One of my favorite game fish is catfish. I spent many a summer night along the Monocacy River in Maryland with a tub of chicken livers, camp fire, a blazing lantern, cooler full of certain beverages, and of course some good buddies with which to share them. Levi can give you better details than I can of most nights, they are a little fuzzy. But the memories of good fishing remain vivid.
Once you weed through all the mud cats, we usually had a cooler full of 5-6 lb channel cats to bring home for the fryer. I noticed a few things through the years that really helped improve the quantity of bites, percentage of hook-ups, and ultimately the landing of fish. The first is that channel cats have a slight over-bite. This makes picking your bait directly off the bottom more difficult. So to combat this problem, I started tieing my weight about 18″ up the line. This allows the bait to float a few inches off the bottom making it more accessible to the fish. The second is painting the tip of my rod white. I catfished mostly at night so the use of a lantern was necessary to see the rod tip to determine what was a bite and what was a bat taking moths off my line. A final tip is getting your timing down with setting the hook. Often I would anxiously watch as my line and rod tip bounced in the light against the darkness. The fish seemed to always mouth the bait for a few seconds before really taking it. I would leave the rod in its holder, often a split branch, and wait for that tip to dive. But when it did, I always tried to time the peak of my hook set with the moment when the rod tip was bent the farthest. Nine times out of ten, when I got this right, it resulted in a good hook set that prevented the big cat from working the hook out on its way to shore.
Try these tips on your next outing and I am sure you will fill that stringer in no time!
Images courtesy of USFWS (right) and Brian Gratwicke via Wickipedia