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A PROVEN WAY TO CATCH BIG CAT FISH
By CURTIS BARTMESS
AuthorHouseCopyright © 2011 Curtis Bartmess
All right reserved.
Chapter OneROD AND REEL
Most people have their favorite equipment with which to fish. I prefer an open-faced reel with a comfortable rod. The reel needs to be one you can disengage and should have a clicker on it so if you are not holding it in your hand, you can hear it click when you get a bite. A lot of good equipment has been lost for not doing this. When hooking a big fish, remember to engage your reel before setting the hook; otherwise, you will have a terrible backlash and possibly lose your fish. Also, be sure to set the drag so when the fish makes his run, he can take some line. Sometimes the fish may take off up to thirty or forty feet of line before stopping. Then you reel him back, pumping on the rod. Never hold the rod down straight pointing toward the fish. Always keep a bow in the rod. This way the fish will tire, making it easier to land. Use a dip net or take the fish by the bottom lip and drag it out of the water to avoid losing it by having too small a hook or too lightweight a line. I prefer a 3 to 5 degree hook and a 60 pound test line or even larger. There is nothing like losing a big fish because of inadequate tackle. As you probably know, a spin cast reel is somewhat different from an open-faced reel; however, a spin cast reel is much easier to cast if you are using chicken liver for bait. You can trip the reel, swing out the line, and not lose the bait (or leave it behind you).
Chapter TwoTYPE OF BAIT AND HOW TO FIX THE HOOK
As you well know, catfish are cannibals, and they do eat their own. I had a friend once who set some pole lines out from the bank near a deep hole of water on a tributary of the Poteau River. The next morning, when he checked the lines, he found he had caught a nice channel cat weighing four or five pounds. Then, to his surprise, what he thought was a log that had drifted into the end of his pole turned out to be a huge flathead catfish trying to swallow the channel cat already on his line. He got into the water and tried to manhandle the big flathead. To his dismay, the fish got away during the battle. I too have experienced big fish trying to swallow smaller fish already caught. I have raised up limb lines to find five or six pounders peeled from the tail up to the side by bigger fish trying to swallow them. Once, a friend who had left some smaller channel cats staked out overnight went back the next morning and found that the stringer had whipped back and forth and had cut into the sandbar extremely deep. He took hold of the stringer and felt a heavy tug on the line. Naturally, he dragged it on the bank and was surprised to find that a big flathead had swallowed one of the fish on the stringer. So I'm here to say that you can catch fish with fish. Bullhead catfish are a real favorite of the flathead. Perch, carp, buffalo, and frogs are all excellent bait. You have probably heard that flathead catfish will only take live bait, but that is not always true. I have caught many big catfish (blues and flatheads) on dead bait, but it was fresh dead bait. Personally, when using bigger bait, I like to run the hook through the tail and pull the line through (like lacing a shoe), then run the hook through the gill, pointing the hook outward so when the bait is taken, you can hook the fish much more easily. This is the way I bait my hook when I fish with the rod and reel and I use fresh bait that has been put on ice, such as shad or perch. I prefer this way of baiting. One night I caught a large channel cat. It looked as though it was ready to spawn, but it was the wrong time of the year. When I dressed the fish, I found it was full of shad big as my hand. There were at least four swallowed, and they had been eaten headfirst. I learned from this experience to put much larger bait on the limb lines.
Going back to the rod and reel—you can use a fish big enough to eat as bait. Simply put the 11 degree hook through its mouth and out its gill, and then insert the hook into the meaty part of the tail, pointing the hook out of the skin. Then let down into water not over twenty inches deep and tie it to a log or strong limb that will not give. A big catfish will try to swallow your fish, only he will get caught. I know this works from experience! Oh, what a thrill to catch the big ones! Occasionally a big one may get away (hopefully not), and if so, remember this: "Them who's got, got to lose, and them who ain't, can't!"
Last but not least, I will tell you this: big fish may be caught any time of the year, but my most successful months have been in April, May, August, September, and October.
Good fishing to you!
