Lake Monticello seems to be the place to be if you want to land some lunker cats and fill a freezer, according to Chris Simpson of Fightin Da Blues Guide Service, who has been fishing a variety of baits and using some unique strategies to fill his clients' coolers.
"I set out anywhere from eight to 12 rods and put all different kinds of baits on each rod," said Simpson (www.fightindablues.com). "You'll eventually figure out which bait they're biting."
Simpson uses cut bream, white perch, herring or gizzard shad on his 8/0 hooks at depths ranging from 10 to 70 feet to figure out where the fish are holding.
"I figure the depth out a lot like I do my bait for the day," Simpson said. "I like to anchor on ledges where I can cover a variety of depths. Anchoring on a hump in 10 feet of water, for instance, but it might have a drop from 10 to 70. I put some rods on 70 feet and stagger them up the ledge all the way to 10 feet. If I'm on a hump at 10 feet deep and dropping lines into 70 feet of water, but I notice most bites at 50 feet, then my next spot will top out at 50 feet. Basically, the depth range where I find the most aggressive fish is what I'm going to target the rest of the day."
Simpson doesn't like to play around with the small fish, either. He targets the big boys by using larger bait and big gear. His go-to outfit is a 7-foot, Ugly Stick catfish mated with an Abu Garcia 6500 reel that's spooled with 25-pound test and features a 50-pound leader.