Most productive baits in order:
- #1. Shad & Skipjack - This is kinda odd but the fish seem to prefer them fished certain ways on certain days or conditions. Sometimes in fast rushing water they're best fished whole. Sometimes they prefer just the heads. Somtimes the gizzard placed on the hook followed by a shad fillet. Somtimes just the shad fillet works. Try them all. starting with shad heads then whole then with the gizzard or just the fillet. keep it small when using fillets about 1/4" to 1/2" x 1" long strips. On jugs or unattended hooks it doesn't matter much how they're fished I don't think but I'd try them all different ways like bait 4 hooks with heads and then four hooks with whole shad. the small cut bait wouldn't work well with jugs or trotlines as you'd prolly be using very large hooks. Cutting Shad Heads
#2 Grasshoppers - They're called locust in some areas. the big yellow ones are the one's I'm talkin about. These are a seasonal bait but they're great. it is well known that blues and channel feed off vegetation. this is why grasshoppers are a favorite of catfish sometimes. it's not because they feed on them all the time. it's because of what the grasshoppers eat. the catfish can't live off meat alone and are omnivours meaning they eat plant and animal/fish and because of this there are a lot of places they can't feed off vegetation very much and the grasshoppers fill up on plant stuff and become little bait packets we as fishermen can take advantage of and be aware that catfish won't eat grasshoppers that have eaten any old weed or grass. they seem to bite better off of grasshoppers that are caught off alfalfa better than anything. catch grasshoppers using a flashlight at night and only use grasshoppers that are caught off of johnson grass or alfalfa hay. I don't know why but the catfish won't eat them if they've been eating certain types of weeds like broad leaf water weeds.
#4 Fresh water herring - this type bait is great cut bait. somtimes better than shad. Same rule applies. keep the bait small.
#5 Perch - Black or Largemouth perch work well but I prefer bluegill for cut and whole/live bait. Live perch are excellent for catching flathead also. The most important tip I can give you on fishing perch is to scale them about half way up. this isn't my method. Ronny "the flathead man" told me about this and I've seen him catch bigger flathead than anyone behind the dam and it makes sense as the perch will give off a lot more scent if it's been scaled.
#6 Crappie - Crappie is actually better than perch for catching flathead as this is their main food fish.
#7 Crawfish - crawdad, crawdead, craw whatever you call them they're still the same thing. they're actually better if you eat them yourself I think but sometimes catfish like them too.
#8 Worms - not nightcrawlers. nightcrawlers are prolly good for fishing areas that the nightcrawlers come from but not here. they work but not as well as the native worms and it seems like the optimal time to use worms is just after a good rain when the water is rising in the rivers. Seems like the flood along with the fresh influx of bait. mostly worms, bugs, and vegetation triggers the catfish in rivers to go into some kinda feeding frenzy. This is the only time I'd use worms is in these conditions as any other times you get too many strikes from non-target fish. I do use worms or nightcrawlers to catch perch with though.
This list will remain the same unless some bait company pays me big money to lie to you and endorse their fancy store bought bait like "Goober's Catfish Catchin Shit" but as you can see I prolly won't get any bait company praise and even face possible law suits when I tell you none of it works. none that I've tried anyhow and I've been duped by them all.
Important note: Never and I mean never use bait that's been frozen. for some reason the fish won't bite on it nearly as well. I've tried to catch fish on shad that I've frozen and it's just not the same as fresh bait. I've frozen bait to use when shad were scarce and went fishing just to sit there for hours on end just pulling in little cats like 4 to 6 inches long and then finally see some shad bust the top of the water along the bank and throw my net and catch a few then bait up my hook with the fresh shad exactly the same way as I had the frozen shad and started pulling in decent cats one after another. I've done this several times because there are times you can't find shad and I'd rather not be sitting at home looking at this computer screen so I'd go to the freezer and sit on the bank and then only catch fish when I'd find some fresh bait of some sort. This is also the same reason I think some store bought bait don't work like shrimp and what have you. people that fish with shrimp that's never been frozen do really well sometimes but most people don't have access to shrimp unless it's been frozen. I'm telling you this stuff mainly because I don't like sitting on the bank or boat for over 15 minutes without catching a fish. there's times a person can sit for hours watching the end of their pole for a strike. I'm not one of those. if I don't get a bite within 10 to 20 minutes I figure there's something wrong and I'll reel in and cast to a different spot or change bait. There are a lot of times you can fish with a shad fillet and tear them up. other times they'll only bite on shad heads. other times filleted shad with the gizzard hooked on first. I don't know what the fish feel the difference is but this is "The gospel truth" sometimes they are picky as all gitout. I use surf rods and can cast from 200+ to 300+ yds and about the only place I fish is behind Keystone Dam or Ft. Gibson Dam in Oklahoma so changing locations for me is just reeling in and casting to another spot (we use a remote control boat sometimes now to carry out jugs for suspended fish. Frozen bait is fine for trotline/snaglining/jugs or any kind of unattended hooks but for the real action and better stringers always use fresh bait.
