Guide Chris Hammill of Kannapolis took advantage of the brief reprieve from miserable weather this past weekend to take a number of blue cats from Lake Tillery and Badin Lake. On Saturday, Hammill and Tyler Mayhew of Lexington caught three hefty blue catfish on Lake Tillery that weighed a total of 52.47 pounds, with the biggest one tipping the scales at 35.05. On Sunday, he caught more quality blues.

He attributed the strong bite to recent shad kills at both lakes caused by the cold weather.

“There was a shad kill on Badin and Tillery and the fish have taken full advantage of it,” said Hammill of Hammill Outdoor Adventures ( “We’re catching a lot of fish from 10 to 30 pounds lately, but the bigger ones are still around.”

The biggest problem for Hammill wasn’t been finding fish; he struggled to collect bait and maneuver through thin, shoreline ice to reach the main channel to wet a hook.

“Parts of the lakes (were) frozen over, and good bait has been a little tough to find, but the fishing has been great,” he said.  

Hammill said fishermen targeting catfish have to stay on the move and use their electronics to find active fish, not the most pleasant undertaking in weather that has featured morning temperatures in the 20s and 30s. 

With the water temperatures ranging from the high 30s to the lower 40s, the blues have favored shallow to medium depths. 

The most-effective baits have been cut shad and cut perch. Most fishermen are using these baits on Carolina rigs, keeping the baits just off the bottom by threading an in-line float on the leader a short distance above the hook.

Hammill said fishermen shouldn’t overlook the excellent crappie fishing at Badin this winter, either.

“Crappie fishing has been great all winter at Badin with a lot of fish up to 2 ½ pounds being caught,” said Hammill. “The bite has slowed with the low water temperatures, but it should pick back up when the water temperature gets into the mid-40s.”