"WINTER BEST FOR CATCHING TROPHY BLUE CATFISH" by Luke Clayton Luke Clayton Guide Jason Barber is one-fourth of the four man, Guaranteed Guide Service team, headed by Cory Vinson. These veteran guides fish several lakes in north and east Texas, including Cedar Creek, Richland Chambers and Fairfield. They go where the trophy bite is best throughout the year. If the big freshwater reds are on a tear at Fairfield, thats where you will find their boats. When the big, hard fighting hybrids at Richland Chambers are biting, youll see their boats filled with customers dunking live shad or throwing soft plastics. Right now, or at least as recently as yesterday, giant blue catfish were stealing the show at Cedar Creek Lake. I know, I was lucky enough to be in the boat with Barber, Vinson and Hayes and I learned a few new tricks about catching blue catfish in cold, shallow water! Photo by Luke Clayton Barber grew up fishing Cedar Creek with his Grandfather and his family ties run deep here. After a brief but successful career as a touring bass pro, Barber decided to return to his home waters and become a fishing guide. Living on the road, fishing all over the country can be tough on a family man and I decided to continue fishing but on a different level, as a fishing guide. A couple years ago, I began taking clients fishing on Cedar Creek for hybrids, white and black bass and catfish. Last year, I began working with Guaranteed Guide Service and now fish several lakes. I still travel to fish but the drive is an hour or less, close to home, rather than on a lake in a distant state. says Barber. The trophy blue catfish bite is timed perfectly during the dead of winter, when most other fish often suffer from a severe case of lockjaw. A few days ago, Barber boated a 47 pound blue from water only 4 feet deep and when he called, inviting me to join him and his fishing partners for round two with the bruiser catfish, I quickly adjusted my schedule and made the short drive to meet them at Big Chief Landing. Shad are tough to catch now at Cedar Creek and Vinson brought a couple bags of the baitfish that he had kept on ice for the trip. There are two primary methods of fishing for blues during the cold weather months, says Barber over the drone of the outboard as we motor away from the dock at Big Chief. Drift fishing in deeper water, over submerged humps and ridges, is a great way to cover lots of water and locate fish but right now, weve got the fish located in water as shallow as 3 feet. We will be anchoring, along the outside edge of standing timber. As we began to get into shallow water near the submerged Cedar Creek channel on the north end of the lake, Barber eased back on the throttle and we could occasionally feel a snag under the boats hull. The big fish are in shallow water and we will have to navigate a mile or so of shallow water to get to where I want to fish. Theres a spot ahead with several acres of standing timber adjacent to the creek channel. We will be anchoring a long cast away from the timberline and position our baits close to the deeper water. Catfish use the channel as a travel route through this big, shallow flat. As Vinson eased the bow anchor into the shallow water, a light south wind brought the boat about and we were positioned perfectly for casting toward the timber, about 40 yards to the east. Post haste, we had a total of five big chunks of freshly cut shad on bottom, pinned by 5-ought circle hooks. Ive used all sorts of hooks for catching big catfish but have had the best success using circle hooks, which are designed to twist when the fish closes its mouth on the bait. As the catfish swims away, the circle hook threads into the corner of the fishes mouth, making hook removal easy for catch and release of the big fish. Hard hook sets are not required, most fish hook themselves as they grab the bait and swim away. We soon had several smaller catfish attempting to turn our big, fist size pieces of bait into their breakfast. After about an hour of attracting these smaller fish, Barber decided to pull anchor and move a few hundred yards. This time we were fishing the same type of structure, the edge of a big stand of timber, the taller trees, about 25 yards into the thick, fish attracting cover, marked the serpentine route of the creek channel. I usually fish the end or point of these tree lines, we caught a 47 pounder two days ago from the place we just left, but sometime we catch the fish traveling the edge of long, straight stretches of standing trees. Barber made a long cast with one of the rods and positioned the bait perfectly beside one of the taller trees. I remember thinking to myself this spot had big cat written all over it! The other baits were systematically tossed to other likely bits of cover. Fishing for trophy fish, be they catfish or tarpon, is a waiting game, much like hunting for mature whitetail deer. Its easy to become lulled by the gently rocking boat and soft breezes into forgetting all about the intent of the trip; doing battle with a monster catfish! As I watched a flock of pelicans circling high in the bluebird sky, it happened. Barber snapped to attention, grabbed the rod from its holder on the side of the boat and was hooked fast to what was obviously a BIG fish. Here, Luke, you catch him? No way, buddy, I wouldnt miss the opportunity to capture this on film for the world, I replied as I jumped up on the top of one of the boats rear seat and put the Nikon to work. The water was 3.5 feet deep and we soon saw an aerial display as the big catfish came about halfway out of the water. A jumping 10 pound black bass is something, but just look at the size of this catfish. says Barber as he is engaged in an isometric tug of war with a brute of a fish that was hell bent on getting back into the thick cover. Strong line, a good drag system on the reel, a stout rod, and some expert fish handling soon tired the big fish and he came boatside, into the awaiting net Vinson had half-submerged in the water. A lot of big fish are lost at this stage of the battle by folks that attempt to net them incorrectly. Its best to put the net in the water and let the fish swim into, or very close to it, rather than trying to use it as a big dip net and slash it in the water in attempts to net the fish. We weighed the fish using a set of hand held spring scales and it pushed fifty pounds, back at the dock at Big Chief, it tipped a set of cotton scales at 48.5 pounds. Photo by Luke Clayton As Barber is quick to point out, every trip will not produce a fish of this size, trophies wouldnt be worth the effort if it didnt take perseverance to catch them, but the stage is definitely set for plenty more big fish action this winter at Cedar Creek and many other reservoirs that have a healthy population of blue catfish. Contact Guaranteed Guide Service at www.nofishnocharge.com or call 469-867-4299. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ OUTDOOR TIP OF THE WEEK - Now is prime time to enjoy hunting varmints. The coyote breeding season is underway and male coyotes are on the move seeking mates. Get into your hunting area before first light and use a coyote howler to locate packs or lone animals, then use an injured cottontail or jackrabbit call to entice them within rifle range. Coyotes have a keen sense of smell and their eyesight is amazing. Set up downwind of where you are calling and keep an eye pealed for animals sneaking in from either side of your location, they often make a big circle before coming in to the sound. A stuffed toy rabbit or rabbit or squirrel skin on a pull sting, dangled from a tree branch, adds a bit of realism that often helps pull coyotes in close. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ TAWAKONI CATFISH TOURNAMENT - Remember the Cabelas King Kat catfish tournament at Lake Tawakoni on Feb. 28. Headquarters will be the West Tawakoni City Park. Entrance fee per team is $200. For more information, call 270-395-6774 or visit www.kingkatusa.com . There should be some monster blue catfish landed during this tournament which is scheduled to coincide with the peak of the trophy blue catfish season. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Listen to Outdoors With Luke Clayton at www.catfishradio.com and check out the new fishing videos at lukeshotspots.com The BOC has a virtual library of Luke's stories right here on the forums; just about anything you could want to read about the outdoors. Click here to see a boat load of information!