12 – 22 December 2014
After hitting our first day on the water off on a good note, we hit the water again, amped to see if we can improve on our previous day. We decided to get on the water super early, before sunrise. The mission was to travel up to the Hondeblaf inlet and arrive there as early as possible – this will allow us to fish a promising looking spot for big catfish while they were still hunting. Catfish do most of their hunting at night, as soon as day breaks they become less active. So, we would fish a promising looking spot with the right tackle and right technique and at the right time – needless to say, we were quite positive that we would land the “big one’s” this day.
As we launched our boat under a star-filled sky with the moon gazing over us I couldn’t help being overwhelmed by the magic of the moment. Riding on this lake under such a beautiful sky is truly something to behold. To my surprise the moment was about to become even more special as the sun formed a bright orange lining on the edge of the vast series of mountains and hills surrounding the dam. The bright orange skies formed a silhouette against the dark hills surrounding us and both Sampie and I could only look upon it in awe – few sight as majestic have befallen my eyes before this special sight.
We arrived at our spot and we were both excited to hook into some big fish. All around us we saw moggel jumping (a kind of mudfish which rarely takes lures, catfish love preying on them). These moggel only added to our hope of catching some massive cats. We saw a few catfish turn in the area and got our casting setups ready, but there was too few of them turning to target them effectively. After having no success on the casting setups we tried calling in the area, but it was to no avail. The wind was pumping at this stage which made working for catfish effectively rather difficult. After having no luck, we moved on to try other places – this was a bit of an anti-climax for the both of us.
We decided to try new waters, thus instead of turning back and working some of the waters which we have fished before we ventured further up in this massive dam to try new waters. We rode about 40km up in the dam before we found a promising looking bay. Now this bay consists of 3 legs and is big enough to spend an entire day working without having worked through the entire bay – it was a huge bay! The first two legs delivered no fish. When we arrived in the third bay it looked quite promising. There we some catfish activity in the area. We first tried calling in the back of the bay, in the shallows. Here we picked up some small dinks, but nothing noteworthy. Both of us were armed with our calling rods.
Tackle for catfish on the calling technique:
- Blue Marlin Big Shot Calling rod
- Penn Fathom Star Drag 12 reel
- 100lb Berkley Whiplash braided line
- Lume Madpumkin Large Fast Sinking lure (Carp colour)
Seeing as we were calling in open water with no visible structure evident we decided to both use madpumkins as the choice of lure. Catfish that hunt in bays like this one with shallow murky water and a muddy bottom often hunt small moggel or carp and therefore it is better to use pumpkinseed lures than leadheads when working this habitat. We noticed that there was a sand bank in this bay, this bank almost formed a type of barrier in the bay and we suspect that it formed a dam wall for a farm dam in the past before the dam filled up. On the sand bank was ankle deep water, but both sides of it the sand formed a drop-off falling to 2.5m and deeper water. This was really good catfish structure (have smashed the catfish at Bloemhof Dam on similar structure). We tied the boat to a submerged tree on the sand bank. Sampie commenced calling in the shallows (about 30cm deep water), while I called in the deeper water (2.5m). Immediately, as we started calling the water started boiling and turning, three big catfish swirled around Sampie’s lure! They searched for his lure with such intent, but they just couldn’t find it! Viskoors was running high! I continued calling in the deeper water while gazing at the cats searching for Sampie’s lure. Next moment a massive set of bubbles rise next to the spot I was calling. My lure was hanging just above the bottom. I paused and kept my lure hanging suspended above the bottom – BANG ON! Immediately I knew I was on to a big boy as this was one heavy fish – I tried lifting its head, no luck! Adrenalin started pumping as the fish pulled the line of my reel! I was braking my back trying to subdue this beast, after about 15 minutes the fish surfaced and it was a brute! I estimated it to be around 16kg+ (it was long, fat and had a big head). Unfortunately our net was too small to net the beast and while we were driving to the shallows sands to land the beast the hook pulled – I was utterly disappointed as I really wanted to weigh this fish and get a few good pics of it. We went back to the same spot and commenced calling there again, within a few seconds I was on again and it was a big boy – AGAIN! The fish gave a great battle, exciting stuff! Eventually it got tired and we managed to get a lipgrip on it, but it just gave one shake with its big powerful head and the lipgrip bend open – another fish was gone without being weighed and without a pic! I was devastated. This is the type of catches I want to share with you guys. I estimate the beast to be at least 14kg. After losing this second fish I decided to climb off the boat and wade. I started calling next to the sand bank while standing on it. I caught one small cat and while I was sorting it Sampie went tight with another beast! This cat towed him hard on the boat! I could hear his drag singing as the cat pulled him. He got the fish on his lipgrip, but he lost it due to the lipgrip giving in..again. He estimated the fish to be 13kg, his PB on lure. I continued calling from the shore and managed to catch and land a 10kg job which I did get a pic off. This would have been truly insane if I could show the pics and exact weights of these three brutes I landed within a hour – my best big catfish session up to date. After landing the 10kg job the area settled down and the catfish stopped biting, it was time to move on to new waters. I was very disappointed at this stage, but at the same time I couldn’t wait to fish this spot again.
Our next plan of action was to troll down the cliffs for largemouth yellowfish. We decided to try trolling with our trolling motor instead of with the outboard as we usually do. This allows us to troll closer to the cliffs.
Tackle for largemouth yellowfish via trolling:
- Abu Garcia Veracity 7ft medium action spinning rod
- Penn Clash 2000 spinning reel
- 7kg Berkley Nanofil line
- Sensation Minitrap lure
As we were slowly trolling down the cliffs Sampie got a hit and was on with a small largie. We stopped trolling as he commenced fighting the fish. As the boat stopped my lure started sinking down deeper as just as I started retrieving I got a hit from a big yellow – ON! The yellow gave a proper run in the get go and I knew it was a good quality fish. It gave characteristic head shakes which the largemouth yellowfish is known for combined with a few runs in between. I was happy to land my first decent largie of the trip, a nice 4kg specimen. Later on Sampie also landed a bigger specimen after which we decided to call it a day.
- When fishing dams with 10kg+ catfish it is wise to take a proper big landing net with as you don’t want to lose fish as I did due such a stupid reason.
- A proper lipgrip tool is also very handy; most lipgrips on the market are crap when handling big catfish. I recommend the Berkley lipgrip or using a Boga lipgrip. A scale which weighs up to at least 25kg is also recommended.
- Big catfish makes a big mess once on your deck, so when you will be targeting them you should take a carpet or rubber mat with to put the catfish on when unhooking it. This way your boat’s carpet will stay clean. If you get catfish sludge on your carpet, don’t stress as once it dries out it can easily come off if you use a vacuum-cleaner on it.
- It is easier to land big catfish while wading than from a boat, so if possible I would rather target big catfish from the shore.