John's Journal...

Secrets of the World’s Best Catfishermen

Catching Suspended Catfish with Rods and Reels and Jugs with Rick Matlock and Gary Harlan’s Video “Fishing Noodles for Catfish”

Click to enlargeEditor’s Note: Every catfisherman has his own strategy for finding and catching numbers of big catfish. We talked with five catfishermen to learn catfishing tactics that consistently will produce large cats on major river systems.Click to enlarge

Many anglers in the middle-south section of the United States consider Rick Matlock of Counce, Tennessee, as a master of catching suspended cats. “I use my depth finder to locate large schools of catfish suspended well up off the bottom in the middle of the river,” Matlock advises. Once Matlock pinpoints a school of suspended cats or one big cat, he moves to the side of it with his trolling motor. Then he tries to relocate the school using an ultralight spinning rod and reel. He fishes with a 1/16- or a 1/24-ounce jighead and catfish bait like cut shad, shad gut or chicken livers. Watching his depth finder, he casts out to either get a bite or let his lead or line hit the fish. When he knows he’s on a school of catfish, he positions his boat right above the school. Then he uses a tape measure to measure his line from the bait up to the depth where he sees the fish holding on his depth finder. For example, if he sees catfish at 15 feet, he’ll measure off 15 feet of line, add 3 feet to it and then marks his line at 18 feet with an indelible marker. “The extra 3 feet compensates for the distance that the rod tip is from where the transducer is mounted to the bottom of the boat or the trolling motor,” Matlock explains. “Then with my rod straight out over the water, my bait will be at 15 feet where the cats are holding.” Click to enlarge

Next Matlock trolls upcurrent of the cats and slowly drifts back to them or lets them come to him. “The key to catching suspended cats is to use your trolling motor as little as possible when you’re right over the school so you won’t spook them,” Matlock says. “Click to enlargeThe less you use your trolling motor, the more cats you’ll catch. When I see the fish on the depth finder, and I’ve either touched them with my line or gotten a bite with my jigs and bait, then I’ll use my trolling motor to hold the boat right over the top of the school. I’ll lower my bait to the exact depth where I see the fish holding. For instance, if I spot cats holding in 15 feet of water over a 50-foot bottom, I’ll lower my baits to exactly 15 feet. If I’m a foot above or below the cats, they generally won’t bite.”

Matlock says that suspended cats usually don’t feed, but that you can make these fish bite, if you’ll rub baits right up against their noses. “I’ll fish with dead shad minnows, cut shad, chicken livers, catalpa worms or any other bait that I think the fish will take,” Matlock comments. Matlock uses his suspended-cat tactic in two-different ways, either to catch a large number of cats or to take one big cat. “If you want to catch a large number of catfish,” Matlock mentions, “and you live in a state that permits jug fishing, first locate a school of cats. Next, set the lines on your jugs at the exact depth where the cats are holding and release eight or 10 jugs upstream of the school. As the jugs pass through the school, the cats will attack.” But Matlock also will use this method to take a single, large, blue catfish when he spots one on his depth finder. “The blue cat is the biggest fish in the Tennessee River,” Matlock says. “When I see a big mark on my depth finder, I’ll assume it’s a large blue cat. If I get my bait down to the depth where the cat is holding right in front of that big blue’s nose, then often I can catch it.”

Today's Video Clip - Fishing Noodles for Catfish with Gary Harlan

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Tomorrow: Secrets of Big Catfish with Mississippi’s Phil King and a video with Gary Harlan “Jump Boxes for Catfish”

Check back each day this week for more about "Secrets of the World's Best Catfishermen"

Day 1: The Hole Strategy and Fresh Chicken Livers for Catching Catfish and video “Catching Catfish on Hook and Line with Gary Harlan”
Day 2: Catching Suspended Catfish with Rods and Reels and Jugs with Rick Matlock and Gary Harlan’s Video “Fishing Noodles for Catfish”
Day 3: Secrets of Big Catfish with Mississippi’s Phil King and a video with Gary Harlan “Jump Boxes for Catfish”
Day 4: Tommy and Elton Taylors’ Bottom Bumping Catfish Technique and a video with Gary Harlan “What Bait to Use for Catfish”
Day 5: Quick Catfish-Cleaning Secrets and Favorite Baits and a video “How to Cook Catfish”


Entry 562, Day 2