By Ron Presley
Angler Attitudes and the Growth of Catfishing
Catfishing in America has its roots in family and necessity. Catfish have been, and likely will continue to be, a regular menu item on dinner tables all over America. Early days of catfishing also had a recreational component, but the day’s catch usually showed up on the dinner table with cold slaw, okra and fried potatoes.
Men and women of all sorts have historically participated in the sport. The ones that are still active in the sport most likely grew up with hunting and fishing as a way of life. Often it was dad, that took them fishing and instilled the love and the passion for catfishing. For others it was a grandmother, an uncle or family friend. Somewhere along the way someone took the time to show them the ropes and implant that passion for the sport in their heart.
Jason Aycock remembers his mentor with pride. Jason is one of those catfish anglers that will invite folks on his boat so they can learn more about catfishing and understand why he is so passionate about it.
“I was fortunate to fish with and learn from one of the best in the business,” explained B’n’M Poles Pro Aycock. “Chris Stevens was an outstanding cat man and he took me under his wing and showed me the ropes. He willingly shared his knowledge with me and I don’t mind sharing my catfish knowledge with other interested anglers.”
Today the sport is growing rapidly as a recreational activity among more and more anglers. Catfish tournaments are popping up all over the country and catch and release catfishing is becoming a larger part of the catfish culture.
Attitudes are changing and it’s all for the best. Even the seasoned pros admit to harvesting the big cats in years gone by. “That’s just the way it was,” stated Larry Muse. “We caught em’ for the dinner table. Now we let the trophies go.”
Most catfish anglers have a slang expression for the fish that go to the dinner table. The “eaters” are generally considered to be fish no larger than 10 to 15 pounds. Anything bigger goes back. That unwritten rule of conservation among the nation’s cat men and cat women is one more element that will help grow the sport. More anglers will be catching more trophy catfish and the addiction will grow.
Positive angler attitudes on sharing what they know will also grow the sport. Fishing has always been secretive in nature. Anglers had their honey holes and secret baits and they didn’t want anyone to know about them. Now days it seems that more and more anglers are willing and able to share what they have learned about catfishing. The more this sharing happens, the more the sport will grow.
George Young (Mississippi River Monsters) is an avid catfish angler who likes to teach others about the sport. He goes so far as to carry a special round weight on board to help his “novice” angler guests learn the technique of bumping.
“You have to teach them the right way if they are going to be successful at it,” emphasized the B’n’M pro staffer. “The round weight makes it easier for the novice to find the bottom and keep it. The more people learn to bump successfully, the more they will enjoy catfishing and the faster the sport will grow.”
That attitude of sharing is also demonstrated by well-known catfish angler Larry Muse. The Warrior Cat Tackle pro staffer has been dragging baits through heavy structure and catching big cats where other anglers just hung up. After winning one of the largest catfish tournaments in the nation (Monsters on the Ohio) in 2016, Muse revealed his draggin’ rig to Aaron Wheatley following the tournament, and then again on an episode of Catfish Weekly. He just threw it out there for all to see and use.
“Anyone can make one,” said Muse, as he described how he made his draggin’ rig. “By giving this information to anyone that wants it, I feel like I have leveled the playing field. Now anyone has the same chance that I do to catch those big cats in heavy cover. We can’t have the same people winning the tournaments all the time. We need to share information freely and help grow the sport of catfishing”
Bass fishing legend Bill Dance can be tossed right in there with these other catfish fanatics when it comes to growing the sport. Most anglers know Dance and his long history of sharing and teaching on the subject of bass fishing. Some don’t, but more are learning, that Dance is an avid catfish angler.
Dance agrees highly with the notion of sharing information. “Education is what will grow the sport,” commented Dance. “As more and more successful catfish anglers share their knowledge and educate the recreational anglers, we will witness a phenomenal growth in the sport.”
Businesses are getting on board too and more specialized catfish gear is coming to the market. Success breeds success and firms like Abu Garcia, Bass Pro Shops, B’n’M Poles, Cabela’s, Driftmaster Rod Holders, Monster Rod Holders, Warrior Cat Rods, Catch the Fever Rods and Vicious Fishing Line are among the early folks to see the growing catfishing trend.
“We see catfishing in a similar position as crappie fishing a few years back,” said B’n’M spokesman Jason McDuffee. “We expect it to grow and we want to grow with it. That’s why you will be seeing more specialized equipment from B’n’M that will support the catfish industry.”
In 2016 another important achievement in the catfish industry was introduced in Kentucky. Monster Rod Holders, Jim Jones Marine and Business House came together to produce Catfish Conference 2016. It was billed as a catfish community get-together and it did not disappoint.
Catfish Conference was all about catfish and educating a public eager to learn about the sport. Catfish tournaments go a long way toward educating anglers too, but Catfish Conference was a melding pot of ideas and opinions that will help build catfishing into a bigger and stronger sport. The 2017 version of Catfish Conference has been announced for Louisville, KY.
CatfishNow is pleased to connect with the growing throng of catfish anglers, vendors and organizations that see the growth potential in the sport. We are pleased to join those dedicated anglers that came before and shared their love for the great outdoors in general and catfishing in particular with the rest of us.