Editor’s Note: The fifth stop on our year-long Catfish Hotspots tour takes us to the central part of the state’s western border, a section of the Mississippi River that guide Bob Crosby compares to deer hunting in Kansas — be prepared to see some monsters.
Bob Crosby of Madison has been fishing the Mississippi River along the outskirts of the town of Vicksburg for nearly 15 years. The success Crosby found over the years created the desire to share his knowledge and the adventure of hauling in trophy-sized blue catfish.
“I just got to the point in my fishing career that all I wanted to do was catch big catfish,” he said. “Fishing this part of the Mississippi River is like going to Kansas to kill big deer. You got to be in big deer country to do it — and this is the Kansas of catfishing right here.”
This month, the Mississippi Sportsman Catfish Hotspots Series puts us in the passenger seat of Crosby’s center console Nauticstar catfishing boat. With historic Vickburg in the background and the Ol’ Big Muddy under our feet, we didn’t have to go far for Crosby to show us 10 of the best catfishing holes on the most southerly section of the Mississippi River we’ll visit this year.
1. Harbor Front at Vicksburg
GPS: N 32 21.051 / W 90 53.122
For one of the most well known bodies of water in the world, one thing the Mississippi River is lacking is public access. Fortunately for Vicksburg area anglers, the Harbor Front Landing, right off of Levee St on the Yazoo River Diversion Canal, makes an ideal launch site for recreational watercraft.
“There just aren’t many ramps on the River,” said Crosby. “Laterneau’s is down the river about 10 miles. It’s located at a big industrial plant but you’re launching right into the river and it can be hard to get your boat on the trailer with that current. Here, you’re actually launching in still water in the Yazoo River, and then it’s about a quarter- to half-mile run down to the Mississippi River.”
2. Mouth of Diversion Canal
GPS: N 32 20.164 / W 90 53.895
As promised, catfish anglers don’t have to make a long run in the Vicksburg area to find top-notch catfish holes, and a hole is exactly what’s created where the Yazoo Diversion Canal intersects with the Mississippi.
According to Crosby, where there are holes, there are catfish.
“This spot is where the diversion canal empties into the river,” he said. “You can anchor on the west point here, the northwest point. The diversion canal is usually about 20 feet deep and it just drops straight down to about 60 feet deep. You want to get here early because of all the boat traffic. If you can get here early, fish on this ledge, it’s a dynamite place.”
A common theme among many of the Catfish Hospot Series guides profiled this year has been a preference of cut skipjack herring as bait. Crosby throws his hat in this ring as well.
“Once I anchor on this point I put out five rods baited with skipjack,” he said. “I put out one or two baits right behind the boat and throw some as far as I can throw so I’m fishing different depths but I’m still fishing on that slope. That slope, going down into the river, is where the fish will be moving in and out of this canal.”
3. Collin’s Point
GPS: N 32 20.565 / W 90 54.510
You won’t find the name of Hotspot No. 3 on any map. Crosby named it for his grandson who caught a big catfish here. It’s a scour hole where the current breaks, providing big cats a place to lie in wait for an easy meal.
“Behind each one of these points, you will see the circle current,” said Crosby. “That current line comes down and makes a big circle, and over the eons it scours out a hole. That point is probably 12 feet deep and about 60 feet behind the point, it drops off to 80 feet. Again, anchor up there and fish that slope on the drop off.”
Speaking of big fish, Crosby said the average size blue cat he’ll catch in May is in the 25- to 30-pound range. It starts there and goes up to 90 pounds. Crosby said his style of fishing is not what most anglers are accustomed to.
“I fish a lot of people who have caught big catfish on trot lines or big catfish on hand grabbing but not on rod and reels,” he said. “We fish the deep holes, the ledges, just like the bass fishermen do. It’s not what you think of as traditional catfishing.
“We don’t anchor on a place and wait for the catfish to come by. We find them. We go to a spot. If the catfish are there, they’re going to bite within 30 minutes. If we don’t catch a fish, we go to another spot.”
4. Island Dike
GPS: N 32 20.506 / W 90 56.757
Water level is going to be a factor anytime you fish the Mississippi River. It dictates how fish relate to structure in the river. The Vicksburg area is no different. Hotspot No. 4, in particular, is a location contingent upon sufficient water levels, but not too much water.
“This location is a dike that is completely underwater,” said Crosby. “It comes out of water about when the Vicksburg gauge is about 14 feet. When you can see the dike, I anchor on the end of it and fish the deep scour hole behind it on the slope in 80 to 90 feet.
“When it’s completely under water, like it is now. You move to the middle and use your graph to find the hole in the middle of the dike. That’s where you want to fish,” he said.
Crosby explained that almost all of the dikes in the river have a hole in them near the bank, an opening designed to allow the current to come through. In times of high water, he’ll fish the blowout hole next to the bank. If lower levels cause it to stick out water, all of the current is going around the end of the dike so that’s the place he targets fish.
5. Mud Bank
GPS: N 32 20.663 / W 90 58.230
Hot spot No. 5 is one of few spots in Crosby’s playbook that’s not a sand bar, a rip rap bank, revetment bank, or plated with concrete. He describes it as just a true mud bank.
“Catfish like to move off on this mud bank and feed on mussels, worms, or whatever they can scrounge up,” he said. “I always start out on the north end and anchor about 60 feet off the bank and fish for 30 to 40 minutes. If you catch fish, then settle in. If not, pull the anchor, go down 200 yards, anchor and fish again.”
