The best way to catch big fish is to target the largest species of fish where you live during different times of the year. This means that you need to focus on fish such as channel catfish, carp and northern pike. All three of these species have a wide geographical distribution across the United States and you can catch them in the spring, summer and winter. All you need is some knowledge, which increases your chances of catching a memorable trophy fish.
Channel Cats - Wait for a heavy rainfall that brings your local river close to the top of its banks in the late spring. Identify the stretches in a river where fish will receive some respite from the raging current. Look for points of land that jut out into a river and create a backwater, protecting a piece of the river from the steady torrent. You are likely to find channel catfish there, a species that can easily top 10 pounds in many river systems. Rig a spinning reel with 10- to 12-pound test and add at least 3/8 of an ounce worth of sinkers or split shots to the line, about two feet from a No. 4 snelled hook tied to the end of your line. Use chicken livers, night crawlers or pieces of smaller baitfish such as shiners or dace for bait. Bait your hook and cast out into the water where it is calm. Use as many fishing poles as your state fishing regulations allow, resting the poles against forked sticks jammed into the riverbank. Watch your lines for any movements. Channel catfish will grab bait and run, essentially hooking themselves and setting you up for at least a five-minute battle.
Carp - Use much the same equipment to catch carp, the largest fish in most river systems in the United States. Instead of fishing during times of high water though, you want to wait until the hot days of summer and concentrate on the deeper pools along a riverbank when the water is down. Carp will seek a shady spot and stay in one area for a length of time. Fish as heavy as 20 pounds are not rare. Carp will take such baits as the night crawler, corn and doughballs affixed to the hook. Have your fishing pole and reel in top shape when after carp; they will tax lighter equipment to its limit. Always have a fishing net with you when after carp, and once you have finally tired the fish out, guide it to the net, which you want to keep low in the water, scooping up the fish when it is over it.
Northern Pike - Ice-fish for your best shot at a northern pike. In the winter months, these predators, which are typically in the three-foot long range as adults, will cruise under the ice looking for a meal. Rig ice fishing tip-ups with a large four- to six-inch-long shiner hooked just behind its top fin. Set your tip-ups in the shallows, especially in February and March, as pike will look to deposit their eggs before the ice melts. Keep the shiner off the bottom so it cans swim freely and watch your tip-ups for a flag to go up. You will know a pike is on the line as soon as you take the tip-up out of the hole and set the hook. It will attempt to run with the bait and battle you until you can gradually bring in line by hand and guide it head first out of the hole.