Monticello catfish are on

Drifting or free-line drifting will produce plenty of Lake Monticello catfish for anglers, but anchoring and fan-casting is guide Chris Simpson’s ticket for bigger fish.

Main-lake humps, backs of creeks hold plenty of fish

May is one of the best months for catfishing on Lake Monticello, according to guide Chris Simpson of Greenwood. You can fill a cooler with smaller cats, or you can target one of the monster blues that roam the little lake in South Carolina’s Midlands.

“Drifting with Santee-style drift rigs will get a few good fish, and free-line drifting will fill coolers up with 1- to 10-pound fish, but for me, anchoring is still more consistent for the big ones,” said Simpson (864-992-2352). “Anchoring on main-lake humps and long, gradually sloping points is my preferred style of fishing at this time.”

Some humps may be better than others from one day to the next, he said. Some days, fish might be holding on humps that have gradual slopes into deep water, and other days, they may be holding on humps that have very sharp, almost vertical drops into deep water.

“Areas like this in the lower end of the lake that have current flowing over them from the hydroelectric station can sometimes be really good,” he said. “Consistent generation from the hydroelectric plant usually helps the bite, because the fish get used to a pattern, and that makes it easier for the angler to figure out.”

Simpson said some of the shallower humps that top out at 5 to 10 feet below the surface often are covered with mussel beds, and a lot of prespawn fish feed on the mussels.

“The most-productive depth zones can be as shallow as 5 feet down to about 50 feet, and there are plenty of areas on Monticello that allow you to cover that entire depth range from one anchored position by fan-casting,” Simpson said.

Gizzard shad, white perch and bream are the go-to baits for big fish, while herring is better for sheer numbers but will also catch big fish from time to time, said Simpson, who cuts baits into small pieces — about the size of a mussel.

The other pattern for big Monticello blues this month is to fish the backs of the coves where they are feeding on schools of baitfish, he said.

“In the coves, I look for a large presence of baitfish on the graph. Blues, like any other predatory fish, use the backs of coves to corral baitfish to feed on. It’s sort of like a funnel effect. Everything is hemmed up in a small area,” Simpson said.

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