Chapter ThreeTHEM THAT'S GOT
I thought I would put a little humor in this chapter. One night while fishing with one of my grandsons, I caught a big flathead catfish and put it on a stringer. We decided to move the boat to another spot to fish and did not put the fish in the boat. We unknowingly ran through some brush, and when we re-anchored, I reached to check my big fish, but a weak place in the stringer had broken and my fish was gone! I told my grandson, "Them that's got, got to lose, them that aint, can't!" My grandson asked me to run that by him one more time, and I did. His response was, "Grandpa, that will haunt me the rest of my life!" That inspired me to write this poem, which is really a song that I will plan to record in the future.
"Sitting on the river bank, with rod and reel in hand, I baited up my hook with bait from a can, I cast out and hooked a fish, what a mighty fight, I reeled in to take a look, and that fish had broke my hook!
"Them that's got, got to lose, them that ain't, can't. He may be a sinner, she may be a saint, none the less there'll come a time when they will sing the blues, them that's got , got to lose, them that ain't, can't!"
Chapter FourSETTING HOOK
Many people have never really learned when to set the hook when fishing. First, let me talk about the bait. Flathead and blue catfish normally do not bite the same way. I have learned by watching people fish that they tend to jerk or set the hook too soon. Therefore, if you are holding the rod, fish with the reel disengaged, holding the line with one hand in front of the reel. This makes it easier to feel the fish when it takes the bait. Do not jerk or set the hook when you first feel the tug, because a lot of the time a flathead will pick up bait and move it a foot or two, having only the bait in its mouth and not the hook. If you set the hook, you'll feel lightness and upon reeling in, your bait will be gone. This is because you will have jerked too soon. The fish will only have the bait while you are reeling in only the hook! So in this instance, the fish will get the prize! So now rebait your hook, cast out your line, and wait for another bite. When you feel the first tug, do not get overanxious. You may feel a quiver in the line; if you are using live bait, the fish thinks it is killing the bait. Wait a bit and you will feel another slow, heavy tug. This time he is taking it to the house! Remember that the line is disengaged, so let the fish run off ten or fifteen feet of line and then engage your reel and set your hook. You have a flathead on, and the rest is up to you. Catching blue cats is somewhat different, but go ahead and fish as though you are fishing for flathead. The difference is that, most usually, the blue cat takes it on the run. Don't worry—it does not take long to learn the difference; you will know when it happens!
Chapter FiveLIMB LINES
One of the most successful ways to catch big catfish is to set limb lines. Knowing where to set them and what kind of lines to use is very important. First, get some large hooks (11s or 12s), and then get four- or five-hundred-pound-test line. Sometimes parachute cord works really well. I like to use a heavy sinker. Weights off a cast net work superbly, or you may want to use a good-sized nut. The purpose of the weight, in case you are using live bait, is to keep the bait down below the surface, thus avoiding the likelihood of a snake taking it. Many times, I have heard people say, "I had a big fish on, but he pulled loose and the line popped clear out of the water back up on the limb and just hung there!" However, what really happened was a snake took the bait. With no weight to hold it down, the bait fluttered on top of the water, where Mr. Snake grabbed it. Then he crawled up on a limb to enjoy his meal and left you the hook. It is important to remember that your hook needs to be very sharp, because the big catfish have tough mouths. I also like to have a variation in the length of the line. When you begin to look for a place to put the line, you will find that sometimes it takes a longer line than other times. Now that you have your lines ready, it's time to find a place to put them and get ready to catch some fish!
Chapter SixWHERE TO SET THE LIMB LINES
When looking for a place to set limb lines, never tie a line onto a very limber object. That fish is stout, and if he makes a run, and he will, he has the leverage and can either tear off or break loose. So what you must do is find a limb or log that will not give under pressure. I like to fish around drifts on the river. When you find a likely place to make a set, feel around with a boat oar or stick to make sure there is no underwater object for the fish to get tangled on. As strange as it may seem, you do not need to fish deep at night to catch the big ones. Big fish feed near the bank or up toward the surface at night. So do not fish deep with limb lines at night. Fourteen to twenty inches is plenty deep. When the fish takes the bait, he will set the hook well because it is tied to something that will not give. If you are nearby when it gets caught, you will hear him splashing water with his tail while trying to get loose. He is staked out and cannot turn around to make you take hold of the line to feel the tug. Man oh man, there's nothing like it! If you find it difficult to find a good place to tie your limb line, you can always make your own at most any river or lake. Find where a channel comes into a lake or a steep clay bank near a deep hole on a river; then feel out from the bank a little way to where the bottom starts to drop off. Cut a green pole, leaving green leaves on the end of the pole (if leaves are out), and then stick the pole in the ground so your hook will be at the drop off with leaves in the water. Fish can smell the leaves and will feed up around them. Tie your line at the end of the pole, fishing not over twenty inches deep. Tie a guyline on the loose end of the limb and run it to something solid on the bank to keep the fish from pulling the pole out of anchor, because you will get a fish on!
