SC’s Wateree River is winter catfish heaven

Wateree River catfish
One of guide Jason Wolfe’s clients caught this 80-pound blue catfish last year.

The big cats are biting on the river

It’s December, and the water has finally cooled considerably. Catfish anglers across the Carolinas love this time of year. And that’s especially true for those who fish South Carolina’s Wateree River.

Jason Wolfe of Wolfe’s Guide Service (803-487-3690) said it’s a great time to catch some big cats on this river. He prefers to stick to the sections upstream and downstream from the US 1 boat landing between Camden and Lugoff. He concentrates on deep holes and any type of structure that breaks the river’s current and provides cats a place to ambush prey.

“You don’t want to be all the way up at the dam, and you want to avoid the shoals that are just below the dam,” he said. “You want to stay farther downriver, and you want to target deeper holes. This river has plenty of them in that section, and the big cats hang out in them. If you can get a good piece of bait in there when they’re feeding, you can land some really big ones.”

Wateree River catfish
Capt. Jason Wolfe shows off a nice December Wateree River catfish.

One of Wolfe’s clients caught an 80-pound catfish in this area last year. That’s an exceptional catch, but Wolfe said it’s not unrealistic at all for anglers to target fish that size. Fish in the 10- to 25-pound class are more common, but 35- to 50-pounders are not at all unheard of, especially this time of year.

Don’t go light on gear

Wolfe uses Carolina rigs with egg sinkers, Abu Garcia 6500 reels spooled with 30-pound line, a 50-pound test leader, 8/0 dual action hooks, and a nice chunk of cut bait on each hook. He finds a deep hole with his electronics, then anchors above the hole to allow the current to keep his bait in the strike zone. A deep hole that has structure nearby is a gold mine.

“Fish anything that breaks the current in the river bends,” he said. “Objects like trees and rocks give the fish a break from the current, and it provides them with an ambush point. These are the places you want to target.”

Wolfe casts out multiple baits, places rods in rod holders and then waits. He prefers for a rod to load up completely before removing it from the rod holder. That gives the fish a chance to hook itself good, leaving the angler with only the task of reeling it in.

“With the dual action hooks, you can allow them to hook themselves, or you can set the hook on your own,” he said.

Brian Cope
About Brian Cope 1448 Articles
Brian Cope is the editor of CarolinaSportsman.com. He has won numerous awards for his writing, photography, and videography. He is a retired Air Force combat communications technician, and has a B.A. in English Literature from the University of South Carolina.

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