(Editor’s Note: The 11th stop on our year-long Catfish Hotspots tour takes us back to the Tenn-Tom Waterway and Pickensville Lake — a.k.a. Aliceville Pool — where catfish pro-staffer Jerry Pounders shares his secrets.)
For Jerry Pounders of Columbus, catching catfish out of the Tenn-Tom waterway comes second nature. His first calling is in the service of the Lord as a youth pastor at Zion Assembly Church of God, but fishing isn’t far behind and he manages to find time to fish with his brother Joey.
The two Pounders form a formidable team in several catfish team in tournaments across the region.
Jerry Pounders lives on Pickensville Lake, also known as the Aliceville Pool. It begins at the Stennis Lock and Dam at Columbus and runs south just across the line into Alabama, where it ends at the Tom Bevill Lock and Dam at Pickensville, Ala.
Its waters are well known for both blue and flathead catfish, but also have a healthy population of channel catfish.
Pounders suggested that anglers will find a lot more flatheads on the northern part of the pool, while the blues favor the southern portion of the lake.
When pressed for a reason, Pounders explained that healthy deposits of blue rock are found in the upper reaches of Pickensville Lake. Flathead catfish favor blue rock walls that have been scoured out, creating shallow crevices where they can hide and ambush prey.
“There is more blue rock here and around here,” said Pounders. “Blue rock is golden for flatheads. If they can find that blue rock anywhere around here, they’re going to sit in it.”
Speaking of places to find catfish sitting, Pounders prepared his list of top 10 places to find both blue and flathead catfish on Pickensville. Follow his lead and find the big ones.
1. River Walk
GPS: N 33 29.601 / W 88 26.073
The lead-off batter on Pounder’s Pickensville lineup of catfish hotspots is the old U.S. Highway 82 bridge that has been remodeled to include a pedestrian walkway called the River Walk of Columbus.
Its key ingredient is an overly wide bridge column that provides a good current break right on the edge of the channel drop. It’s a great spot for both blues and flatheads.
“We’re looking for blue cats and flatheads right here,” Pounders said. “You’re going to want to use live bait for the flatheads, of course, then cut bait for the blue cats. The channel is about 20 feet deep but when if flows around this pillar it empties out to about 31 to 33 feet, so you want to fish all the way around this big piling.
“Even if the water’s not running right here, catfish are still going to be laying against that piling because there’s going to be wood and stuff like that, logs and everything else laying in there.”
Boat positioning can be an issue in the swirling waters around the River Walk. Pounders may opt to anchor if the water is not being pulled through the lock or he may rely on a homemade sea anchor and/or his trolling motor.
“Sometimes you can throw out a five-gallon bucket with a hole poked in it on both sides and that’s going to hold you right on the bridge with the current,” he said. “It’s going to be pulling you both ways. Other times, you’ll drift fish around and use your trolling motor to control your drift.”
2. The Barge Shed
GPS: N 33 28.676 / W 88 26.132
Pounders’ second stop is another manmade structure that provides good habitat for catfish. The Tenn-Tom is a working body of water, so plenty of commercial structures can be found on all the pools.
Pounders said No. 2 is somewhat of a parking lot for river barges and the wide bottom craft provide good overhead cover for catfish.
“The barges under and around the shed are going to be in between 10 and 17 feet of water,” he said. “This is an excellent spot to catch channel and blue cats. Reason is, a lot of these barges are stacked up here for most of the year and don’t move so catfish get up under those barges. There’s also a good bit of bait that comes through here for them to feed on but you need to use smaller baits.”
Boat positioning in this location is a breeze. Pounders will tie up to the structure, fish some baits vertically on a Carolina rig set in a rod holder or fan cast bottom baits around the barges to draw the catfish out.
“I’ve tied up to the structure plenty of times, not only this structure, but the barges, as well,” Pounders said. “As long as the barges are not being worked on or being moved, they really don’t have a problem with you tying onto them.”
3. Root Balls
GPS: N 33 27.629 / W 88 26.166
Hotspot No. 3 is a more natural area on the lake. Rising and receding waters in the waterway creates a washing effect on the riverbank and in this location, that washing has eroded the bank and dropped trees into the water.
