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I discovered Mike Mitchell of Southern Cats Guide Service while searching for Tennessee fishing guides. As luck would have it, Mike fishes in both Alabama and Tennessee, so I enlisted him for two days of fishing, the first in Alabama and the next in Tennessee. More important than fishing in two states, Mike had put a client on a 102-pound blue catfish, so I knew he was the man to fish with for big cats. (I had originally assumed I would enjoy some of Alabama’s famous bass fishing for my state trip there, but Mike’s trophy catfish pictures convinced me otherwise.)

We fished on Lake Guntersville near Scottsboro, Alabama, on a sunny January day that reached 65 degrees, a very pleasant change from the rain and cold in Virginia. The fishing was a little slow, but I caught three blue catfish, with the biggest being 24 pounds, which is not a bad day at all. Even so, Mike and I had much better luck the next day in Tennessee.

Update March 2018: For my annual out-of-state trip in 2018, I headed back to Alabama to fish Smith Lake with Mike Walker ( I had attempted to return to Alabama in January 2016 and February 2016, but was snowed out each time. My timing was only slightly better in March 2018, as I was narrowly able to out-drive an extremely rare late March snowstorm that brought record snowfall to northern Virginia. Unfortunately, Alabama did not escape the freak weather and a tornado outbreak and massive cold front dropped the temperature 15 degrees below average, which slowed the bite considerably. Fighting 20 - 30 MPH winds, Mike and Brian persevered and put me on some good spots. I managed a 32-inch striper, a 34-inch striper, and a 38-inch flathead, good enough for an Alabama Master Angler Award, which made Alabama the 38th state in which I have caught at least one trophy.

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