Catching Monster Blue Cats: Find the Structure
By Chris Harris
Published: November 20, 2004

One of the biggest keys to catching big blue cats is to find structure. If you find a good piece of structure, the blues will usually not be too far behind. Blue cats will use the stucture for a variety of reasons. When they are inactive, they will use it to rest or during times of feeding they will
use it to ambush their prey. They will also use the structure as a place to hide from the heavy current. And during the spawning period they will use it as a place to lay their eggs.

In order to find suitable structure, you must invest in a top of the line fish finder. Cheap finders like Hummingbird will not have the pixel capability or power to distinguish between fish and structure. I highly recommend the Lowrance X-85 or 91. These units are pricey(over $400) but they paint a very clear picture of the bottom. They are so powerful that they can see the individual branches on a submerged tree. The Garmin 240 is another finder which is used by a lot of big cat experts. One important key about using these top of the line finders is use them in manual mode only. You can get by using them in the auto mode but you will not be taping into its full potential.

Now that you have the correct fish finder where do you look? Structure can come in various forms. It could be a submerged tree, a wreck, a bridge or dock pillon, or a rock bed to name a few. The depth of the structure is not all that important. I've caught fish over 50 lbs in as little as 5 feet of water. The location is also not as crucial. Most magazines and T.V. shows will tell you to concentrate on the outside bends of the rivers. Yes, these can be good areas, but don't make the mistake of not looking at the straight sections also. The best advice I can give to locate structure is to map the river in small sections at a time. I usually take at least one day a month to do nothing more than to just look at the bottom. I'll leave all the rods at home and donate my entire day to just searching. Remember
that the area your finder sees at any one time can be very small, so I recommend doing many "laps" over the section of the river that you are targeting. Don't be afraid to go back and look at areas that you've already looked at in the past. A tidal river is always changing and a piece of structure may be in one place one day and gone the next. Once you've located a good piece of structure you need to make sure that you pin-point exactly where you are. Use various points on the river bank for reference,
so you can easily find it again. Another good idea is to use a GPS Plotter to mark your exact location.
 
Chris Harris is big blue catch and release catfish guide on the James River in Richmond, Va. He has been featured in major magazines such as In-Fisherman and North American Fisherman and can be found in an up-coming Cabela's catfishing video. He can be contacted at 804-560-7177 or go to www.gottheblues.net or www.procatguide.cjb.net for more information about him and his guide service.