It’s safe to say that any species of fish won’t be far from what it’s eating. While many anglers will look for summer catfish around schools of gizzard shad or white perch, guide Wes Jordan of Creedmoor, N.C., concentrates on a staple of postspawn blues that’s prevalent in many Carolina lakes — freshwater mussels.
According to Jordan, who runs Redbeard Cats Guide Service on Kerr Lake, most blues will have finished spawning by early August and will be on their way to main-lake areas where they can pack on the pounds without exerting a whole lot of energy.
“Those mussels are a good food source for them,” said Jordan (919-619-5753). “They don’t have to work very hard to get them, and they’re loaded with protein. When they’re recovering from the spawn, they don’t feel like chasing baits.
“You can find the beds by looking on your fish finder for a hard return. It depends on the color scheme you’ve got set up, but for me that usually looks like orange or red. With side-scan and down-scan imaging, you can actually see the mussel beds if they’re thick enough. You can tell when you’re in the right place because your rod tips will be bouncing like crazy.”
Jordan said that sloping, main-lake points from 5 to 20 feet deep are prime areas for mussels, filter feeders that relies on water movement to deliver organic material. Muddy or clay banks may hold mussels, but sandy bottoms will have the highest concentrations. Blue cats move onto the beds to feed, then drop off into the deeper water nearby to digest and recuperate.
Jordan’s drifts cut baits through the beds at a speed between .5 and 1 mph, moving from point to point to cover as much water as possible. Trolling motor down, he puts out a spread of six rods: two 100 feet behind the boat, two off each side, staggered 50 to 75 behind on planer boards to widen his swath.
“When I’m drifting, I fish a pretty standard Santee rig with a homemade weight,” Jordan said. “I make mine out of shrink-wrap tubing that’s about 6 or 8 inches long and then put some lead shot in it. I heat it up, pinch the ends and use a hook to put a little hole in it for the snap swivel. It weighs about 11/2 ounces.
“I use that on a 3-way swivel with an 18- to 24-inch piece of 50-pound, mono leader with a bobber about 4 inches from a 9/0 to 10/0 Mustad Demon circle hook. I use 30-pound Slime Line mono for my main line.”
Baits include chunks or fillets of gizzard shad, white perch or bream. Jordan said that carp cut into 1-inch cubes are very effective because the oily meat resembles a shucked mussel.