“This spot is just a bunch of trees with big root wads laying out in the water,” Pounders said. “Trees have fallen down over time. Catfish love to get back up in the roots for protection cover and to ambush the shad when they come by.”
Pounders said not to get too concerned with the specific coordinates of this spot. The bank for several hundred yards offers similar cover and he may anchor out in two or three different locations along this location.
“If you come out of the old river run we were in for the first two spots, go north, this bank is directly across from that or, if you come out of the mouth of the Lux (Luxapalila Creek), go upstream maybe 300 to 400 yards,” said Pounders. “Anywhere in that tree line for 300 to 400 yards is good fishing.”
Pounders suggests anchoring out away from the shoreline and casting toward the trees and roots you can see but also mark and fish the trees out away from the bank that will hold big flathead catfish.
4. Mouth of the Lux
GPS: N 33 27.515 / W 88 25.985
The intersection of the Tombigbee River and Luxapalila Creek is Pounders’ No. 4 spot. It’s a high traffic area for river barges and Pounders will target some of the moored barges that use the area. There are several three-legged mooring posts that typically are hitching posts for idle barges.
“I’m mainly going to fish an area where the barges stack up,” he said. “Like spot No. 2, they give a lot of cover to these channel cats and blue cats. You’re not going to find many flatheads here. I wouldn’t target them.
“I like to use a 5/0 to 7/0 hook with a shad filet or smaller whole shad. Like I said, you’re targeting channels and blues here.”
The combination of overhead cover by the moored barges, the easy access to deeper water in the channels, the swirling currents from the intersecting waters and a continual supply of baitfish makes this spot a natural.
“Typically, you’re going to find from three to 10 barges in here and, they’ll be stacked towards the back mooring side of the river,” he said. “You actually want to fish more towards where the main channel meets the mouth of this Lux. That’s where you’re going to catch the most fish.”
Pounders said cooling waters in the autumn months make this spot even better as fish become active in the fall.
“You’re going to get more action in November as opposed to summertime, but this is a year-round spot right here that you’re going to be able to catch them anytime,” he said.
5. Green Marker
GPS: N 33 26.616 / W 88 26.564
Halfway through Pounders’ list is one of his favorite flathead catfish spots. It’s got blue rock, underwater wood structure and it’s a natural funnel for river shad, which big flathead catfish love to feed on. If he and his brother Joey are targeting bigger fish in a tournament, this location may be one of the first ones he targets.
“This is a good flathead spot,” he said. “You’re fishing some submerged trees in the water and this is the start of a blue rock wall. At the coordinates spot the water is about 20 feet deep. It’s going to extend out to about 27 or 28 feet as you go out. If we were targeting just flatheads we’d start here first as opposed to going deeper into the blue rock.”
Live bait for flathead catfish is a pretty common theme with catfish anglesr, however, Pounders will add a little twist to at least one rod to see if he can attract attention to his spread.
“I’ll use live bait on most flathead spots but I’m always going to throw out one filet,” he said. “If the currents running a little bit, it’s going to spin that filet and create a little vibration. That helps to get their attention. Sometimes they don’t want all live bait. They want something fileted.”
6. Weyerhauser Pump
GPS: N 33 26.092 / W 88 26.486
The most southerly spot on Pounders’ list lies adjacent to the Weyerhaeuser’s Columbus Pulp and Paper Complex.
The complex utilizes the river for water and just downstream from the cooling water pump is a great place to catch catfish. The heated water from the discharge attracts and congregates baitfish, mostly threadfin and gizzard shad. Downstream the steep bank provides cover in the form of washed out trees.
The result is an ideal location to catch flathead catfish.
“The Weyerhauser pump attracts a lot of shad to it,” said Pounders. “What happens is flatheads sit downstream and wait on the shad to congregate and then they come out and get them. Just south of the Weyerhauser pump is this blue rock wall.
“There are four trees a few hundred yards below that pump, that’s where you need to tie up at. Don’t anchor out and fish just right around the wall and don’t throw more than 40 or 50 feet off the bank. Throw right up against those trees and you’ll get a hit on live bait.”
Pounders said the water is relatively shallow, 15 to 20 feet at most. He advocates casting away from the boat and close to the base of the river wall.
