By: Ted Ellenbecker
Fall downs, log jams, or timber.
No matter what you call it, fishing wood is Catfishing at it's
finest. Knowledge of water currents and judging under-laying contour
is only the beginning of the many aspects of this kind of fishing!
This is my favorite fishing and I have three methods I employ
when "knocking wood!"
first and most extreme technique is called "vertical" fishing.
This technique requires heavy equipment, rods capable of handling
line from 50 to 80 lbs, 2x hooks and quick reflexes, as the fight
is won or lost in the first three seconds!
If you dare to try this, here's how.
Approach the structure from the upstream side and allow the current
to hold the boat against the structure and parallel to it. This
method will take Cats of all sizes depending on the bait you use.
It's most effective on Flatheads and Channel Cats. You're not
relying on water depth with this method, and you're not relying
on the fish to move. To present the bait, the terminal rig is
quite simple, starting with a main line of 50 lbs. or heavier,
and in-line sinker with swivels on both ends, usually in the 3
to 4 oz. range, an 8" leader, and the hook. Ths size of the hook
will depend on the bait you've decided to use. It could be anywhere
from a 1/0 for small Channels to a 7/0 for the Flatheads.
Try to find a clearing between the logs and drop
the bait to the bottom. Put the rod in the rod holder, tighten
up the line until you have contact with the sinker and give the
reel one turn to lift the bait about a foot off of the bottom.
Remember, the reel is set with no give in the drag. We're going
in after them where they live and literally bouncing the bait
off of their nose.
When they hit, they will turn to go deeper into
the structure, this is where the reel with no drag and the three
seconds comes in. There are two ways the fish will hit the bait.
First, when he hits the bait, the rod tip will hit the water.
Quickly, get the rod out of the holder, make sure you use quality
equipment so your drag will hold and keep continual upward pressure
on him to keep the fish from going down. Do not lower the rod
tip to the fish to gain line as it allows the fish to reach cover.
Be aggressive, this is a situation where the most determined competitor
The second bite can be misinterpreted if you don't
know what you're looking at. On this take, the fish comes from
behind and below the bait and inhales it, but he holds in position.
The only thing you will notice is the tip of your rod beginning
to load up the same way it would if you had snagged a piece of
drifting grass or twigs in the current. When this happens, immediately
set the hook and haul the fish out of the structure. Expect an
explosion of mud and water as this fish is still green and hasn't
had the chance to tire yet. Your job is to keep him on the surface
and not allow him back to the cover. If he is able to reach the
safety of the submerged cover, chances are he will put a wrap
around a log and the fight is over.
While using this "vertical" fishing
technique, a five pound fish is great, and the bigger fish, especially
over 50 lbs., become an exciting battle of strength!
The second method is "slipping' timber"
and it is a search technique allowing you to look for active fish
and cover a large area at the same time. It also allows you to fish
the best areas of the log jam without spooking the fish.
You will want to approach the logs from the upstream
side and drift at the face of the jam, near the middle if it is
a big pile, or closer to the inside corner if it is a small jam.
Anchor a short casting distance away being careful not to bang
the bottom of the boat in the process. If you do make any loud
sounds, add twenty minutes to your fishing time, it will take
that long for the Cats to come out from under the wood again.
Fish the middle of the face and the inside corner from this position
for twenty minutes. If you do not get any bites, pull your anchor
and slip to the inside corner. Re-anchor your boat and from here
fish the channel side wall and the back channel side corner current
break. Again, fish for about twenty minutes. If there are still
no bites, you will want to slip on down to the next structure.
The third technique I use and consider to be more
of a big fish method is called "ambushing". I will usually fish
only two areas in a night, the first from one hour before dark
to midnight, the next from 4am until two hours after sunrise.
Ambushing is a stealth technique and it combines your knowledge
with patience and confidence in your judgment.
The boat is positioned strategically to allow
access to the best presentation target available. You will want
the best bait available, whether it is cut, live, dip or dough
bait, to call Cats from a distance. Once your position is set
and your bait is chosen, sit back and be patient. This technique
is reserved for only the best structure on the water. The structure
that is so good that you know the fish are under the pile. To
position your boat you need to look for a couple of things. The
front, or first log jam in a series of log jams will be the main
target. The fish moving through this series of structures will
wind up coming out of the front edge. At this point, look for
channel ledges and steep banks that the fish will follow as they
move upstream feeding. Position your bait in these areas to intercept
them when they move.
Whether you are vertical fishing,
slippin' timber or ambushing, Cats in the timber can be the most
challenging and rewarding way to fish on small and middle sized
rivers. Remember the best log jams on the river will contain a
minimum of three of the elements present in the river. Some of
the elements included may be wood, rock, mass, current, bottom
diversity, slack water, weed growth, depth and water temperature.
Two rules I follow in judging what to expect from a structure
are 1) the larger area a structure covers the more fish it may
hold, and 2) the more elements a structure has to offer, the better
the chance of a trophy fish.
The elements that are of importance
will vary with each and every section of river. It is up to you
to study and determine which will play the dominant role in your
water. Simply fishing a structure is not enough - understanding
what makes a structure good is necessary to fish with confidence.
This is a case of more is better, the more massive the pile the
better, the older the wood the better, the more current variations
For more information on Catfishing,
check out the The Fishbuster's Audio Seminars available at the
Big Fish Tackle on-line store.