John's Journal...

Pickwick Dam, Tennessee Heaven for Fishermen with Roger Stegall, Todd Witt, Phil King, Roger Gant and Claggett Talley

King of Cats

Click to enlargeEditor’s Note: If you’re a multi-species fisherman, I’ve found a piece of fishermen’s heaven at Hardin County, Tennessee’s Pickwick Dam on the Tennessee, Mississippi and Alabama border. Pickwick has some of the best populations of smallmouth bass, largemouth bass, stripers, catfish and crappie in the country. This week, the fishermen who live and guide there will tell you why they believe this area is a fisherman’s heaven. Nobody’s won more catfish tournaments, caught more cats, cleaned more cats or knows more about catfishing on Pickwick Lake and the Pickwick Dam tailrace than Phil King of Corinth, Mississippi. King, a nationally-sponsored touring catfish pro, guides anglers for both eating cats and trophy cats. King’s been fishing the waters of Pickwick for over 30 years and although he fishes for crappie, sauger and the occasional bass, he’s known as the Catfish King.

Question: Phil, why are there so many big cats in Pickwick Lake and below Pickwick Dam in Hardin County, Tennessee?
King: This area has a tremendous amount of baitfish, plenty of current and numbers of places for the catfish to hold and feed. All of the elements required to produce numbers of big catfish come together at Pickwick above and below the dam. This area has a lot of different water depths, structures and places for catfish to hide, ambush their bait, raise their young and grow to larger sizes. Too, we now have a law that protects the older and the bigger fish, so we’re beginning to see more trophy-sized cats.Click to enlarge

Question: Phil, how big are the cats you’ve seen both above and below the dam?
King: My personal best was a blue cat that weighed 64 pounds. I also had a customer this year who caught a blue cat that weighed over 70 pounds.

Question: What kind of catfish do you catch at Pickwick?
King: We target the blue catfish and occasionally catch a big flathead cat. Our channel cats are starting to reach 10 pounds, and that’s bigger than we’ve ever seen in previous years. I’m convinced that we have blue cats that will weigh over 100 pounds, and that Pickwick’s channel cats will reach 20 to 25 pounds in the next year. I saw a 125-pound blue cat being weighed-in by a commercial catfish fisherman. We have the potential to break the world record for blue cats below the dam at Pickwick and in Hardin County, Tennessee.

Question: Phil, if a person wants to fish for trophy cats, how many of what size do you expect to catch in a day of fishing?
King: We always expect to catch a cat that will weigh from 20 to 50 pounds. Now that fishermen have to release cats bigger than 34 inches, we expect to have even bigger cats coming from Hardin County.

Question: If a customer is just fishing for trophy cats, how many do you expect to catch in a day?Click to enlarge
King: We usually catch from two to five big cats, with two being a poor day and five being an excellent day. Usually the biggest catfish will weigh about 50 pounds, and the smallest catfish will weigh somewhere in the 20-pound range.

Question: Phil, if people say they needed to catch enough cats for a Friday-night fish fry for their families or their neighborhood friends and wanted to fish for cats with you, how many pounds of eating-size cats could they expect to catch in a day?
King: In a day, we should catch from 80 to 200 pounds of eating-size cats. We’ll photograph and release any cats over 10 pounds, but we easily should be able to keep 80 to 200 pounds on a regular day of fishing. Those 1- to 5-pound fish are the best eating-size cats. The bigger cats aren’t as tasty, and if we let them grow, they’ll be monster cats. My clients and I have caught as many as 240 to 250 pounds of eating-size cats on rods and reels in a day.

Question: Phil, I know you’ve won tournaments on speed-cleaning cats. You’re one of the fastest men alive when cleaning a catfish. How fast are you?
King: My best time was 11.3 seconds. I can clean four or five eating-size fish in 1 minute, but Click to enlargeif the cats weigh 4-to 5-pounds each, I only can clean three or four per minute.

To contact Phil King, call (662) 286-8644 or (662) 665-4959, or email, or go to For more information about Phil King and his catfishing, type in “Phil King” and “catfishing” into a search engine and you’ll be able to pull up about 70-different articles about King, the “Catfish King.”

To learn more about fishing below the dam at Pickwick, contact the Hardin County Convention and Visitor’s Bureau at, or call 731-925-8181 or 800-552-3866, or visit Pickwick Landing State Park offers fishing, boating, hiking, camping, swimming and golf. Lodging includes the Lakeside Inn with over 100 rooms, cabins that sleep eight and a campground that contains 48 sites with grill and electric/water hook-ups at each site. A restaurant at the park offers delicious southern cuisine. Call 731-689-3135 or 800-250-8615 to learn more.

Tomorrow: Pickwick has Slabs Galore with Roger Gant

Check back each day this week for more about "Pickwick Dam, Tennessee Heaven for Fishermen with Roger Stegall, Todd Witt, Phil King, Roger Gant and Claggett Talley"

Day 1: Pickwick, the Land of Monster Smallmouth with Roger Stegall
Day 2: Bet on Pickwick’s Largemouth Bass with Todd Witt
Day 3: King of Cats
Day 4: Pickwick has Slabs Galore with Roger Gant
Day 5: Tons of Stripers with Claggett Talley


Entry 472, Day 3