CATTIN' BAIT BASICS:
AXIOMS FOR CHANNEL CAT ANGLING
by Daniel Kiazyk
"Time and time again" as one T.V. personality rants, with predictability cat men debate and argue about the values of their favorite cattin' baits. Sometimes I even wonder how some of these guys' wives put up with the concoctions they use for cats. And then, we've all read those articles in the top fishing journals, articles written by respected sports writers who espouse this or that particular bait. Some of the baits are made out of ingredients that would make any hungry man salivate, never mind the cats! Finally we've all read those articles which suggest a smorgasbord of baits as being the best way to catch cats. Well, I really can't argue with the conclusions arrived at by this or that cat man about this or that bait for channel cats………on any river there are probably some baits which outperform any other bait. However I would suggest that there is no kryptonite out there for ‘ol whiskers. Rather if you stop and think about what works at what time of the year there is almost a rhythm for effective baits for any watershed. Getting to know what works and when it works is a particularly valuable lesson that for any catman.
As was mentioned, a plethora of baits exist and are used for cats. These baits have been put through a type a "catfish challenge" on some TV programs and in a few articles. On one T.V. segment for example, sucker was being pitted against Goldeye on the lower Red River later on in the season. I was a bit surprised by this comparison and subsequent lack of reflection of why fish had a particular preference at that time of the year. Even the most experienced fishermen would have said that the results at least reflected what fish wanted today and that tomorrow they might want something else!
It follows upon the latter that the cat man might consider significant a first axiom which suggests that cats go through seasonal bait preferences related to the availability of each type of bait to them in their environment at any given time. On the Red for example, certain baits shine earlier on in the season (sucker) while others take over with the arrival of a forage species common in the river (goldeye). Other baits will have recurrent effectiveness partly as a result of season and partly as a result of weather related occurrences (a strong rain will wash worms and frogs into the system whetting cats appetites all over again). Kryptonite any of these baits are not but cats do show a preference to any one of them at a particular time of year (and I'm convinced the same would apply to any other cattin situation in North America).
Other baits certainly have their place and do quite well. Shrimp, chicken, blood baits and other stink/dip baits all relate to the dog days of summer. Warmer water seems to be able to carry the smell, taste etc. of these baits (cheese or blood baits) that much more effectively. I've never really experienced an incredible bite on the prior, in the spring, when water temperatures are really low. But I certainly have seen them do quite well with smaller cats in the heat of summer. And I guess therein lies another axiom that certain baits are better for action while others are big fish baits…. well almost all baits!
Perhaps the bottom line to all of this talk about this or that bait is that so long as the cats show a preference for them they're good baits. Give' em what they want is another axiom that works. Hard and fast rules while fishing have or will be broken. However, I still hold to the premise that cats generally show certain bait preferences at particular times of the calendar year. Get to know what those preferences are for the lake, river, reservoir, you fish and you're going to be holding on to that pole with a bit more effort. Moreover I'll try anything once the "go to" baits fails me ….. I just wanna catch a few more fish eh!