EDITOR’S NOTE: In 2012, Phillip Gentry wrote a series of articles for Mississippi Sportsman describing crappie hotspots on 12 destinations across the state. Each month included 10 locations (including GPS coordinates) of where to go and how to catch fish. Our readers’ overwhelming response to the crappie series prompted us to suggest he write a similar series for 2014 for catfish. It will take us from the Tenn-Tom Waterway to the Mighty Mississippi, and all sorts of waters in between. Thanks to the pro and veteran anglers who took Gentry to each and every location and shared not only their secret fishing holes but also their tactics. We hope you enjoy them and use them to catch some fish.
A leadoff batter is the most important player whenever you start a game of baseball. He establishes the tone for the rest of the game, setting the table to so speak. For this year’s Catfish Hotspots series, Joey Pounders of Caledonia not only steps up to the plate, he knocks one out of the park on a rainy day in January, describing the best catfishing locations on his home waters at Columbus Lake on the Tenn-Tom Waterway.
Pounders is a 31-year-old veteran catfisherman who represents a number of top of the line catfish products — Monster Rod Holders, B&M Rods, Ego Nets, and Vicious Line — on the national catfish tournament circuits. He is also the driving force behind the Mississippi Catfish Hunters Club, based in Columbus.
When Pounders suggests you try catfishing in a particular spot, only a fool would drive on by.
1. Two Tree Hole
GPS: N 33 38.504 / W 88 29.943
Pounders’ No. 1 spot is located at the mouth of an old river run where it intersects the new dredged river run. The dredging activity dumps all kinds of trees along the old tree line in the photo. Twice as much cover will be stacked against the visible cover on the tree line.
The main channel holds a good depth around 25 feet deep but also provides a 12-foot shelf. According to Pounders, if the fish are on that ledge and they’re deep and wanting to come up and feed, you can fish two different depths from one spot.
“This is an excellent flathead spot,” said Pounders. “As long as the water temperature is above 50 degrees, flatheads should be moving pretty good. But also you can find the blue cats running this ledge and eating live bait. To target both I would fish live bait in this spot.”
Pounders’ bait of choice is live shad, taken by cast net from the lake at the start of the trip or the night before. Sizes will range anywhere from 5 to 8 inches in length. He will also try filleted shad for blue cats. He’ll fan cast six poles to evenly distribute his baits in various water depths and structure.
2. Old Town Creek Run
GPS: N 33 37.485 / W 88 30.043
Stop No. 2 on Pounders’ list is the Old Town Creek River Run. In this location the main channel dumps into the old channel. On the left side, the old channel is about 25 feet deep and has a ledge that runs about 200-300 yards. Pounders will anchor and fish several locations along the ledge and work it all the way down. He believes that any spot is as good as the next one.
“You’re trying to get out of the main current because it can be pretty strong at times, and when the current comes in here and hits this wall it creates an eddy that is great for catfishing,” he said. “On the other side, you’ve got shallow water that holds bait fish so catfish will go feed on the bait fish and come back here and get in the deep structure where they can get out of the current.”
He said anglers are better off to tying up to the bank and throwing out into the river run rather than anchoring because of the current.
“I’ve caught anywhere from a 5-pound blue to a 40-pound flathead in here,” he said, “so they’re all stacking in here. You can catch both species right here.”
3. Town Creek Camp Site
GPS: N 33 36.862 / W 88 29.525
Pounders describes spot No. 3 as nothing but a big hole that holds a lot of big fish. It is located at the end of an old river run. Water enters the run two miles up and then comes back around. The GPS coordinates put you at the final dump before the run goes back into the main channel. Water depths are anywhere from 30-40 feet deep coming off a 20-foot flat that goes back out to the main channel.
“I fish this with big cut shad for blue cats deep in the hole,” he said “Blue cats like to get in that deep water. There’s not a whole lot of structure but it’s deep water so they’ll be in there feeding. I’d use some filet shad or some big chunk shad.
The actual campsite is up on the hill, but Pounders indicated that the hole extends about 350 yards on the right side of the bank and fishermen should fish the wall starting at the “Slow, No Wake” sign all the way to the campground. The big bite could come at any time.
“I give each spot about 20 minutes and pick out three or four spots along the way,” he said.
4. Lower Camp Creek
GPS: N 33 36.457 / W 88 29.080
So far, Pounders has taken us to places to catch flathead and blue catfish. Nine times out of 10 he releases those fish. Spot No.4 is his “fill your freezer hole” and is Pounders’ channel catfish spot.
“This is a dynamite place to fish for channel cats,” said Pounders. “You want to use a fillet bait or a smaller shad bait on a 5/0 hook or something like that and you’re going to catch blue cats and channels anywhere from 5 to 15 pounds right here.”
The attached GPS numbers put you on the main channel adjacent to a submerged stump field with a lot of trees sticking out of the water. Anglers will find a lot of stumps in the water and a lot of drift-in structure is going to be wedged between the stumps.
“It is about 7-feet deep when it comes up to the bank and you can either throw into that 7-foot water or throw out into the channel where it’s going to be about 13-14 feet deep,” he said. “Get in here in the stumps with the fish and just spread out your poles and cover as much water as possible.”
5. The Grain Bins
GPS: N 33 34.626 / W 88 29.589
The premise of spot No. 5 is a fairly common one for finding catfish and you’ll see several of them in the Catfish Hotspots journey this year. At Columbus, it’s the Old Waverly grain bin. Brain docks are magnets for catfish and everything else because when they’re off-loading the grain, some of it winds up in the water and turns it into a baited hole for fish.
