Mike filled the SeaArk livewell with this one. He caught the big blue during the CatMasters Corona Cat Challenge. It weighed 117.2 pounds.
Catfish Profiles in Passion – Mike Mitchell
Lend a hand in protecting the resource that you use.
by Ron Presley
Mike Mitchell’s love for catfishing has instilled in him an ethic of responsibility for the resource. He believes in passing the sport on to others by educating them on how to catch trophy cats, but also in teaching them how to take care of the resource.
Mike Mitchell has a passion for targeting trophy cats in a river environment. It all started at a very young age when he fished with his dad.
“Dad was a very passionate fisherman and hunter,” recalled Mitchell. I always loved it as well. I can remember him taking me as a very young boy in freezing temps. Rain or snow, it didn’t matter. He was a diehard fisherman and a very competitive bass tournament trail angler. I started fishing bass tournaments around the age of 12 and was winning enough money in high school and junior college that I never kept a job.”
“I love everything about fishing,” continued Mitchell. “Even on bad days, I try to learn as much as possible. I guess watching my dad and starting at an early age really helped me be a good fisherman. The how-to, when-to, and where-to that I learned from dad still apply to what I do today with catfishing. Finding fish and presenting the bait is just as much fun as the catching to me. I’m still learning every trip out.”
Mitchell’s bass fishing was filling his passion until about 2002. That’s when he branched out and started catfishing. And then it happened. He caught his first real giant—a 49-pound blue!
“After that big blue I was hooked for life,” Mitchell said. “My largest bass was 10.13 but a bass of that size pulls nothing like a 50-pound cat. The rush and excitement of a 5- to 10-minute battle with a big blue or flathead never gets old to me.”
Mitchell is well known for tournament fishing and catching big cats. His main fishing takes place in Alabama and Tennessee on the Tennessee River System.
“I really love competing,” Mitchell said in regards to tournament fishing. “It just adds an exciting aspect that I can’t get enough of. The fishermen are great and I really feel like it pushes me to keep getting better.”
Tournaments have allowed Mitchell to fish against some of the best catfish anglers in the country. And if not for tournaments, Mitchell would be putting other anglers on fish instead of catching them himself. He guides clients to trophy cats through his SouthernCats Guide Service (256-673-2250).
“Most of the tournament guys are topnotch,” offered Mitchell. “But I would say fishing against the likes of James Patterson and Phil King was to me, like meeting the president of the United States or fishing the Bass Masters Classic. It’s an added bonus to win but I try my best not to over pressure myself and really enjoy the day. It’s rare that I get to catch a fish guiding. The tournaments allow me the chance to actually feel that awesome tug.”
“A lot of times I fish wood structure,” continued Mitchell. “I like to read the river conditions and let the fish dictate what/how I will fish. My preferred method to target fish is anchored and spot locked with a GPS trolling motor. I will suspend drift, bump, or drag if the conditions call for it. I like to let the fish dictate which method is the most productive. Even though I think I’m most known for anchor fishing I really love to drift and bumping is my favorite way to catch fish.”
Mitchell admits to having bad days on the water. He recalled days when the battery died, the line broke, or rods and reels got pulled overboard. He just never lets those days get to him.
“Catfishing, especially tournament fishing, can be a struggle sometimes,” confessed Mitchell. “But I always try to learn, even on the bad days. Sometimes learning what not to do is the most important thing you can learn.”
“I can’t complain over a bad day of fishing,” conceded Mitchell. “Especially when there are others who are not fortunate enough and/or healthy enough to enjoy it. I’m definitely not a fair-weather fisherman. Just remember, patience is your friend and conditions will change but they got to eat sometime.”
Tournament fishing often turns catfish anglers into conservationists if they weren’t already. Mitchell has had a high concern for catfish conservation for a long time.
“I’m a passionate believer in trophy catfish conservation,” declared Mitchell. “Back in the early 2000s, I started a club that held tournaments. It was called the Southern Catfisherman Association. Our primary goal was to get regulations passed in Alabama.”
Mitchell and some likeminded friends were successful in getting the 34-inch rule passed and no live transport of trophy cats across the Alabama state line. He understands that there is a mortality rate associated with fishing, and that anglers should be in the lead when it comes to supporting good catfish conservation.
“Preserving this resource for future generations should be at the forefront of all true outdoorsmen’s thoughts,” Mitchell said. “And I believe that fishermen have a big voice when it comes to protection and education of the resources.”
“That is what I truly want people to know about me,” concluded Mitchell. “I love what I do and my first concern is to protect and improve the fishing resource for others to enjoy. The most rewarding part of fishing to me is to see someone new get involved or someone catch their personal best. When they land that first trophy cat, the joy on their face is priceless and that is especially true with kids. That’s what it is all about—passing it on!”