Knight and Henderson fish the Catawba Catfishing Trail on separate teams, but when they get together to fish for fun, the big blue catfish at Wateree are their favorite target. A recent trip produced eight blues in the 20-pound class in one day. And both were disappointed in not catching fish in the 40-pound class.
In the current conditions and murky water, Knight said it's all about the anchor bite.
"If you want to catch really big catfish, February and into March is typically among the best time of the year to catch them," Knight said. "I've fished Wateree for years and have experimented with every technique, and I'm solidly convinced that the best and most productive way to hook a huge catfish at this time of year is by anchoring. We've caught several in the 30- to 50-pound class in the past few weeks fishing from an anchored boat. As for time of year, the heaviest catfish catch ever in a Catawba Catfish Club tournament was in February 2010 when three fish totaling over 129 pounds won the tournament. February is big fish time at Wateree."
Henderson said that the drift-fishing may sometimes produce more fish, but the big fish want the bait stationary in February.
"I'm convinced that drifting the bait over a big cat doesn't give the big fish enough time to check out the bait," Henderson said. "I often mark a lot of fish in an area and anchor, but sometimes it's 30 minutes or longer before I get a bite," he said. "But when I do get a bite, we often catch two or three big fish in rapid succession. I think the big catfish literally check a bait out for a while before biting."
Knight said he is a big believer in big bait for big fish and that's a year-round pattern he said.
"In February and March, I'll use big gizzard shad and white perch as my primary baits," Knight said. "I'm fishing mostly main lake structures including channel ledges, humps, points and bends in the river. I may be fishing from 20 to 40 feet deep, but the fishing patterns will change and I'll adapt each time I go. But for big fish in the 30- to 50-pound and larger class, the anchor bite and patience are the keys. Lake Wateree is loaded with huge catfish in this size class, and right now is a great time to hook into these big blues."
Knight and Henderson use 7-foot Shakespeare Ugly Stick Catfish and Tiger Rods mated with baitcasting reels, mostly ABU, spooled with 60-pound fluorocarbon leaders and a 40-pound test main line, with 8/0 Gamakatsu hooks.