Wateree River’s wintertime cats

Capt. Jason Wolfe enjoys fishing the Wateree River this month, when he sees few boats but plenty of fish. (Photo by Brian Cope)

Submerged logs are the key

When the temperature gets brutally cold, Capt. Jason Wolfe of Wolfe’s Guide Service likes nothing more than to catch catfish on the Wateree River.

“This is one of my favorite places to be this month. It’s rare to see another boat here on cold, February days. But the fishing can be fantastic,” said Wolfe (803-487-3690).

Along the banks of the Wateree, partially submerged trees and logs sit still. But underneath the surface, catfish of all sizes swim around, looking for easy meals, then retreating into the safety of cover provided by these logjams.

Wolfe said those submerged trees are the key. It may seem natural to some anglers to get below these piles of debris, then cast upriver to them. But that’s the wrong approach. The current is too strong, and will pull your baits toward you, taking them out of the strike zone at best, and tangling you in the debris at worst.

The right approach is to anchor upriver of these submerged trees, then cast a big fresh piece of cut bait in front of them.

“The catfish are in those logjams, And when you drop a piece of cut bait just above them, the smell will attract the fish into leaving the cover. They’ll come up, grab the bait, then go back into hiding,” said Wolfe.

Anglers going after bigger fish should focus on large pieces of baitfish.

Keep it fresh

“You want to make sure you keep fresh bait on. If it gets too old, it loses its scent, and that’s what attracts the catfish. It can be frozen or freshly caught. But you want to make sure you don’t leave a chunk of bait on there so long that it loses its scent,” he said.

Wolfe likes to target bigger fish, using 8/0 to 12/0 hooks and large pieces of baitfish – sometimes half of a hand-sized fish or bigger. But he said plenty of eating-sized fish will hit those.

“You’re setting yourself up to catch some big fish this way, but plenty of 10- to 15-pound fish will also eat those large baits with no problem,” he said.

Wolfe fishes with Catch the Fever Patriot Hellcat rods and 30-pound Slime Line monofilament line.

“This is simple, river fishing. No electronics. Just anchor down, cast out and wait,” he said. “Use rod holders and let the fish hook themselves before you pick up the rod.”

About Brian Cope 2494 Articles
Brian Cope is the editor of Carolina Sportsman. 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. You can reach him at brianc@sportsmannetwork.com.

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