John's Journal...

Secrets of the World’s Best Catfishermen

Secrets of Big Catfish with Mississippi’s Phil King and a video with Gary Harlan “Jump Boxes 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.

The hands-dowClick to enlargen favorite to win any catfishing tournament will be Phil King of Corinth, Mississippi, owner of Phil King’s Catfishing Guide Service. He guides on the Tennessee River near Pickwick Lake and Memphis, Tennessee. In 2009, King took first place in the Bass Pro Shop Big Cat Quest tournament held in Memphis with nine catfish weighing 234 pounds. His largest catfish was a 67.10-pound blue cat. For much of his life, King has fished either full-time or part-time as a commercial catfisherman on the Tennessee River. He knows the places in the river where the big cats hang out because he’s fished this river 19 of his 40 years.

“I’ve caught four big blue cats from the same hole, weighing from 16- to 27-1/2-pounds each,” King says. “I released all those cats back into the hole I caught them from and assumed I could catch at least one or two of those catfish the next day. When I pulled up on that same spot the next day, I could see a large school of catfish in this hole on my depth finder. I thought for sure I could catch those big cats. But I was only able to catch a 23-1/2-pound flathead cat, a 5-pound blue cat and several more small catfish. Even though I knew more and bigger cats were in that hole, on that day, the big cats just wouldn’t bite.”

Like many other anglers, King fishes with chicken livers. “I don’t know why the catfish prefer chicken livers, because they certainly aren’t found naturally in the river,” King emphasizes. “But I’ve learned that during the hottest part of the summer, for some reason, chicken livers produce more and bigger cats during hot weather than any other bait I’ve ever fished.” King’s catfish honey hole at Pickwick Lake on the Tennessee River is a spot in the middle of the river where the bottom drops off from 41 to 78 feet. “Upriver of the hole are a lot of mussel beds,” King says. “The cats feed on those mussels and then come back and rest in the hole. At this particular spot, the river necks-down. Even when there’s not much current coming through the river, this place almost always has more current than other locations on the river do. Anytime you can find a spot where a river becomes a bottleneck, and the area has plenty of current as well as a deep hole in it, you not only can find cats there but specifically big cats.”Click to enlargeClick to enlarge

King fishes with bottom-bumping tackles and techniques.King also carries with him a large dip net, another of his secrets for landing big cats. “Many big cats are lost at the boat because an angler isn’t prepared to boat a large catfish,” King comments. “I use a 32-inch x 27-inch size dip net. Then, I can get a big cat in the net and pull it into the boat.” King caught his biggest catfish ever, a 64 pounder, in 1997 during the National Catfish Derby. His 52-1/2-pound blue cat won the title of the biggest cat caught during the 1998 Derby. King spent his lifetime fishing and more than 25 years targeting catfish on the Tennessee River. He’ll take two anglers catfishing with their rods and reels all day and average 30 to 100 pounds of cats. “All the fishermen have to do is show-up with their fishing licenses, what they want to eat and drink and an ice chest to carry home their catches,” King says. “I provide the rods, the reels, the hooks, the tackle and the bait. I clean the fish for them and then put the fish in their ice chests.”

To fish with Phil King’s Catfishing Guide Service, call 662-286-8644, or go to

Today's Video Clip - Gary Harlan - Jump Boxes for Catfish

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Tomorrow: Tommy and Elton Taylors’ Bottom Bumping Catfish Technique and a video with Gary Harlan “What Bait to Use 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 3