I know a lot of people talk about fishermen's luck, but if you fish the way I suggest in this little book, you will catch fish on purpose, as I do—no brag, just a fact!
Almanacs are mostly always on the money, especially referring to fishing signs. You see, the Good Book (Bible) says there is a time and season for everything, and that means there's a time to catch fish also.
Fish when the signs are in the Ram (head) or in Virgo (bowels) and you'll see. Enjoy the difference.
CH7[ CATCHING CHANNELC AT FISH
I know that most fishermen have their own way of fishing and do catch a few fish from time to time. They will use crawdads, worms, minnows, dough bait, and so on, but I want to tell you about bait I call Buzzard Delight. Make it using my recipe and you will catch big fish.
First, take a half gallon of minnows or small perch and grind or mash them up into a mush. Then put them into a container with a lid on it to seal and put it in a place where insects cannot bother it. It will form a gas, so check it every day and loosen the lid to let off pressure. After about three days, it will be ready to use. If it is a little dry, you may add a little water. You can most definitely tell by the smell if it is ready because it will attract buzzards!
Now you need to get a sponge (an ocean sponge is best, more suitable for the purpose) and a 3 degree or 4 degree hook with a sinker about six or eight inches above the hook. Cut a piece of sponge about the length of the hook and form it into a pear shape. Then weave the hook into the sponge, in the point and barb of the hook.
You are now ready to go to the fishing hole! I like to fish around a drift or a deep channel in still waters. If you fish in moving waters, you have to bait more often. Fish straight down from the boat, or if you are sitting on a log on the drift or bank, put a sinker about six or eight inches from the hook and then let it down into the water far enough to hit the bottom; then reel up about three or four turns from the bottom. Engage your reel, and you are in business. Remember to keep your sponge soaked up with Buzzard Delight. You will get a bite soon. You should feel a slow tug, and when the end of your rod bows down to the water, set your hook and the rest is up to you.
After you have caught a few fish, they will quit biting. Now don't quit fishing like most people do. You see, fish have a way of talking to each other. When they realize something has happened to their buddies, they sense danger and simply move five to ten yards away. All you have to do is move a little and keep fishing.
You will discover as you fish with this bait that it is not something you could buy in a store. If they removed the lid, the store would be evacuated—ha! For a little laughter, I must tell you a story. I worked in construction years ago, and once I walked up on a scaffold where brick masons were laying brick. The wind was blowing in their direction, so I eased back to my truck, retrieved a jar of Buzzard Delight, and went back to the scaffold. I removed the lid (remember, they were downwind) and backed away. Suddenly, the two workers stopped working, thinking one of them had played a stink game. Well, you can figure out the rest of the story. We all had a big laugh afterwards when they found out what I had done.
Another good thing about a sponge and stink bait is that you can fish when the weather is cold. The latter part of January and on through February and March is a good time to fish. Always remember the signs that I mentioned before—Aries and Virgo, the head and stomach. ]CH7
CH8[ FRONT LINES, SNAGLINES, THROW LINES
I have used all of these methods to catch fish, but I still prefer a rod and reel. First I'm going to talk about a trotline. As you know if you have ever fished this way, it takes a lot of time to bait the hook for a trotline, and the turtles, gar, and snakes take most of the bait. However, sometimes you will catch a mess of fish, and occasionally you'll catch a really big fish. The most important thing about a trotline is to set it where it does not interfere with other fishermen. The successful way to set it is to run it with the bank or shoreline, out far enough so that the hooks will hang near the bottom along the edge of the channel. The larger fish will come out of the deeper water to feed at night, closer to the shore and shallow water. You will likely catch more flathead catfish using live perch or small bullhead cats. Be sure to clip the sharp fins off. I like to put a float or jug on the line to see it bounce when a fish is on the line.
Excerpted from A PROVEN WAY TO CATCH BIG CAT FISH by CURTIS BARTMESS Copyright © 2011 by Curtis Bartmess. Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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