John's Journal... Entry 53, Day 1
Crappie-Fishing Tackle for Big Cats
EDITOR'S NOTE: To consistently catch very big catfish, you must have the knowledge of where to find and how to catch these monster-sized fish. In many lakes and rivers throughout the United States, catfish weighing more than 50 pounds cruise the bottoms.
Tommy Campbell of Lakeview, Texas, never expected to catch a big cat when he went crappie fishing on Lake Tyler. But his 72-pound flathead catfish caught on 10-pound test line became a record in the National Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame in 1990. Campbell was fishing out of a 15-foot aluminum Bass Tracker boat when his line took off sideways.
"Because I thought I had a big fish on, I pulled back on my line just a little to set the hook," Campbell remembered. "But when I set the hook, the line kept on going. Although I didn't know what kind of fish I had on, I knew it was big. I backed off on my drag to keep the fish from breaking my line and started following the fish in the boat.
"When the huge fish did stop, I'd try and take up slack. But as soon as I recovered a little bit of line, the fish would start moving again. I had to hold my rod between my legs to pull up the anchor line do the fish wouldn't get wrapped around it. Since I didn't have anybody in the boat to help me, I chased that large fish for a long time with my trolling motor. I never thought I'd land the fish."
After a 45-minute tug-of-war, the fish began to tire. Campbell started inching it toward the surface.
"Finally I could see I had on a huge catfish," Campbell reported. "I worked the fish over towards the bank before it surfaced and rolled up on top of the water. A fellow on the bank who'd been watching me fight the fish waded out to help me when I moved into the shallow water. I climbed out of my boat and got into the water to try and get the fish out on the bank. Another fellow riding a jet ski stopped and put my net over the fish's head. That was about all the fish we could get into the net. While the jet skier held the catfish's head in the net, I grabbed the cat's tail. Then all three of us drug the fish out on the bank.
"We wanted to weigh the catfish at a nearby marina, but it was closed. A small store near the boat ramp didn't have a scale heavy enough to weigh the fish. We finally got the cat to some certified scales on which the fish weighed 72 pounds. After we took the fish down to the fish hatchery for a positive identification, we carried that catfish home and cleaned it. The meat was somewhat tough. I had so much fun wrestling this once-in-a-lifetime catch. I learned that big catfish would eat crappie jigs."
Seventy-plus-year-old Ed Littlejohn of Benton, Kentucky, and his fishing partner, Daryl Vanbactor, were fishing in Kentucky Lake. The two men were using 8-pound test line on B'n'M's 6-1/2-foot Buck Crappie Rods to catch big catfish.
"I thought I had hooked a 5- or a 6-pound cat when the fish first took the bait," Littlejohn commented. "But when I set the hook, I realized I had on a monster. I had to let the fish take out the drag. If I hadn't set my drag loose, the 67-pound blue cat would have broken my line.
"However, I couldn't land the fish with just the rod and the line. We had to use the trolling motor on the boat to chase the fish to where we could catch it. The battle lasted about 30 minutes. When we finally got the big cat alongside, Vanbactor put the dip net over the cat's head, and our third fishing partner, Reverend Gary Cruz, put his arms around the back part of the cat and rolled the fish in the boat.
"That cat was the biggest blue cat caught on hook-and- line in Kentucky during 1989. Of course, it was the biggest I'd ever caught in my life. I don't think I'll ever catch a catfish bigger than one. That fish was a once-in-a-lifetime experience and plenty of fun for my friends and myself."
To learn more information about catching catfish, go to Night Hawk Publications' Home Page, click on books, and then go to fishing books to see John Phillips' "The Masters' Secrets of Catfishing." You can buy the book by sending a check or a money order for $13.95 to Night Hawk Publications, 4112 Camp Horner Road, Birmingham, AL 35243 or use a credit card by calling (800) 627-4295.
Tomorrow: K.C. Mims