How to Catch More Hot-Weather Catfish
Day 1: Fishing Tailraces for Summertime Catfish
Editor’s Note: These expert tips will help you catch more catfish this summer, no matter where you live.
“There are plenty of catfish down there, John, if you’ll just hook them,” my fishing buddy, the late Kyle Baggett, said, laughing as his big fiberglass rod bowed-under the charge of a 5-pound catfish. Baggett was an angler who wouldn’t attract any attention at first glance with his ancient-looking, flat-bottom aluminum johnboat, heavy rods and reels and bottom-bumping catfish tactics. But after you watched the overall-clad angler for a while, you couldn’t help but be fascinated by his ability to take Mr. Whiskers. Baggett, one of the most-productive tailrace cat catchers I ever had met, was a student of the sport, as well as being very attentive to even the smallest detail required for taking catfish.
Although I was fishing in the same spot Baggett was and also was using a three-way swivel with a heavy lead sinker, a drop line hanging-off the third eye of swivel and shad guts for bait and letting my line down in the swift water in the exact same place as Baggett, he was catching four to five catfish to my one. I asked him what he was doing that I wasn’t. “Let me take a look at your bait,” Baggett suggested. And, as he closely inspected the shad gut attached to my hook, he found the problem. “Here’s the reason you’re not catching fish, John. Your hook is exposed. You must bury the hook in the bait where the catfish can’t see it. If it spots the hook, it won’t take the bait.” Following Baggett’s advice, I completely surrounded the hook with the bait and began to bump the bottom again. But this time I got bites and caught a few fish.
However, still for every cat I took, I missed three more, while Baggett was effectively setting the hook every time Mr. Whiskers sat down to take a bite. “What’s the secret of setting the hook?” I asked Baggett. “There’s a certain feel that I have developed over the years, and I believe I can tell when a catfish sucks the bait into its mouth and before it closes its mouth on the hook,” Baggett explained. “I anticipate the bite, get myself ready and set the hook just a second or two before the catfish closes its mouth on the bait.” Although Baggett’s hook-setting technique seemed to be farfetched, his ability to set the hook and catch catfish was phenomenal. After angling all day in the boat with Baggett, I realized that the men who fished for cats regularly had developed a touch that allowed them to know when the fish had taken the bait before most fishermen even would feel the bite. This touch is similar to that of a professional bass angler who feels a bass pick-up a worm long before most fishermen realize the fish has taken the bait.