John's Journal... Entry 52, Day 1
Ralph Barbee, Jr.
EDITOR'S NOTE: To consistently catch very big catfish, you must have heavy tackle and the knowledge of where to find and how to catch these monster-sized fish. In many lakes and rivers throughout the United States, catfish weighing more than 50 pounds cruise the bottoms.
Little did Ralph Barbee, Jr., of Evans, Georgia, realize that reading "Outdoor Life Magazine" would change his life forever and rewrite the Guinness Book Of World Records, the IGFA World Record Book and the State of Georgia Record Book.
"In 1979 while stationed at Fort Gordon in Georgia, I went into the library, picked up an 'Outdoor Life Magazine' and read about catching monster-sized catfish in reservoirs," Barbee remembered. "That article got me so excited about taking big catfish I went out 28 days straight to try and catch a huge catfish. The article suggested I fish at night downstream from a dam in about 100 feet of water. Every night I went to Clarks Hill Reservoir near Augusta, Georgia, and fished for cats."
Barbee mixed chicken entrails and chicken blood in a burlap bag and sank this concoction in the deep holes below the dam. He baited with Louisiana pink worms and beef livers. For 28-consecutive nights, he didn't get a bite. Then on the 29th night, he hooked and landed a catfish that weighed 30 pounds.
"I began to experiment with my fishing and moved around to different spots below the dam," Barbee said. "Finally I found a place where the state had dumped concrete into the reservoir -- making humps on the bottom. I started baiting this area. I fished with 20-pound test Stren line, a big, sharp treble hook, an Ambassadeur rod and a Daiwa Millionaire reel.
"The 30th night I caught three more large cats -- one that weighed 30 pounds, a 38 pounder and the biggest weighing in at 42 pounds. Within a week, I was catching 30 pounders regularly. I had discovered the magic formula for taking big catfish.
"Three weeks after I started catching large cats, I was fishing during a thunderstorm when the big catfish went on a feeding spree. In that one night, I caught 330 pounds of catfish. The largest catfish I took was a blue cat that weighed 62 pounds and set a world's record for 20-pound test line."
When Barbee brought the giant blue cat to the surface in the blackness of the night, Barbee shone a light toward the fish to see the fish. The big cat saw the light and sounded. Barbee thought he'd lost his world's record. But the line held, the rod didn't break, and the drag continued to feed off line at an even rate.
"For 35 minutes, I fought the fish until I finally got it to the boat," Barbee reported.
"That catfish almost tore the net up," Barbee reported. "Because we never could get the fish in the boat, we used rope to tie it alongside the boat."
A week after Barbee landed the 62-pound world record, he caught a channel cat in the same spot that weighed 55 pounds and almost broke the state record.
"I'm convinced that chumming is the key to catching big cats," Barbee explained. "I use a Humminbird flasher to find the humps in the river and chum with Bob's Blood Bait, which is made in Texas, to call the cats to the humps. I also add cat mullet, a saltwater fish, to a mixture of blood bait and chicken blood and entrails in a one-gallon, plastic mayonnaise jar. I let this concoction sit in the sun in the jar for a day. The chum smells so bad I wear plastic surgeon gloves to dump the bloody mixture into a burlap bag.
"After I sink the bag, I fish close to it with large Louisiana pink worms, which are so big and thick they'll completely cover a large treble hook. I've learned the most productive time to fish for big cats in my area on the Georgia/South Carolina border is between 10:00 p.m. and 10:00 a.m. when the moon is dark during August, September and October. I caught my world's record catfish on a September 12th date."
To learn more about catching catfish, go to Night Hawk Publications' Home Page, click on books, and then go to fishing books to see John Phillips' "The Masters' Secrets of Catfishing." You can buy the book by sending a check or a money for $13.95 to Night Hawk Publications, 4112 Camp Horner Road, Birmingham, AL 35243, or use a credit card by calling (800) 627-4295.
Tomorrow: Edward Elliot