Lake Wateree is fast becoming known as a “go-to” location for big catfish, with more and more anglers headed for the Midlands lake in search of big blues. Rodger Taylor of Rock Hill’s Catfish On! Guide Service has been fishing the 13,864-acre lake for years, and beginning in June, he likes to start fishing after dark.

Taylor likes to set up just before dark and use the cover of darkness to lure big catfish to his setup. He’s quick to point out that the first part of the month can be a bit tricky if the big blues have started spawning. The bite is a bit slower with the spawn going full-bore, but if you can catch the cats just before and right after the spawn, you’ll be in for a lot of action. 

“You need to look in shallow water to find the biggest cats on Wateree,” said Taylor, who hunts for mussel beds in mid-lake areas. “Find some of the shallow flats near the middle of the lake; many of these will hold large concentrations of mussels, and the big cats cannot resist.”

Anchoring in shallow water or along the edge of the river channel, Taylor can spread out his baits and get some in deep water while putting the majority in shallower areas from 2 to 5 feet deep.

“Many people do not believe that big fish can be caught in water as shallow as I fish, but I know better,” Taylor said.

Fresh cut bait is a key. Taylor likes to fish cut gizzard shad, white perch or bluegill, chunks 4 to 5 inches wide, including the head and middle of the fish.

“You have to use fresh bait, to entice the big bites.” Taylor insists. “Bait that is more than a few hours old will not get the same bites as some that is very fresh.”  

When targeting big fish, Taylor likes to use either a 6/0 or 8/0 Gamakatsu circle hook. 

“The bigger the bait, you need a bigger hook to make sure you can get a good hookset. I want a lot of hook exposure,” he said, explaining that too many fishermen bury the circle hook in the bait, keeping the hook from doing what it is designed to do — turn in the fish’s mouth and set in the corner of its mouth. 

A heavy action 7-foot rod and reel loaded with 20-pound Berkley Big Game mono is standard tackle for Taylor, who ties on a leader of 50- to 60-pound test, adds a float to the leader and ties on his hook.

“I like to use a float near the bait to keep the bait off of the bottom. It is just enough to keep the bait from getting lost in the mud.” Taylor said. 

Wateree has a lot of feeder creeks, and Taylor pays attention to them, especially the long points around the creek mouths that stretch out into the main lake; he said they’re ideal locations to fish for big cats at night. 

Taylor said the area from Dutchman’s Creek to Colonel Creek is marked by plenty of flats with mussel beds that hold catfish. If he doesn’t find fish there, he’ll head to the backs of creeks. 

DESTINATION INFORMATION

HOW TO GET THERE — Lake Wateree lies along the border between Fairfield and Lancaster counties, south of the town of Great Falls. I-77, US 21 and US 601 provide the best access. Public boat ramps ring the lake, with the most-popular being: Taylors Creek, Wateree Creek, June Creek and Colonels Creek on the western side and Beaver Creek and White Oak Creek on the east.

WHEN TO GO — Night-fishing for blue catfish begins in June, with the latter half of the month, after the spawn ends, being more productive. Fishing after dark will remain good through the summer

BEST TECHNIQUES — Set up on flats with mussel beds, fan-casting rods baited with cut shad, perch and bluegill to cover a variety of depths; keep most baits in 2 to 5 feet of water, but don’t be afraid to put a couple of baits in deep water.

FISHING INFO/GUIDES — Rodger Taylor, Catfish On! Guide Service, 803-517-7828, www.catfishon.com. See also Guides and Charters in Classifieds.

ACCOMMODATIONS — Fairfield County Chamber of Commerce, www.fairfieldchamber.sc; Lancaster County Chamber of Commerce, 803-416-9455, www.lancasterchambersc.com.

MAPS — Kingfisher Maps, 800-326-0257, www.kfmaps.com.