How to Catch Blue Catfish in the Winter

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Blue catfish provide excellent fishing opportunities throughout the winter months thanks to their fast metabolisms and inability to store body fat (unlike channel catfish and flathead catfish). Wired2fish caught up with pro catfish angler and guide Tommy Vaughn of No Wake Guide Service for a lesson on finding and catching blue catfish on midwest rivers and reservoirs.

TACKLE AND GEAR (retail links)


Finding and catching blue catfish is a 2-step process for Vaughn. First, he uses mapping to locate prime river flats adjacent to channel ledges and bends. These areas are catfish highways, allowing him to fish a range of depths from a single anchored position. Step 2 involves scanning likely areas with side imaging to locate catfish. He inspects his graphs for objects and the shadows they create to determine if they’re targetable fish. Anchor up and start prepping the bait once you’ve found the fish.


Fresh cut bait is imperative when trying to catch blue catfish. Vaughn uses a cast net to catch his bait and constantly refreshes his hooks with fresh cut bait in the form of shad heads and bodies, which the blues can easily detect. He keeps his tackle simple with a couple of staple rigs. One is a simple slip sinker rigged on the main line above a swivel and strong 50-pound monofilament leader attached to a beefy circle hook on the business end. The other consists of a 3-way swivel with attached weight and the same monofilament leader and hook.

Also, read our article on the best catfish baits


Many states allow catfish anglers to fish with multiple rods, as was the case on this day (Oklahoma’s Grand Lake). Vaughn encircles the boat with long casts made from various angles. Reel the weight out of the mud and remove the slack line after casting (and before setting the rods in holders). His 6-rod spread allows him to target and catch blue catfish at multiple depths. Save time if you’re not getting bit. Vaughn spends only 10- to 15 minutes on a new spot, then pull up and moves if he doesn’t get a bite.


Powerful and sensitive is the name of the game when trying to catch blue catfish. Vaughn prefers a heavy yet sensitive 7-foot, 6-inch catfish rod spooled with a braided mainline for sensitivity. A durable and high-capacity line counter reel is a must for running rigs out on long casts. Bites can be subtle, so don’t be afraid to pick up the rod and keep your finger in contact with the line. Resist the temptation to make a conventional hook set with a circle hook. Instead, reel into the fish and gently sweep when the rod loads up.