Catfish - Techniques for Heavy Current

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Instructor: Seth Horne

Catfishing dam spills offers opportunities to catch impressive catfish in cooler months. However, dealing with heavy current and spill rates is challenging. Tennessee angler Marc Cooper shares his tips on positioning and anchoring boats in heavy current, using fresh bait, and catching big fish. By following his methodology, anglers can improve their fishing skills and catch big catfish.

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  • Geographical Context: Southeastern U.S. is prime for catfishing in heavy currents.
  • Historical Background: Currents primarily result from hydroelectric dams built in the 1930s.
  • Environmental Factors: Power usage and consequent water release increases in colder months.
  • Fish Behavior: Dropping temperatures boost catfish appetite, making them feed more aggressively.
  • Fishing Locations: Areas near dam spills offer prime spots due to bait fish attraction.
  • Catfish Habits: Catfish prefer calmer waters, acting as ambush predators and seeking protection from the current.
  • Spot Identification: Look for slack water seams, bottom depressions, and places offering protection from the current.
  • Expert Insights: Marc Cooper, an experienced angler, shares techniques for targeting giant catfish during heavy spill times.
  • Practical Techniques: Recommendations include boat positioning, bait selection, and bait presentation.

Catfishing in Heavy Currents: A Comprehensive Guide

The Southeast is a treasure trove for avid anglers, providing the perfect environment to hone your catfishing skills, especially in challenging heavy currents. The currents aren't just a natural phenomenon; their origins trace back to the 1930s with the construction of hydroelectric dams.

The Role of Hydroelectric Dams

In many parts of the South, the flow of water - or current - is a direct consequence of hydroelectric dams built decades ago. The volume of water released from each dam is intricately linked to power usage. As temperatures plummet, there's a surge in power demand for heating homes and businesses. It's not unusual to see currents in the 40,000 cfs range.

The Biological Impact of Dropping Temperatures

But it's not just our power needs that are affected by dropping temperatures. Catfish undergo a biological transformation. Winter ignites a voracious appetite in them, pushing them to bulk up. With the water temperature decreasing, bait fish populations dwindle, prompting species like the Flathead and Blue catfish to feed as much as they can.

The Allure of Dam Spills

These dam spills act as magnets for big catfish. They not only usher in bait fish but also create a nutrient-rich, oxygenated water whirlpool, drawing even more bait and setting the stage for a fishing bonanza. Picture this: a feast for catfish, where giant ones move upstream, capitalizing on the steady stream of food from dam spills.

Deciphering the Catfish Behavior

Now, if you know that the big fish are navigating the heavy currents, it's a given that you'd be fishing there. But where exactly should you cast your line? Interestingly, like many riverine species, catfish aren't fans of fighting currents for their meals. Energy conservation is paramount. Especially the colossal ones, they prefer to lie low, acting as the quintessential ambush predators, waiting in ambush for food to drift within easy reach.

Spotting the Perfect Catfishing Zone

Given the vastness of these hydroelectric dams, pinpointing the ideal fishing spot can be daunting. Focus on:

  • Slack water seams.
  • Depressions or holes in the riverbed.
  • Natural barriers like rock piles, logs, or even minor anomalies that offer protection from the currents.
  • Seams where fast-moving water meets slack water.
  • Eddies, seams, and pockets near riverbanks offering a reprieve from the relentless current.

All a catfish has to do is slip in and out of the rushing water, grabbing any passing meal.

Expert Insights: Marc Cooper's Catfishing Techniques

In the In The Spread Catfishing Techniques for Heavy Current video, seasoned angler Marc Cooper delves into his strategies for targeting giant Flathead and Blue catfish during intense spill times. Despite employing some unorthodox methods, Marc's impressive catches validate his approaches. Key aspects of his strategy include:

  • Identifying prime fishing locations.
  • Tackling heavy currents.
  • Choosing fresh bait and mastering bait presentation.
  • Perfecting boat positioning.

Without relying on advanced electronics to scan the riverbed, Marc utilizes visual cues to identify potential hotspots. Once you've pinpointed a location, it's crucial to position your boat effectively, especially in heavy currents exceeding 40,000 cfs. Anchoring becomes indispensable, and getting it right is an art in itself. Marc's insights on anchoring in these challenging conditions are invaluable.

When it comes to bait, Marc stresses the significance of freshness. He even dedicates time to catch his own, ensuring the highest quality. By strategically placing a variety of baits around the targeted zone, you can effectively cover a larger area, increasing your chances of a catch.


Marc Cooper's catfishing techniques video is a goldmine of information, covering location scouting, managing heavy currents, vessel positioning, anchoring techniques, and bait selection and presentation. His methods are proven for both Flathead and Blue catfish. Armed with the knowledge from this video and a commitment to practicing the skills, any angler can achieve remarkable results. Remember, the key is to fish smarter, not hard.


What causes the heavy currents in the Southeast?
Currents are primarily a byproduct of hydroelectric dams built back in the 1930s. The amount of water released from each dam is based on power usage.

How does the weather affect catfish behavior?
Dropping temperatures kickstart a biological switch in catfish, boosting their appetite. This is because they aim to fatten up before winter, when bait fish populations dwindle.

Why are dam spills significant for catfishing?
Dam spills attract bait fish and create oxygenated water, drawing even more bait. This abundance of food attracts giant catfish to the headwaters.

Where are catfish likely to be found in heavy current?
Catfish, especially the larger ones, prefer areas with protection from the current. They can be found in slack water seams, holes, depressions, behind rock piles, and logs on the riverbed.

Who is Marc Cooper and what does he suggest?
Marc Cooper is an experienced angler known for catching big fish. He emphasizes the importance of boat positioning, using fresh bait, and proper bait presentation. His techniques are proven effective for both flathead and blue catfish.

How should one position their boat in heavy current?
Positioning in heavy currents can be challenging. It's recommended to anchor upstream and then adjust the boat's position by letting out the anchor line.

What is the key takeaway from the catfishing techniques video?
The video focuses on understanding the right spots for fishing, managing heavy currents, boat positioning, bait selection, and presentation. Applying these techniques can significantly improve one's catfishing success.

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Seth Horne

Seth Horne is a passionate sport fisherman and media professional who has fished across the globe for over 20 years. Through his production companies, he creates fishing films and videos focused on sharing the knowledge of expert anglers worldwide. Horne launched the In The Spread (ITS) video platform to provide comprehensive fishing instruction and revolutionize how anglers improve their skills. ITS features in-depth tutorials, tips, and adventures from some of the world's best fishermen. Horne's mission is to share fishing expertise to help anglers have better experiences on the water.

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