Hot weather and great catfish action have always gone hand-in-hand, but the sizzling summer sun sometimes puts a damper on the fun factor. One prescription to cure the summertime blues is to get on Lake Monticello’s midnight express.
Known by many anglers as a destination for huge blue catfish, Lake Monticello is literally teeming with blue catfish of all sizes. Targeting them by the numbers doesn’t eliminate the possibility of catching a behemoth blue; it simply puts catching big numbers of fish into the equation.
Guide William Attaway of Pomeria works his home lake for these midnight blues throughout the hot months on a unique and highly productive pattern,
“Hot weather is my favorite time of the year for the open water, suspended-fish pattern,” Attaway said. “During August, the action is great, and typically, the fish bite as well as anytime of the year. Most of the fish are blue catfish, with a few channel cats for good measure. Plus, the action is best late in the evening and into the night.”
Attaway (803-924-0857) said the fishing may seem random to the untrained observer, but it’s actually a very refined process.
“Simply put, I’ll drift the open water for suspended catfish while fishing specific targets underneath the surface,” he said. “Even fish suspended in 20 to 30 feet of water will often locate directly over underwater targets. I’ll drift over high spot such as humps, over long points that extend to very deep water as well as over deep, submerged standing timber.
“The process is to find the specific target for a given night and work that target. I control the depth of my rigs primarily by a combination of speed of the drift and weight on the line. But the graph is a key because I’ll see the fish on the graph and can target specific depths until I find the right combination of speed and weight.”
Attaway uses medium-heavy, 7 ½-foot Ugly Stick rods with 40-pound line spooled on baitcasting reels. He prefers a 50-pound leader with a 7/0 Gamakatsu circle hook, and he’ll use one or two No. 4 split shots as weight. His preferred baits are chunks of chicken and cut bait.
“Once I hit the pattern for the evening, I’ll focus all my rigs on the target depth,” Attaway said. “I usually fish six drift rods rigged this way, but I’ll also have two down rods with heavier weight and much larger bait for the big catfish. This is the time of year for numbers of fish, but the lake has some of the largest blue catfish in the state, so I have to give them a chance to load on.”
Attaway said he’ll usually begin a couple hours before dark and fish until the wee hours of the morning.
“It’s not that it’s more comfortable, but the fishing is better,” he said. “Usually, the water is pumped back into the lake at night, and that creates a good current in the lower end of the lake. That’s where I fish at this time of the year. The current seems to put the fish into an aggressive feeding mode, and that’s what makes this fishing click. Right at dusk, as the sun goes down, there’s usually a wild flurry of action. That’s another reason I want to be out and hopefully on fish by then.
“But sometimes the bite is just steady and around midnight it gets really cranked up,” Attaway said. “Midnight is another consistently good time. The best way is to just get on the lake, enjoy the evening, and let it all play out. We go home when we have more than enough fish to clean, and typically, we’ll catch a bunch of blues on the midnight express.”