Bass for Fun, Cats for Food
T he most popular game fish in Texas—and basically the entire United States (arguably the world)—is the bass.
Entire billion dollar industries (think bass boat) have been built around chasing little green fish because they are fun to catch. But let’s be honest, the origin of fishing was to put dinner on the table, and based on simple math, bass fishing is the least efficient fish to chase to eat.
For example, you can keep five bass (of varying length depending on the lake) per day in Texas while you can keep 25 channel catfish. I’m no genius but even I know 25 is greater than 5. So, if you’re looking to feed a couple of people, and aren’t busy bow-hunting for deer, I’m going to suggest hitting your local lake for some cats.
When I was growing up the only places we had to go after catfish was local stock ponds, most of which were muddy with water visibility measured in inches, not feet. The basic concept for catching cats was to get some very odiferous bait, chunk it out and wait for the fish to find it. Today, major reservoirs have taken over as the preferred catfishing locations, and we’re going to concentrate this article on a specific location on these lakes to find the fish.
Hitting rip rap has long been a productive method for putting a limit of bass in the boat, but did you know catfish hang out there too? Most people think of catfish as bottom feeders, only eating dead matter, but they have a lot of the same feeding habits as bass. Bass cruising the rip rap are there to eat the crawfish and baitfish hiding in the rocks, and catfish will do the same thing.
Fishing these areas can be tricky. Cracks and crevices are everywhere to hang up. However, there are a few ways to minimize the loss of tackle, while still staying in the catfish’s strike zone.
The fish will be tight to the rocks, so your bait will need to be in close as well. This means using some type of bottom rig, but not something that will wedge in. Yes this can be tricky. So the best way to start is with a weightless setup.
Start by tying a barrel swivel to the end of your main line. On the other side of the swivel, tie on a 12- to 18-inch leader. Finish off the rig with a circle hook.
The bait you use is up to you, but I recommend using a cast net to catch some local baitfish. If they are small enough, use them whole. If they are large turn them into cut bait.
To fish this weightless rig, simply cast it out and let it slowly sink down to the rocks. The key is to lift the bait back off the rocks after it has sat there for a few moments. This way, the live bait can’t hide, and the cut bait can’t become lodged in a crack. If it’s not sinking fast enough, or floating, add a small split shot to the main line about the swivel.
The advantage of the circle hook on this rig is that it is harder to get the point hung on a rock. Also, it’s not necessary to set the hook once the fish hits. Simply start reeling, and it will lodge itself in the corner of the fish’s mouth.
If this rig doesn’t work, or you keep losing hooks to the rocks, switch over to a standard float rig. This is the one we all used as kids and is about as simple as it gets. Tie a bait hook (J hook) on the end of the line. A few inches above this add a small split shot. About 24 inches above this add a small float (bobber).
On this one, you can use the live or cut bait mentioned earlier or switch over to stink bait or night crawlers. Cast as close to the rocks as you can get and still leave the bait a few inches away so catfish cruising the rocks will see or smell the bait. When the float goes under, set the hook like you mean it and reel in dinner.
Email Greg Berlocher at ContactUs@fishgame.com