Veteran angler Richie Wimmer said big cats are caught in shallow water by paying attention to small details. That goes from everything from rigs, tackle and baits to overall presentation.

“My rigs are set up with equipment I’ve experimented with and found best for my system,” he said. “A lot of good rigs are available, but I use what’s comfortable and dependable to me, and that’s my first recommendation to anyone: get equipment you trust and can use effectively.”

Wimmer’s tackle consists of 8-foot custom-made Bluecat Series rods from Fat Boy, with Penn Squall 20 LW reels loaded with 40-pound Trilene Big Game. He’ll use a 20-inch leader of 50-pound Trilene Big Game when anchor-fishing in shallow water. He prefers light weights, just enough to hold the bait on bottom. He uses 5/0 Daiichi circle hooks when using cut bait, but when using a big, live bait he’ll use a 9/0 circle hook.

“I also use soft, rubber glow beads between the sinker and the line knot to protect the knot,” he said. “I use a long handled, adjustable dip net to be able to reach for a big catfish, but I always keep it extended when fishing. If not you may hit the release button when landing a fish and lose the fish and the net. Big catfish are strong and that happened to me once. And I do emphasis once. 

“One thing that really helps me at night — and I prefer to fish at night for big fish — are the glow bracelets sold at stores like Dollar Tree,” Wimmer said. “I make a loop below the second eyelet on the rod so I don’t need other  lights, thus eliminating any unnatural light. They enable me to see the rods load up when I first get a bite, and having no other lights eliminates bug issues on warm April nights.”

He said big bait equals big fish in the spring shallows, but small baits equal all fish. Ocean-run herring top the list as live or cut bait, with smaller blueback herring also good, and these are usually available at many marinas. Other preferred baits are cut perch heads or chunks of gizzard shad. But a large, whole herring is very attractive to a huge catfish.

“Decide what your goal is,” he said. “I’ve caught 60-pound blues on small chunks of herring, but I’ve caught more huge cats on really big baits, but fewer numbers. When you set up on a target, cast your baits to a precise spot, don’t just randomly cast around the boat.