- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 28, 2005

A friend who lives in Georgia believes the only way to catch fish is with the use of bait — live, cut-up, fresh or smelly, whatever works. This apparently is of particular importance when going after catfish.

But here in Maryland and Northern Virginia, there’s a growing cult of catfish fanciers who won’t entertain such blasphemy. Who needs bait for catfish? You and I surely don’t.

I realize that if a catfish angler is shore-bound and doesn’t have the mobility afforded by a boat, perhaps a weighted, scent-laden chunk of liver, herring or clam snout is the way to bring the whiskered critters to the hook. However, several in our regular clan of fishing pals have discovered that artificial lures can do just as well, sometimes even better.

Perhaps my revelation that a popular scented, curly-tailed grub made by the Pure Fishing Company’s Berkley division does an awesome job in attracting catfish will be greeted with dismay by the company. You see, the bait it markets under the name Gulp! is aimed at bass and crappie fishermen, not catfish fanciers.

All along, we’ve also known that spinnerbaits in all sizes are frequently attacked by channel catfish because the channel “cat” is a hunter that can be forgiven for mistaking the whirling blades of a spinnerbait as a minnows-gone-crazy situation. To chase after all that flash and bluster is a natural reaction.

But come with us on a hot, humid August day as my pal Dale and I scour the shallow shorelines of two tidal rivers. Both of our chosen fishing waters are a good distance away from their eventual meeting with the Chesapeake Bay.

The first was the Potomac River’s Virginia shoreline between King George and Prince William counties, followed by the Patuxent River in the general Hallowing Point area in Calvert County, Md.

On a morning when dawn’s first light was barely visible under heavy, threatening clouds, we found a lengthy piece of rock and rubble-lined Potomac shore.

Dale’s first casts with a 1/8-ounce spinnerbait resulted in successive catches of white perch — and a feisty channel catfish. Meanwhile, I attached a 1/8-ounce round-headed jig hook to 20-pound-test FireLine that has the thickness of everyday 8-pound monofilament nylon. If the exposed jig hook becomes lodged in a rock or on sunken wood, I can literally pull it free. The FireLine is so strong it’s able to straighten the jig’s wire hook. I can re-bend it, maybe touch up the hook point with a file, but I rarely lose it.

A 2-inch chartreuse Gulp! grub is fed onto the hook, the point being pushed through the center of the top of the grub, then allowed to emerge about halfway down in the scented grub body.

Within three casts toward the waterlogged blocks of rubble, I had a channel catfish, although Dale and I seriously thought perhaps it was a white catfish — a species most river anglers don’t even think about. It kind of looks like a channel cat, only lighter, but never contains the spots found so often on a channel catfish sides.

By the time we’d covered a half mile of shoreline, Dale’s spinnerbait was attacked by four fat catfish; my Gulp! grub found five.

During a shallow-water perch outing on the Patuxent, that same Gulp! grub immediately was attacked by a large channel catfish that somehow managed to shake the hook, then brought in a 3- or 4-pounder only moments later. Dale also got a fine specimen with his spinnerbait.

While being used in the Patuxent’s Halls Creek last year, the same kind of chartreuse grub resulted in well more than a dozen channel catfish up to five pounds in a matter of two hours. Similar reports are increasingly heard from other anglers.

Seems to us that if you like to hook a fighting catfish all you need is a small spinnerbait or a jig with a Gulp! grub on the hook.

Look for Gene Mueller’s Outdoors column every Sunday and Wednesday, and his Fishing Report every Thursday, only in The Washington Times. E-mail: gmueller@washingtontimes.com.

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