In the fall, Blewett Falls Lake near Rockingham offers some of the best fishing of the year for big flathead catfish and hard fighting blue cats in the 10- to 20-pound range.

Neither blues nor flathead catfish are native to the Pee Dee River; they were introduced into the 2,560-acre impoundment after it was impounded back in 1912. Over the years, the flathead population has become a very healthy population in terms of both numbers and sizes. Blue catfish also do well in the lake but have a better reputation for reaching trophy sizes in the river below the Blewett Falls Dam.

Guide Robbie Burr specializes in catching catfish on Blewett Falls. During the summer, flatheads show a preference for live bream and spread out around the lake, but as the water begins to cool and fall settles in, Burr says he has better success using live gizzard shad.

With a day's supply of 80 to 100 shad, Burr will anchor his specially designed aluminum catfish boat and fan-cast up to 10 rods around it. Though catfish frequent the entire lake, Burr said the lower reaches offer the best fall fishing.

"Water runs through the dam nearly all the time now since Progress Energy made some changes in their water-release schedule," said Burr. "Current, to a catfish, means food, so I like to anchor up in the channel leading to the dam when I'm catfishing."

The dam area also collects logjams, which settle to the bottom and create habitat for hungry flatheads. Burr uses this to his advantage when setting out baits.

"I use a homemade rig that allows the bait to swim in a tight circle, but the weight is on the bottom, so I get good feel," said Burr. "Above the bait, I rig a small crappie float, which helps lift the bait off the bottom. The trick is to set the bait for a few minutes, if I don't get a bite, I'll reel in slow until I feel the weight make contact with underwater structure. That structure is where the catfish lie in wait and when you feel it, that's where you want the bait."