Water temperature and other things play a big part in how you catch catfish also, for instance, if the body of water you fish is only 12 to 18 feet deep and the water isn't moving much and it's the hot part of the summer forget fishing on bottom as the oxygen level will be really low and there won't be many or any for that matter feeding off bottom. the fish will be suspended or even close to the top of the water so that they can breath so you'll have to suspend your bait. maybe even as shallow as 1 foot deep from a cork. they don't seem to mind seeing the cork or anything you're using as a float. I've had fish to strike while pulling the baited hooks out with our trolling motor boat and jerking the line and jug loose from the boat before it gets to where we're taking the baited line. In these conditions you'll also want to see if there's any little stream or water trickling into this type of impoundment as the fish will congregate around anything that is oxygenating the water and will be a hotspot for catching fish.
If you fish with shad during the summer months you know that it's very hard to keep them alive without some fancy aerator rig and here's a little tip for keeping them fresh. Get a styrophoam minnow bucket or ice chest of some sort and ice them down. doesn't seem to effect the way the fish bite on them like it would if you froze them and they'll stay fresh like this. just make sure to poke a hole in the bottom so that the water will drain as the ice melts and just keep the shad on top of the ice. If you leave them in water even though it's icewater it'll affect their freshness. the way you want them if you use them for cut bait is so that when you cut them fresh blood comes outta the cut. They'll keep like this for like 8 to 12 hours. This is handy if you have to catch your shad at another location other than where you'll be fishing like if you have to drive for an hour or so to get to your fishing hole. If you don't do something like this the shad will ruin or not be as effective in just a few hours or even an hour if it's very hot. This also works if you use perch that has died or about to die and you're using them for cut bait.
I've spent years fishing every day/night just about unless the weather wasn't permitting and we're talkin it had be cold or tornadic weather to keep me from fishing during 1994 to 1996. Mostly (catch & release) but if there were people there that looked like they really needed the fish I'd give them some but through the years I'd given some fish to people that I thought needed them just to find out they were selling the fish to buy drugs or alcohol so I've pretty much stopped this practice unless I knew for certain they were going to clean and cook the fish for themselves and their family. I also supply my mother and other family members with fresh fish including myself as I like nothing better than sitting down to a plate of fresh fried catfish and soppin it in ketchup, tartar sauce, or no sauce at all. My main point here is I catch a lot of fish. most the time well over 60 to 75 lbs every time we go and this is in a short period of time also like 5 to 8 hours at most using only two rods as all I can stand due to health reasons since I broke my back in 1991 working in the oil fields plus weight and heart trouble since then. I've pretty much figured out what works and don't work and challenge anyone to catch more fish than we do using bait, tackle, or other stuff I've mentioned that don't work. You can catch farm pond fish that are being fed by the landowner with any kind of bait but for authentic lake or resevior catfish you gotta use the right kind of bait or go home empty handed.
- Now me being such a country hick and not getting out into the world much I thought I was the originator of this kinda long distance casting for a while but evidently I was wrong again as there's a whole organization out there that do about the same kinda casting that I do to reach distances over 200 yds fairly easily. I found out real quick that I was not alone in what I call SWANGIN which the others call Pendulum casting which is different than what I do as I cast with a modified pendulum cast. First off you need to learn to tie the knots. I pull all these fish in that I catch on 14 to 17 lb test line and in flood water when they have the middle slueth gate open forcing the water to swirl I use 25 lb test line. 30 is too brittle and will break if you get a fish twisting and turning on you in that strong current (8 to 12 mph rushing water). Now for the info.
#1. You spool the line on your reel 14 to 17 lb test line and then mount the reel on the rod if it's not on there already. then you run the line out the eyes to the end and pull it down.
