24 to 27 September 2015
It was the Sunday morning when I woke up for our last half-day session on the water before parting farewell to Barberspan. In the back of my mind I was still replaying the horror of the previous day; seeing how the monster catfish stormed my lure and then engulfed it, only to be followed with my lure pulling as it started taking line – what a nightmare!
I took heart in the fact that we still had a few hours on the water in which I could hopefully land the big one which would improve my personal best or maybe if I’m lucky enough I could land a 20 kg beast. I had a new day with new possibilities lying in front of me; let’s see what it produces…
My dad didn’t join us on the water for this session as he attended the prize-giving of the Barberspan Bonanza whilst we went fishing. I quickly grabbed a few basics and joined Parrish and Kyle on their boat. We headed straight to a rocky point where we caught a catfish the previous day. The wind was once again pumping and the morning was a bit chilly. It was no surprise that the catfish were less active due to the weather. I walked out on the rocky point until I was standing with water just above my knees.
Catfish Calling Setup:
- 13 ft Blue Marlin Big Shot Calling Rod
- Penn Fathom 12 Star Drag reel
- 100 lbs Berkley Whiplash braid
- Lumé Lures Madpumkin Fast Sinking (Large in Carp and/or Bream color)
Kyle was working the same area about 15 meters away from me. I noticed that the area had many catfish around, yet every time I called harder I would see a few dust clouds rising around me. Though I saw several dust clouds raising I got few takes, so it seemed that the dust clouds were rather of catfish spooking when I call harder instead of catfish coming closer to inspect this strange noise in their vicinity.
Soon after I changed to a softer call I went tight with a few whiskered friends, the biggest probably hitting the 10 kg mark. I called Kyle closer to come and call on the same spot as me which resulted in him also landing a cat. He had less success than me, I suspect three reasons for this; 1) He used a smaller Lume Lures Madpumkin which made a softer noise when splashed on the surface (waves were smashing around us which could make it more difficult for catfish to pick up on the noise against the noise of the waves breaking on the surface) and it lure also gives off less vibration which made lead to more catfish miss-striking it 2) He used a kayak calling rod which means less distance between him and his lure as this is a shorter calling rod, thus some catfish can spook if they notice him while approaching his lure to inspect the noise he is making and finally (3) this “calling in open water” method was new to Kyle so it is understandable that he, like any angler trying something new, would first need to gain confidence in a method to experience the best success with it. Confidence makes a huge difference in one’s fishing success and like all thing one’s confidence only increases through a lot of practice next to the waters.
What also helps is if you understand the logic behind the method you are using. At all the dams where calling works very well you will find that the catfish mostly feed on bigger fish (e.g. carp, grass carp or moggel). The catfish are usually concentrated in certain areas, so once you find them – you find plenty of them (might be because they move in schools or even hunt in schools). These “calling venues” usually have plenty of shallow bays or pans with very little structure (mostly sandy or muddy flats with almost no vegetation). Often you will find carp or grass carp tailing on these flats or moggel congregating in these flats. So, catfish move to these flats to hunt the tailing carp or schools of grass carp or moggel – their main reason for entering flats is to hunt!
Catfish have useless sight, so they mostly rely on picking up vibration with their whiskers and other sensor all over their body, to find their prey. Seeing that noise is connected to vibration I doubt that they rely too much on their hearing abilities; rather they mostly rely on the vibrations they can pick up from fish swimming past them or from fish or birds in distress in the water. Once the catfish picks up this vibration they will usually move towards it to find out if there is “lunch” close-by. Now when you create this noise/disturbance by calling in flats (the areas where catfish hunt) you have a good chance of getting one of the close-by catfish picking up the vibrations you are creating. The catfish will then come closer to inspect the origin of the vibration and they will use their whiskers to “feel” if there is prey in the area, once your lure hits they curious catfish’s whiskers it will instinctively take the lure/prey.
Back to the story; soon enough I had caught 10 catfish in a short span of time. I would catch or miss a catfish are calling in an area for a while after which I would move a few meters down the bank and then commence calling. Usually I would either get a take or see a dust cloud rise soon after I started calling. I splashed/plons-ed my lure more than I called with my rod’s tip as the catfish were a bit skittish for too much noise.
I then saw something very interesting. I caught a smaller catfish (6 to 8 kg) and struggled to pull the catfish closer to unhook the catfish right where I stood with my Rapala Unhooking Tool. Whilst I was struggling to pull the fish closer with my hand on my line I saw how a much much bigger catfish appeared under my catch! This big brute was curious about my catch’s strange behavior and therefore followed it on the surface. This big brute followed my catch for a short time while I stood there frozen; barely believing what I am seeing in front me! The worst part was that I looked around me, but I was alone – there was no one close enough to catch this massive fish offered on a platter in front of me! Not even I could make use of this golden opportunity as my lure was still firmly lodged in the small cat on my line’s throat. The big catfish then disappeared and I was left in awe. I pulled my catch closer and removed the hook to release the catch (P.S. I got this whole affair on my AEE Magicam action camera).
Here is a video of the whole affair: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YbZLdgFz6iQ
I continued calling down the rocky points with the knowledge that there was some big fish in the area. I my next call a felt a solid tap which was followed by my rod going heavy! I was on with a better fish! The fished commenced ripping the line of my reel and I had to stand my ground as this powerful beast was storming away. After a great fight I landed the beaut which I estimate to be about 14 kg – realized at this point that I forgot my scale on our boat. I released the brute and then went back for my final try.
I walked back to where I caught the previous catch and started calling just a bit farther on down the point. I saw a massive swirl next to the area I was calling and then a MASSIVE head of a catfish came up above the swirl and it was anxiously looking for my lure. I dropped my lure next to it and saw how it engulfed it! ON! This fish pulled less than the previous catch but it used its weight to strip line of my reel – this was one heavy fish! After another entertaining fight I managed to land this beast and again I stood in awe when looked at the freakishly big head of this cat. We tried a bit to weigh this catch but the scale we had wasn’t meant to weigh such big fish – it was designed to weigh bass. So, after a few pics we released the catch and this was the last catch of our trip as we headed back to pack up and leave for home.
I asked numerous experienced anglers what they estimate this big fish and taking their estimation into consideration as well as my experience and the weights and sizes from some of the other catches landed on this trip – I am satisfied to share that this was my 20 kg job and my new PB!
Until next line…