“The water depths are about 25 feet right here,” said Pounders. “Usually there’s not as much barge traffic here and they’re loading a lot of corn, wheat, a little bit of everything in here and usually this is a good spot for blue cats and some channels, but typically not a good spot for flatheads because there’s little structure.”
He suggests anglers will want to fish the area more downstream because the spilled product is going to drift with the current. The action can be good as far as 500 yards downstream from the docks. You can even make this an all-day fishing spot.
“I would probably use a 5/0 to 7/0 hook with fillet bait and possibly some chunk shad,” said Pounders. “It doesn’t hurt to tie up to a barge as long as they’re not working on it. That puts you a little more out in the channel where you can just drop your baits straight down.”
6. Waverly Trestle
GPS: N 33 33.899 / W 88 29.805
One of the more recognizable spots on Pounders’ list is No. 6. It’s where the Southern Railway used to cross Columbus Lake at Waverly. It’s a perfect scenario for Pounders, who loves to fish deep channels adjacent to hard structure because the eddy behind the structure is a prime catfish holding area.
“This is an old railroad trestle with large concrete pilings and you want to fish on the back side of the pilings where you’ve got current because the fish are going to lay behind them,” said Pounders. “The water is about 30-feet deep coming off a 12-foot shelf so a lot of these fish are coming up on that shelf and feeding or laying right against that piling. Either way, you can’t go wrong fishing a live bait or a cut bait behind either one of these pilings because you’re going to get both flatheads and big blue cats here.”
Current flow in Columbus Lake varies with the opening and closing of locks above and below the pool. Accordingly, at times there will be strong currents and at others very little. Pounders explains that current frequently dictates what the fish will do.
“If the water’s dead that day don’t even worry about fishing this spot,” he said. “If the water’s blowing, this is a great spot to fish because there’s a break in the water and the fish are going to huddle around the back side of these pilings.”
7. School Bus Bridge
GPS: N 33 33.311 / W 88 29.742
Although spot No. 7 is named for an old school bus that somehow found it’s way into the lake, Pounders said you can catch catfish anywhere from the old bridge piling 200 yards away on the other side of the bank up to the old school bus. A ledge in 16 feet of water drops off into 30 feet of water in the old river run.
“You’ll want to fish this with good fillet baits, some good gizzard shad fillet baits and maybe some heads or something like that because you’re looking for those big blues coming through here,” he said. “Fish are going to lay on this wall all the way down for at least 300 or 400 yards.”
The ledge is about 50 feet out from the bank, giving Pounders two options for boat position based on current. If current allows him to use his anchor, he will stay out over deep water. If not, he will tie up to the bank, which requires a 50 – or 60-foot cast to place his baits along the drop.
8. Tibbee Creek and North Tombigbee
GPS: N 33 31.642 / W 88 29.504
“At this location, you’ve got the main river right here, which is the Tombigbee, and you look over to your left and you’re looking at Tibbee Creek,” said Pounders. “You’re looking at a big lake flat that’s 6-feet deep but there is a channel that’s about 50-foot wide and 22- to 25-feet deep that runs all the way to Tibbee Creek.”
He explained that catfish follow the old river run all the way from Tibbee through the flat to where it meets the Tombigbee. Anywhere along the run Pounders will throw out fresh cut bait and catch blue catfish. He will also catch some flathead catfish that are running the edge of the walls looking for live food.
He’ll anchor the boat if there’s enough current or use the shallow water to his advantage for positioning the boat if it’s calm
“If you have a Power Pole where you could drive it into the ground, it would be best to do that in the shallows,” he said. “You can get up on any of these ledges right now.”
9. The Indian Mound
GPS: N 33 31.419 / W 88 28.425
Hotspot No. 9 is the last old channel before you get to the lock that backs up Columbus Lake. Pounders considers it a prime flathead spot because when the water gets up, it washes a lot of trees off the bank. He pointed out that most of the structure in the form of blow-down trees are covered by the water and requires using a graph to locate spots to anchor and fish.
“The flatheads stay in here because it doesn’t get much current and they like to lay around in that structure,” he said. “It’s 20- to 25-feet deep so you’ll want to surround your boat with a lot of live bait.”
He said the area gets its name because there’s an Indian Mound off to the right about 50 yards, a hump in the bank that’s kind of washed out. That’s the old Indian mound, connected to the field.
To target flatheads, Pounders will approach quietly so he doesn’t spook the fish, then quietly anchor off the bank and throw his baits up there next to those tree stumps and root balls that are going to be exposed at the undercut bank as well as drop straight down, because, more than likely, the boat will be positioned right on top of good structure.
10. Columbus Landing, East Bank
GPS: N 33 31.523 / W 88 28.200
Consider spot No. 10 not so much for fishing, but where to begin and end your tips.
Columbus Landing is known for its well-lit parking area and security. It’s also a frequent weigh-in site whenever local or national catfish tournaments are held on the lake.
“They maintain the lights here so you can always see your truck when you come off the water at night,” said Pounders. “You don’t have to worry about break-ins. I’ve never had my truck broken in here. You’ve got six places you can put your boat in. You’ve got parking enough for probably up to 100 vehicles with trailers and it’s real convenient. You can get anywhere on this lake within five or 10 minutes from right here, so it’s a nice area to put in.”
*Our February stop will be the Mississippi River at Bolivar County, with a man who may have caught and released the world record blue catfish, but kept it a secret. We’ll show you the spot next month.