Angler attitude will grow the sport of catfish. The evidence supporting that statement was evident at the Memphis, TN, Bass Pro Shops Big Cat Quest (BCQ) The Mississippi River tournament officially kicks off Friday, October 23, 2015 with registration and seminars at the new Bass Pro Shops at the Pyramid.
Catfish anglers from around the county have travelled to Memphis to prefish and develop a strategy for the tournament. Some of the talk heard on and around the water reaches much further than the weekend event. Anglers are talking turkey about the future of catfishing.
Recent BCQ tournament winner George “Teacher” Young is one of those anglers that see a bright future for the sport of catfishing. The B’n’M Poles prostaffer teamed up recently with George Gobel to haul in 168.20 pounds to win the BCQ event in New Madrid, MO. That weight included the Big Fish of the tournament of 73.65 pounds. Needless to say, Young knows a bit about catfishing.
Someone bouncing baits off the bottom will likely win the Mississippi River BCQ. “The way to catch catfish on the Mississippi is a techniques called bumpin’,” instructed Young. “You gotta’ move that bait back behind the boat and cover as much territory as you can.”
Young enjoys seeing other people learn the technique of bumping. “You have to teach them the right way if they are going to be successful at it,” emphasizes the B’n’M Pro. “The more people that can do it successfully, the more people that will enjoy catfishing and the faster the sport will grow.”
Young goes so far as to carry a special round weight on board so when he has a novice “bumper” on board it shortens the time frame for learning the technique. “The round weight makes it easier for the novice to find the bottom and keep it,” stated Young.”
That attitude of sharing is also evident in three-time BCQ Angler of the Year, Larry “Catfish” Muse. He is in town after winning one of the largest catfish tournaments in the nation just a couple weeks ago. Muse teamed up with John Stevens and Don Dalton to win the October, 2015 Monsters on the Ohio tournament. The team weighed in 127.3 pounds that included a 63-pound brute.
Muse has for several years been dragging bait and catching big cats where other just hung up. He was successful at it because he developed a dragging weight that would pull through heavy structure without hanging. A few people had seen the creation and recognized its potential. Some even approached Muse to produce the gadget and put it up for sale. On a recent episode of Catfish Weekly, Muse just threw it out there for all to see and use.
“Anyone can make one,” said Muse as he described how he made his. “By giving this information to anyone that wants it, I feel like I have leveled the playing field. Now anyone has the same chance that I do to catch those big cats in heavy cover. We can’t have the same people winning the tournaments all the time. We need to share information freely and help grow the sport of catfishing.”
Jason “Happy” Aycock has a similar state of mind. Aycock is the type of catfish angler that will invite folks on his boat so they can learn more about catfishing and understand why he is so passionate about it.
“I was fortunate to fish with and learn from one of the best in the business,” explained B’n’M Pro Aycock. “Chris Stevens was an outstanding cat man and he took me under his wing and showed me the ropes. He willingly shared his knowledge with me and I don’t mind sharing my catfish knowledge with other interested anglers.”
You can throw bass fishing legend Bill Dance right in there with these other catfish anglers when it comes to growing the sport. Most anglers know Dance and his long history of sharing and teaching on the subject of bass fishing. Some don’t, but more are learning all the time, that Dance is an avid catfish angler.
Dance hosted a group of BCQ anglers at his studio just outside Memphis and treated them to a catfishing episode he recently shot on Wilson Lake in Alabama with noted catfish pro Phil King. When the general public sees Dance pulling huge Wilson bluecats to the boat, more people are going to get hooked and load up on catfish tackle.
Dance’s personal best is a 110-pound blue catfish that he caught on 30-pound braided line in his home waters of the Mississippi River. When other anglers learn that they can do this too, the sport will grow.
Dance agrees highly with the notion of sharing information. “Education is what will grow the sport,” commented Dance. “As more and more successful catfish anglers share their knowledge and educate the recreational anglers we will witness a phenomenal growth in the sport.”
Businesses are getting on board too and more specialized catfish gear is coming to the market. Success breeds success and firms like Bass Pro Shops, Abu Garcia, Driftmaster Rod Holders, Vicious Fishing Line and B’n’M Poles are among the early folks to see the growing catfishing trend.
We see catfishing in a similar position as crappie fishing a few years back,” said B’n’M spokesman Jason McDuffee. “We expect it to grow and we want to grow with it. That’s why you will be seeing more specialized equipment from B’n’M that will support the catfish industry.”
Attitudes are changing and it is all for the best. Even the seasoned pros admit to harvesting the big cats in years gone by. “That’s just the way it was,” stated Muse. “We caught em’ for the dinner table.” Now most catfish anglers have a slang expression for the fish that go to the dinner table.
The “eaters” are generally considered to be fish no bigger that 10 to 15 pounds. Anything bigger goes back. That unwritten rule of conservation among the nation’s cat men and cat women will also grow the sport, because more people will be catching more big catfish and the addiction will grow.
Epilogue: George Young’s passion for catfishing has led him to team up with leaders in the field to create a new catfish tournament. The first Mississippi River Monsters tournament will be held out of Memphis in September of 2016. Preregistration has already topped Young’s original goal of 100 boats with almost a year left to register. It is just one more piece of evidence pointing to the growing popularity of catfishing. For more information on the tournament visit the Mississippi River Monsters Facebook page.