Crosby pointed out that the blow-down trees that are visible on the bank are representative of the structure you’ll find under water out away from the bank. He suggests that anglers fishing this spot not get caught up in fishing what they can see with their eyes and fish what they can read on their sonar equipment.
“Most people anchor right on the bank, fishing in 3 feet of water, but the bigger fish hang back on the underwater structure,” he said. “If you want the trophy fish, you need to stay off about as far as you could throw a baseball from the bank.”
6. The Grain Elevator
GPS: N 32 20.888 / W 90 58.940
Another popular attraction that has been touted in this series is fishing for catfish around any type of grain loading barges or elevators. Inevitably, some of the grain spills into the water. While smaller fish may feed directly on the grain, it’s the larger fish feeding on the smaller fish that gets Crosby excited and causes him to anchor here.
“When they pull that chute, they spew corn everywhere,” Crosby said. “Most people tie up to the bank and fish with corks and catch just ice chests full of small fish. However, behind that point, there’s a scour hole with a circle current so when that grain is discharged from the barge, it goes downriver and gets in that circle current and just goes around and around, drawing bait fish into the swirl.
“The bigger fish are just sitting there waiting. It’s easy pickings for them. Sometimes when you catch them, they’re so full that if you thump them, you think they’ll explode.”
Crosby pointed out that fishing grain elevators is a seasonable thing, dependent on fresh grain to draw fish. Through the summer, one thing he can count on is that bream and larger baitfish will stack up on the logjams that wash in against the pilings.
“Where there are lots of bream and logjams together, you can bet there will be flatheads,” he said. “In fact, if I’m not fishing for blues in the scour holes, I might be fishing for flat heads up near the lead piling.”
7. Tommy’s Creek
GPS: N 32 20.996 / W 90 59.600
Subtle clues often give away good fishing locations — a flowing creek dumping into a larger tributary, shore and wading birds milling around the banks, a rocky shoreline …
Crosby’s No. 7 spot has them all.
It has all the signs of an oasis, but like the desert, can be devoid of fish if not approached correctly.
“You want to fish this spot in stages,” said Crosby. “Start out anchored above it and fish in the creek. If you don’t catch any there, I’d work my way down and get below it a little bit, say a hundred yards below. Don’t pull up into the mouth of the creek like some people do. You’re going to spook both your baitfish and your catfish. Make a big circle around it and come in above it, then anchor. If you’re going to check it out with a depth finder, go above your spot, cut off the motor and drift through it and graph it without the motor running.”
8. River Ridge
GPS: N 32 21.518 / W 91 00.444
Crosby’s No. 8 spot lies out of the barge channel some hundred yards from the bank of the river. The top of the ridge lies in 25 to 30 feet of water, again, depending on the current river stage, but drops off into a 70 to 80 feet cut close to the bank.
On the other side of the ridge, the bottom drops off to 120 feet, one of the deepest spots in the river in this vicinity.
“This is just a high mound,” Crosby said. “It’s just like bass fishing or crappie fishing, these catfish get up on this ridge, this mound, and feed. This is a dynamite place to fish and I’ve caught more big fish here than anywhere on the river but it’s not consistent.”
“You’ve got to have the right current flow,” said Crosby. “You see those bubbles on the bank over there. That’s that circle current I’m talking about. It’s a huge circle current. It probably covers 100 acres here but it is a circle current. If you don’t see a circle current, this reverse current, there’s no need even fishing it. We may go a year without catching a fish here but when they’re here, we camp out all day long.”
9. Davis Island Point
GPS: N 32 22.377 / W 90 59.950
Crosby and the other contributors in the Catfish Hotspot Series are more than happy to share some of their favorite fishing holes with the readers of Mississippi Sportsman. It’s also their goal that by learning to recognize certain features that consistently produce good catfish holes, readers will also learn how to find their own hotspots and learn how and when to fish them.
Hotspot No. 9 is a typical catfish hole in the Mississippi, a rock current break with another rock dike right behind it. Current breaks with deep water nearby make some of the best catfish holes. Like rest stops on a busy interstate, the structure takes advantage of current that rushes by without fish having to fight to stay in place.
“It’s a big scour hole,” said Crosby. “The bait gets trapped in this calm water behind the dikes and catfish just move up here and feed and move back down the slope. It’s just a place where you can fish out of the current take a break, get something to eat, then head back to deep water. It holds a lot of fish.”
10. Davis Island Sandbar
GPS: N 32 20.971 / W 90 58.095
Approximately 90 percent of the time, Crosby is going to anchor down and cast cut baits to tempt catfish. On occasion, he’ll set up a controlled drift, dragging lines vertically through the water or gently bumping along the bottom using a drift rig. He explains that not every location on the Mississippi is conducive to this type of fishing.
“This spot is a long sandbar,” he said. “Most of these other places we’ve been looking at are revetment banks, deep scour holes. It would be difficult to drift fish those. You’d stay hung up all the time.”
“At the base of this sandbar, it’s pretty clean, just put your poles in rod holders and either vertical drift it with two poles on each side. You can control the movement of the boat with the trolling motor while slowly drifting downriver or bump the bottom drift. I just let the bait walk downriver behind my boat.”
Readers wishing to contact guide Bob Crosby of Blue Cat Guide Service can call him at 601-953-5767 or visit his website at http://www.bluecatguideservice.com/