#2. Then tie at least 40 lb shock line to the main line using an Albright Knot. Be sure to wet the line with spit b4 you draw line tight on the knot or you'll weaken the line/knot and then hold both sides of the knot and twang it like a guitar string to remove spit. Then if you wish put a drop of super glue on the knot. That'll keep it from coming untied for sure. (superglue optional if you sinch it down good). This is also
a great idea if you're fishing in rocks or brush piles and it saves mainline even if it's not small diameter, because if you tie your hook and sinker similar to the way that I do you'll be using up about 3 ft of line tieing on each hook and sinker. whereas if you use a shock leader you most of the time just lose 4 to 5 inches of line and have the sinker and hook tied together with much larger line so if they hang up on something a lot of the time you can just set your pole down for a little while and the fish might work the sinker free. If it's tied with the same line you use for mainline they'll likely break free instantly if the fish is over 5 lbs.
#3. Reel line up until the shock line makes 3 wraps minimum on the reel whether it's a spinning rod or baitcaster it doesn't matter.
#4. Pull shock line down to first eye from the reel and cut it. place hook on the line and slide it up and then tie sinker on the bottom.
#5. Slide hook up about two feet and tie hook loop using a Dropper Loop. again be sure to lube the line with spit or it'll burn/weaken the line. You can tie the sinker on using a Centauri Knot or similar knot.
Now you're ready to throw. Bait hook with whatever and it'll have to be something pretty tough as we're goin to slang that puppy for all it's worth. Just a stationary cast will sail rigging it up like this but if you use a stiff pole you can swing it. limber poles don't work worth anything cause you can't get any power behind it. Swangin at Keystone dam is confined so you can't have 50 yds of line swinging it around so what you do is reel your line up so that the sinker is between the eye closest to the reel and the next eye. about half way works on most rods. if you're using a spincast wear a glove cause if your line slips the drag a little it'll burn or cut your finger pretty badly casting this hard. Alright this takes some practice. start swinging the sinker away from you and then get it to swinging so it'll almost touch the rod and then back. just let it swing and get used to it. Now when you're ready when the sinker reaches the rod and starts back down and out THROW IT. Timing is everything casting like this. There are other techniques but I don't think you can throw a pendulum cast at keystone or most other Oklahoma lakes. You need a lot of room. Here's a link to someone throwing a standard power cast outfit Casting Howto Page.
Still Water Fishing
Hi again everyone. I went fishing last night (Oct 14, 99) and got to the dam late and they had shut off all the running water and I remembered a method I've used that I hadn't included in the tips page due to all the still water I was fishing in.
I'll start this by telling you what made me start using this technique from a fishing trip I'd went on in 1980 at Canton Lake Dam fishing with a Johnson Century reel and regular fiberglass rod. I was fishing on the side of the dam up on the wall behind the dam and I could see a few fish swimming around. mostly carp and buffalo and a few small catfish. I was casting out as far as I could and didn't have a full spool of line and it'd reach the end of the line about 40 yds out from the wall hitting the water and then drifting down out of site and I was using shad fillets and gizzards. I casted out prolly the second time and let it drift down to where it'd hang straight below my rod tip and a little later I seen this large catfish patroling through just under the surface and was thinking I'd sure like to hook into that one and the fish was swimming along and it turned abruptly and started swimming back and forth about where my cast had entered the water like it was looking for something and it continued a little bit going here and there and then kinda started swimming towards my line going back and forth like it was still looking for something and I lost site of it and in just a few seconds WHAM! I had a fish on and I landed it pulling it up on the bank from the wall and then walked down there to where it was and it was about a 3 lb channel cat. I stringered the fish up and caught a few more fish not paying much attention to the actions of that fish until I got to thinking about it a little on the way back out to the drilling rig where I was working north of Cleo Springs just a few miles. I'd coon hunted most of my life and those old coon hounds kinda did the exact same thing when trailing a racoon through the woods. they'd kinda dart back and forth sniffing for the scent of a coon that they were after eventually treeing the coon if they didn't loose the scent somehow. I figured out that that fish was tasting or scenting the trail of scent that bait I'd thrown out there in the water following that trail of blood and shad slime however minute it was right to my bait producing a strike. Now when I fish still water I'll cast out and drag my bait slowly through the water leaving a trail of the bait in the still water like in a pond or something where there's not any current instead of just throwing the bait into one certain spot so that the scent will disperse into the water slowly with no current or wind to disturb the water I'd think that the scent wouldn't travel very fast in that situation. This knowledge has increased my strike ratio probably 50 to 70% I think. sometimes if I cast up on the dam all the way against it and it sits there for a while I'll reel it in to the pylons leaving a scent trail of about 75 yds and most of the time I'd let it sit another 10 to 15 minutes at most but I'd say over half the time in that 10 to 15 minutes time frame I'd hook a fish and I'm almost certain it's due to the increased area that the bait has covered giving the fish a trail to follow instead of just a slow dispersal of the scent. Try this and let me know if you think it helped your fishing. cast way out past where you are wanting to fish if possible and then draw the bait into you accross bottom or while it's decending. if you're using a cork then reel it slowly back to where you think the most fish are and then let it sit there. I'm quite certain this tactic will help you catch more fish in still non-moving water.
