If you want to catch trophy catfish like this, or just a mess of smaller cats for the dinner table, it pays to learn all you can from books, videos, websites and mentors when the opportunity presents itself.
by Keith “Catfish” Sutton
Don’t count on pure dumb luck for catching catfish. Instead, study more about these fish every chance you get to improve your odds of success.
All of us would rather be fishing than sitting at home or work reading or talking about our favorite pastime. But, honestly, we spend much more time off the water than on it, and if we want our catfishing excursions to be successful, we should spend that down time studying as much as we can about whiskerfish and methods for catching them.
Catfishing is one of the most varied angling activities. Participants fish night and day year-round, for big fish and small, from boats and shore, using natural and artificial baits on everything from ultralight combos to heavy-action baitcasting rigs. If we want to improve the odds we’ll catch more catfish, we need to study every facet of the sport we can, from the behaviors of different catfish species to choosing the right rods, reels, line and bait.
Sometimes catfish cooperate. Sometimes they don’t. But they will cooperate more often if you fish with skill instead of depending on dumb luck. Sure, luck plays a big role in this sport. But day in and day out, smart anglers will almost always catch more fish than lucky anglers. The more we study, the smarter we become. And as we become more knowledgeable, our confidence grows and we become more mentally prepared to deal with whatever catfish throw our way.
Books and Magazines
When I started catfishing more than 50 years ago, books about catfishing were as rare as 50-pound channel cats. You could count the number of titles on the fingers of one hand.
Fortunately, that’s changed. Today’s angler can find dozens of books—hard copies and digital—that are full of useful information. While some are out-of-print and difficult to find in stores, you’ll have no trouble locating copies you can purchase from on-line dealers such as Amazon.com, Ebay.com and AbesBooks.com.
Among the books I like and refer to often are several written and published by the folks at In-Fisherman. These include the classic Channel Catfish Fever by Doug Stange, Steve Quinn and Toad Smith, three of the best catfish anglers who ever wet a hook, and books in the Critical Concepts series, like Catfish Fundamentals: Foundations for Sustained Fishing Success, Catfish Location: Finding Catfish in Lakes Rivers & Reservoirs, and Catfish Presentation: River Strategies. I’ve read these books again and again, and never fail to learn something new each time.
Red River catfish guide Brad Durick has written some helpful titles, too, including Cracking the Channel Catfish Code, a book chock-full of fresh, in-depth research about river current, water temperature and metabolism; and Advanced Catfishing Made Easy. The latter is designed to allow you to look up the weather and water conditions in preparation for your fishing trip. You simply match your local conditions to the season, then follow the simple approach to find the pattern that the fish are on at the time.
A Google search will help you turn up many more books full of great catfishing information, including Catfishing in the South by Jeff Samsel, Masters’ Secrets of Catfishing by John Phillips, The Catfish Hunters by Jake Bussolini and Mac Byrum, and several titles by yours truly, including Hardcore Catfishing (see sidebar). Sample texts and tables of contents for many can be found at google.com/books.
While you’re at it, check out some of the magazines that regularly publish informative catfishing information, especially In-Fisherman and In-Fisherman’s Catfish In-Sider, plus the individual state magazines put out by Game & Fish (gameandfishmag.com). An inexpensive subscription can give you year-round access to some of the most up-to-date info available, including annual catfish forecasts and hot new tactics.
And, of course, we hope you’ll keep coming back here to CatfishNow.com for our free monthly magazine loaded with articles by America’s top catfish anglers. There’s no better source of information for whiskerfish fans who want to keep on top of the latest trends in the sport.
On the Web
Another way to learn more about catfishing is to get on your computer or smartphone and explore the internet. The information age has made this “the age of catfishing” as well, and lots of facts about the best places to fish, the right equipment to use, the rigs and tactics to employ and so forth are available through sources you might not have thought of, including the websites of fishing tackle manufacturers, social media sites, blogs and YouTube. We can barely scratch the surface in a discussion of them here, but to get you started, here are some I like to use. Others you can find by doing a Google search.
If you’re on Facebook, for instance, a search there can help you locate groups with an emphasis on catfishing such as Catfishing America, Flathead Catfish Hunters Group, Arkansas Catfishing Association, Midwest Catfish Chasers, LoneStar Catfishing, Catfish Weekly and many, many more. These often provide real-time information on where catfishing is hot and events like tournaments. They’re especially good to belong to if you want relevant local information about the area you fish in.
Texas catfishing guide Chad Ferguson has a great website with lots of tips, tricks and information called CatfishEdge.com. You’ll find podcasts, videos, books and blog posts on everything imaginable, such as “Choose the Right Cast Net, You’ll Catch More Catfish Bait,” “10 Simple Fish Finder Troubleshooting Steps for Success” and “The Best Rigs for Catfishing.”
Jeff Williams at Team Catfish provides a great source of tips through his TeamCatfish1 YouTube channel. Recent videos he’s posted include “How to Rig Up a New Catfish Rod and Catfish Reel,” “Catching Channel Catfish on the River With Fiber Nuggets” and “How I’m Catching Channel Catfish in my Front Yard.” Go to YouTube, put the term you want to learn about in the search box and hit return, and you’re on the way to finding thousands of other videos posted by catfish fans far and wide.
Many state fisheries departments have posted catfishing information on their websites, too. These are often great resources when you need “where to go” information, with tips on the best lakes, rivers and ponds to fish.
They’re not very common, but occasionally community colleges and other education groups offer special courses that teach participants the ins and outs of catfishing. Recently, for example, Tulsa Tech in Oklahoma offered an eight-hour course titled “Crappie and Catfish Go To College.” This class attracted many local anglers who wanted to learn the basics of catching these two types of fish.
State fisheries agencies sponsor occasional catfishing seminars, too, as well as fishing tackle retailers like Bass Pro Shops. Watch for details in your local newspaper or online publications.
You also should watch for events like the Catfish Conference (catfishconference.com), which attracts individuals and families from across the country who come together to share the passion of catfishing. They often include expert speakers who teach about various aspects of the sport with hands-on demonstrations.
Find a Mentor
The best way to learn about catfishing is to find a mentor. This might be a friend who is a competent catfish angler or a family member who enjoys catching these freshwater brutes. In my experience, most catfishing folks tend to be friendly types who enjoy sharing the sport with others, and if you’ll just take time to ask around, you should be able to find one who is willing to teach you the basics. With luck, this could develop into a lifelong friendship that will make you glad you reached out for help.
Keith “Catfish” Sutton is offering his book, Hardcore Catfishing: Beyond the Basics, at a special discount for Catfish Now subscribers. Regularly $17.95, this 179-page full-color volume full of catfishing tips can now be purchased for just $10 plus shipping. To receive your autographed copy, send a check or money order for $15 to C&C Outdoor Productions, 15601 Mountain Dr., Alexander AR 72002.