MARK BEASON: Catfishing spawns myriad theories on bait, hook-setting

Most every fisherman in Mississippi got started casting for catfish. It's the right of every 8-year old boy in the Magnolia state to throw a hook in the water with hopes of catching a whiskered fish suitable for frying.

Most every fisherman in Mississippi got started casting for catfish. It's the right of every 8-year old boy in the Magnolia state to throw a hook in the water with hopes of catching a whiskered fish suitable for frying.

Most every fisherman in Mississippi got started casting for catfish. It's the right of every 8-year old boy in the Magnolia state to throw a hook in the water with hopes of catching a whiskered fish suitable for frying.

Some of those boys grow up to fish for bigger and better things. Some get into bass fishing, while others pick up a jig pole in search of crappie. But some of them stick with what got them started – catching cats.

Catfishermen are a quirky group. Take 10 catfishermen and ask them the best way to catch a catfish, and you'll get 30 answers. They've all got at least three ways to catch fish, depending if you are fishing at night, with a jug or on a trotline.

The debate is what's the best bait to catch a catfish. Over the years, I've compiled a list of ways I've heard of people pulling in cats.

Here are the most common and most unusual: chicken liver, hot dogs, shrimp, catawba worms, night crawlers, minnows, peanut butter, cockroaches, potted meat, crickets, various blood-based baits, day-old grits and window caulking.

Most of those I've tried, with the exception of the caulking and grits. I don't want to eat anything that will eat caulking or day-old grits.

The worst of all the catfish baits is stink bait. I'm not sure what stink bait is made of, nor do I want to. I used to know this guy that swore by the power of the stink. In fact, his thinking was the more it stunk, the better it worked. It was a known fact you didn't want to be anywhere near his truck if he was about to open up his tool box. He'd leave the stink bait in there during the summer to bake it and give it that extra stink he needed to catch the big ones.

I'm sure stink bait worked for him, but it sure made for some lonely trips. It took a gas mask and an asbestos suit to get in the same boat.

Other than which bait works best, the next biggest battle between catfishermen is when to set the hook. Catfish are known to take the bait and run with it. Some use the 5-second rule and then set, while others use a variety of other methods like the dip and yank.

With the dip-and-yank theory, you dip the rod, tip way down, and then yank it back as hard as you can. That sounds like a good method unless you are in a boat. If you dip and yank in a 10-foot john boat, there had better be something on the other end, or you'll yank yourself out of the boat.

Then again, maybe the guy with the stink bait had the best solution because he never had to worry about hookset. Once a fish took a bite of what was on his hook it would swim back and jump in the boat just so somebody would get it out of his mouth.

Mark Beason (mark.beason@djournal.com) is the outdoors writer for The Daily Journal.