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“Ask Bill”

Posted: November 6th, 2013 by Bill Dance

Oh sure, I have founded my career on bass fishing, but rest assured I have experienced a boat load of fun and more fishing for catfish. And though, I love it, I’m still very pleased to watch the interest in catfishing grow in recent years.

It’s true, there are more folks fishing for catfish than ever before, and it’s simple to understand. These whiskered fish are very abundant and are basically easy to catch in ponds, lakes and creeks and rivers.

The sport in itself has come to be held in more high esteem, too. Many state fish and game agencies across the country are beginning to manage more for quality or trophy catfishing. Rules and regulations are being put on the books to protect and promote catfish as sport fish as well as a commercial fish. A few years back, The Wall Street Journal even ran a story on catfishing. So, what does that tell you about the sport. Well, catfish aren’t lowly bottom-dwellers anymore!

So with that in mind, here’s some catfish Q&A.

Q. What causes catfish to come to your bait?

Bill: The answer is smell, but they smell a lot differently than we do. Catfish have chemo receptors all along their body that trigger not only their olfactory sense, but the sense of taste as well. The catfish smells a bait and actually tastes the bait at the same time. So for catfish to smell and taste scents in the water, all they have to do is come in contact with that odor in the water. Surprisingly, the odor can come from a long distance, depending on several factors: the amount of bait put in the water, the speed of the water currents and width or the expanse of the water in which that odor has been placed. These old boys have small openings located on the top portion of their heads between their eyes and upper lip. They are called nares and lead to small chambers with a series of folds. Catfish have more folds than any other freshwater fish. These folds increase the surface area for smelling, and with over 175,000 taste buds on the surface of their body, you could say they are virtually a swimming tongue.

Q. Is it true smellier baits are better for catfishing?

Bill: Many catfishermen believe that the more a bait smells, the better it will produce. However, research has shown that the ingredients that make a bait smell are not necessarily the ingredients that cause a catfish to come to the bait. They also have discovered that many of the baits that produce catfish don’t have to be foul smelling.

Research has shown that fresh cut baits actually attract, and cause catfish like the channel and blue to bite more readily than foul-smelling, rancid baits. Generally, freshly caught cut bait will draw in and cause more cats to bite than that same bait will if it is rancid or allowed to spoil.

Q. What is the best bait to catch a big blue catfish?

Bill: Well, there are several: crawfish, night crawlers, large grasshoppers or even a gob of catalpa worms from time to time. But fresh bait, either cut or whole, is among the most popular. Skipjack herring, threadfin and gizzard shad are top choices in many areas of the country. Up north, chub suckers are a good bet.

Bill Dance


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