The first large catfish I caught in Tennessee was about 10 lbs. I caught it the old fashion way, with a night crawler. Using worms, however, attracts many smaller bluegill and shell crackers (AKA redeared sunfish) which makes it difficult to keep your bait in the water long enough for a large catfish to find it. One day I tried an experiment. I took one of the small bluegill and cut off the tail region and trimmed away the fin portion. I sunk my hook inside the chuck and hurled it out as far as I could with the small weight above the hook. I used a sliding sinker, (like the ones you put above a plastic worm) and then used a smaller split shot below it to keep the weight about a foot above the bait on the line. It took awhile for the catfish to find it, but when it did, boy! It was worth the wait! I noticed a slight movement on the tip of the pole and then the line started moving sideways. I knew something was fooling with the bait. I pulled back and set the hook and the fun began!
Once the fish knew it was on the line it rose to the top of the water and made a big splash. I knew it was very large so I tightened up the drag a bit because I had it set for smaller fish. I had to be careful not to tighten it up too much or the fish would break the 8 lb. test line I was using. The fish then started to pull out line against the drag. I knew it would be a long battle so I let him pull as I reeled in. After a run toward the middle of the lake he turned shoreward and headed for some sunken brush. Again I knew this could be trouble so I put pressure on him to turn the other way. He quickly changed directions and made another dash up the channel to my right. I just kept the tip high and let him wear himself out making several runs back and forth. As he tired I reeled him closer to shore. Again, this strong fish made a dash toward the middle of the lake. Finally he tired and I reeled him close to shore. I had to grab my large net on the shore and sneak it in position to scoop him up. Once in the net I had to position myself so I could drag him out of the water. This second catfish weighed in at 13 lbs. I decided to turn this fish loose to grow and catch again. I had learned from cleaning my first large catfish that the smaller catfish are better tasting. We had cut the last one up into pieces and deep fried it. It was ok, but not as tasty as others I had eaten. Lesson learned! Though not as good for table fare, the large catfish are much more fun to catch. I have caught several using the “bluegill” approach since. By the way, you can use the rest of the bluegill cut in pieces, not just the tail section. Why not give it try?
Here are my Grandsons sharing a catfish dinner. Deep fried catfish makes a yummy meal. You can also get a better idea of the size of the catfish from the one on shore between my legs when pulled from the water.
Below is another catfish caught at the lake in September 2018.
I’ve found that the fall of the year is a good time to catch catfish. Must be the changes in the water temperature. I caught this one at 11:30 just before noon. This one was caught on an old fashion night crawler. Worms work as well as pieces of Bluegill. This one was 30 inches long and weighed 10 lbs. I returned it to the lake as her belly was full of eggs. I wonder how big she will be the next time I catch it.
Caught this 35 inch, 18 lb. catfish on Sept 21, 2020 seen in the above photo.