He apparently knows those fish intimately, because at the end of the day on Wednesday, his party had put two 40-pounders and a 44-pounder in the boat, plus some smaller fish.
They weren't huge – not like the 75-pounder that's Hammill's personal best at the 5,260-acre reservoir in the ancient Uwharrie Mountains near Denton, nor the 89-pounder that Eric Fincher caught from Badin in 2006 that is the North Carolina state record – but they were nice, chunky catfish and represented themselves well on the hook end of the line. The three biggest fish were well above the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission's Angler Recognition Program minimum of 30 pounds and would have qualified for NCARP citations had anyone been so inclined.
However, the day began slowly. Hammill, who runs Hammill's Outdoor Adventures (704-239-7921), said a friend had fished all night and not caught anything, that no water ran at all through Tuckertown Dam upstream, so there had not been any current to get the fish in a feeding mode.
With no water moving, Hammill positioned his boat over a drop from a flat to a channel. Here fan-cast several baits to shallower water on the flat and several baits to deeper water along the edge of a channel, explaining that placing baits at various depths would help see what depth the fish were using. When Hammill completed the spread, the wide body G3 Jon Boat looked a lot like an upside down granddaddy longlegs spider.
The first spot generated one slow takedown that didn't hook up and a couple of lightly bouncing rods. Hammill said the fish bouncing the small rods were too small to eat the large chunks of perch and shad he was using as bait. A move to slightly deeper water showed a lot of activity on the depthfinder, but only produced a couple more light takedowns that didn't get the hook.
"I believe these fish will bite as soon as they let any water run through the dam," Hammill said. "If they didn't run any water last night, they could open the gates at any time. Let's move back to the edge of that flat and be set up for when it happens."
Hammill set his spread again, and in less than 10 minutes, one rod bounced and then pulled down. It looked like a good strike, but didn't hook up. While Hammill was rebaiting that line, another rod pulled down and stayed. This was a small blue cat, but was the beginning of some action. Hammill surveyed the water and happily announced it appeared there was a little movement.
Hammill started to say more but was interrupted by a hungry catfish. Just a few minutes later, another rod went down, and this fish took drag. In only a few minutes after the water had begun moving through the lake, the fish had responded, and the bite was on.
The final tally was six blue catfish, including the three citation specimens – all of which were released to help insure continued excellent fishing for blue catfish in Badin.
Hammill said he constantly tells fishermen the catfishing in Badin Lake is as good as at Santee-Cooper or anywhere, but many don't believe it is possible. It sure was that afternoon, and it's a much smaller lake to learn all the hotspots.