smaller fish may group in larger numbers. Either way, he should know soon enough to validate what he’s marked on his DownScan or Side Imaging unit after a couple of sets on a deep-water hole.
At times, he may find fish in deeper water than have just moved in from feeding up shallow, so it is definitely a slower bite. He will tempt fish with smaller baits to see if he can garner some interest and he said no matter what time of year he’s fishing, he can rarely resist throwing a big chunk of skipjack herring with the head attached into a deeper water hole.
“I think some of those big trophy cats get so accustomed to eating a big hunk of skipjack, they don’t care how cold it is,” Goebel said. “It is definitely a favorite bait for them on these rivers.”
Having a rugged catfish boat, like Goebel’s Excel, is a plus when fishing in cold weather.
His shallow water tackle is the same gear he’ll use in deeper water. He doesn’t see a need to change just because of water depth. He uses B’n’M’s Silver Cat Magnum baitcasting rods paired with Daiwa Saltist reels and 80-pound braided line and leader when catfishing. He employs a simple 3-way rig or Carolina rig that utilizes 8/09 circle hooks and weights that range from 4 – 8 ounces depending on current.
The wood structure will provide a current break for the fish, but his weights do go heavier in deep water than shallow.
He also offers some advice for anglers who venture out onto the Ohio or Mississippi Rivers this time of year.
“It’s not as cold as it will be, but it’s still pretty cold,” he said. “This is the time of year that big windshield on my Excel catfish boat is worth it’s weight in gold,” said Goebel. “We also layer up in good outdoor gear and put a little buddy heater on the floor of the cockpit to warm up with.”
To book a guided catfishing trip with Capt. Ben Goebel on the Ohio or Mississippi Rivers, contact him at 812-568-8716 or view his Facebook page: River City Catfishing Guide Service.
B’n’M has all the catfish tackle you need to land the big ones. Check out our catalog online at bnmpoles.com