“What happens with blue rock wall is the wall gets washed out up under the bank,” he said. “The flatheads lay up under the shelves of the bank of the blue rock walls and they come out and feed every now and then around the trees.
“So you want to get a few of your baits close to the bank and you want to get a few out from the bank because they may be out feeding or there may be another tier to that shelf a little further off the bank.”
7. Washout Across from the Crane
GPS: N 33 28.780 / W 88 26.886
Pounders’ No. 7 hotspot is just downstream from the BSNF Railroad trestle. It’s easy to locate because of a large four-story loading crane on the left side.
The appeal to catfish is that this section of the river was dredged out to deepen the channel. The dredging exposed solid blue rock wall and flathead catfish sit on the shelves in the wall facing into the current and wait for an easy meal.
“Anywhere up and down this channel right here, you’ve going to see blue rock wall and that’s going to be about 15 to 20 feet,” he said. “You want to throw down the blue rock. You don’t want to throw out in the channel. Spread your baits out as much as possible because those flatheads are laying up under those shelves right there and they’re laying close to the bank.”
8. River Walk Culvert Pipe
GPS: N 33 29.467 / W 88 27.355
Extending nearly three miles from the River Walk (hotspot No. 1), a simple culvert pipe marks hotspot No. 8.
Pounders won’t pay much attention to the culvert unless the water in the adjacent creek slough is high enough to spill over into the river. The culvert is more of a marker because it begins a gravel bottom area that extends for a good distance.
“This bank washes out so much, it causes a gravel bank,” said Pounders. “Channel cats like to feed off the gravel because it’s going to have a lot of mussels and stuff like that in it. Where you find a lot of gravel, you’re going to find channel cats. You’ll catch a lot of channels and smaller blues right here — good frying-size catfish. You can work this bank all the way up to the 82 bridge, and all the way down to the old river run.”
9. Red House Hole
GPS: N 33 29.531 / W 88 26.461
Moving back into the old river run that contained the first two hotspots, No. 9 is a deep hole right in the middle of the run. To locate the hole, Pounders can judge by triangulating from a residential area on the bank, but if you’ve never seen it, the GPS coordinates will put you on the spot.
“If you go a couple hundred yards up, it’s going to be 12 feet deep, if you go a couple hundred yards down, it’s going to be 18 feet deep,” he said. “This hole drops to 31 feet and at times can be as deep as 36 feet, depending on water level.”
If you have followed the catfish hotspot series through the year, then you’ll know that big blue catfish love deep holes, bearing in mind that depth is relative. A deep hole in the Mississippi River can be over 100 feet. In an old river run off the Tenn Tom waterway, it’s 30, when the surrounding water is only half that.
“This is where a lot of bit flatheads and big blues congregate,” said Pounders. “You’re going to want to use a lot of live bait, a lot of cut shad, some big fillets to get them to take notice, something that’s really going to bleed a whole lot.”
Pounders said the deepest section of the hole moves around as scouring currents fill in one side and take out the other. He said the depth itself provides the cover; currents remove most of the structure that washes in from time to time.
“The hole moves a little bit here and there because of the current,” he said. “There’s really not a lot of structure down there but it seems like the fish want to be deep and find this hole and sit in it even though there is not a lot of structure”.
Pounders could not over emphasize the importance of using scent to attract fish.
“Anchor up above the hole and cast your baits out,” he said. “Have a good blood bait. If you don’t get any bites, pick up, float down about 50 or 60 yards, throw out again because that scent off that shad trickles down 50 or 60 more yards and that fish may be sitting right there and may eat it when it is thrown out in front of them this time.”
10. Leroy’s Landing
GPS: N 33 29.266 / W 88 27.296
Pounders’ last spot on the list is the public access area where he launches his boat. Finding good access out of the current is important because current will deposit mud and trash on some ramps and make them hard to access at times.
“Leroy’s Landing can hold about 30 to 40 rigs,” said Pounders. “It is enclosed by a pier that comes out and blocks most of the mud that would cover up other ramps. It’s going to stay pretty clean due to the fact everything is closed off and the main river is running past it so it’s not dumping too much stuff in there. The Corps of Engineers keeps up with it pretty good, too.”