I'm not familiar with drift fishing but I'm assuming it's similar to what I'm talking about where you're in the boat with your bait in the water and letting the bait drag along bottom slowly with the boat. If this is the case that bait will also be leaving a scent trail for the fish to swim accross making it easier for a fish to find your bait. They could be talkin bout fishing log jams for all I know about drift fishing but I've fished like this from a boat and done fairly well in areas that didn't have too much structure to get hung on.
Other Types of Water
I've fished for catfish in just about every type of water you can think of. stagnated water, clear water, murky water, and muddy water, and you have to adjust to the water types you're fishing.
Fishing in stagnant water is good for catfish, bullhead, and a few other species of fish but if you fish here be aware that the fish might not taste very good mainly due to the water. These types of waters can be sleus or even ponds can be stagnant due to several reasons like nearby sewage treatment facility or something like that or even sewage running off into the pond's tributary/creek that's feeding the pond. This type place is a great place to catch catfish for sport as the pond will most likely be overstocked or have very large amounts of catfish due to little or no fishing pressure. The reason I'd fish in this type water is just for sport. a lot of times the action is very fast and most of the time they'll bite on anything you throw at them if it's natural.
Real muddy water is the same like the Deep Fork river that originates right through the middle of OKC, OK and runs east through my old stomping ground around Davenport OK and Sparks OK. You fish around any good hole that has structure like log jams or something like that and you can catch a lot of catfish. the fish out of Deep Fork are pretty decent tasting as well.
Clear water where the fish are really healthy and have an abundant food supply you will have to fish fresh bait in most cases and nothing they don't feed on naturally. they can't go to the store and buy "Fester's Catfish GoGo-Getter" or some other stuff you'd buy at the store. these fish will be a challenge to figure out but once you do you can catch a lot of them. I'm not talkin about two a day or 4 or so. I'm talkin bout 12 to 15 per day easily. CATFISH FEED CONSTANTLY. I'm not saying they don't quit biting ever but I am saying they follow patterns and they are all thinking alike just like they're joined mentally. you could be fishing and catching several fish and all of a sudden they quit like you just caught the last one. there are two or three reasons this happens. First one is catfish school and migrate through areas feeding and they're usually holding pretty tight together within like 5 ft of one another and the school usually consists of anywhere from 5 to 50 or even more depending on the size of the empoundment you're fishing. Once the fish move through and pass on from where you're fishing you'll need to relocate or figure out where or which way they were going. They do this quite a bit in Keystone Lake. you can be fishing catching several nice blues and then all of a sudden they're gone. all you have to do is get back into their path. most of the time the best bet is follow the current. if the water level is dropping I move down stream about 100 yds. if it's rising I'll move upstream. I don't always catch them coming through again but sometimes I get lucky and catch three or so more fish. Fish finders are really handy in relocating the fish in this instance. If you're fishing a smaller body of water this probably wouldn't be the case. they may need another bait presented to them. in a lot of cases that'll make them start biting again. If the water level drops abruptly like it does behind dams when they shut down a turbine that's generating electricity it's just like if they was feeding in flooded creeks or channels. when the water level drops they have a natural instinct to move to deeper water. it's hard for them to find any deeper water behind dams but none the less it will make the fish move or relocate to a different spot. This is all just general info and what I'm trying to get accross is there's a lot of variables to contend with when fishing for catfish. you'll develope an instinct for catching them if you stay at it long enough and soak up enough of what mother nature's little creatures are telling you. Be very observant and pay attention to everything and theorize to yourself what's going on at all times even when you're catching fish there's something to learn.
I'll make more entries later as well as more fishing pictures I don't take pictures of every catch as it would take up a considerable amount of money for film and developing. I hope to get a digital camera b4 long to take on fishing trips. Let me know if you have any tips to pass along to the readers. you'll get credit for any tips. I may put up a bulletin board for everyone to interact soon. GOOD FISHIN! Luck has nothing to do with it.