Fishing's all about utilizing what you have on hand

ALBANY ‒ With the number of fishing rodeos on the SOWEGA Outdoor calendar over the next few months, the breaking news stories earlier this week highlighting allegations of cheating at the Walker County Lake Catfish Tournament are timely.

One competitor, with whom reporters with the Cullman Daily News spoke, had this to say: "I have the very best catfishing equipment that money can buy, the best boat, the best rods, the best electronics. There ain't no way that old lady beat me with a stick and some dog food, no way. Something smells fishy here, and it ain't my stinkbait."

Reports indicate that “Ms. Minnie,” a 70-year-old Jasper woman, beat out her nearest competitor by 12 pounds using her cane pole and a Ziplock bag of Gravy Train dogfood. Others at the tournament were not surprised, as she routinely catches a lake limit five days a week. Her achievement highlights the fact that fishing success and enjoyment are not dependent upon having the latest and greatest technology, as much as it is about knowing how to utilize what you have.

Fishing for catfish in the typical pond setting does not require heavy tackle. Bait can be fished suspended under a bobber or on the bottom using size 2 to 1/0 hooks on 8- to 14-pound test line. Recommended baits for white and channel cats include chicken livers, worms, minnows, cut bait or stink bait. If you are in doubt, you might want to give Ms. Minnie’s dogfood trick a try.

If you choose to target panfish (bream), you need to go light. A cane or fiberglass pole with 2- to-6-pound test line and small hooks between the sizes 2 to 6 are the standard. If you want to only catch larger fish, use the larger size 2 hook to discourage smaller fish from wasting your bait and time. Select the smallest split shot sinker that is able to sink your bait. The less resistance a fish feels when taking your bait, the better your chances of catching it.

If you want to use a rod and reel in an attempt to increase the area, you can fish from the bank, an ultra-light set-up is your best choice. In the spring, panfish move into the shallow waters and a boat is not a necessity to reach them. Worms, minnows and crickets are preferred live baits. Small lead head jigs are a good choice of artificial bait. Many panfish enthusiasts have a trick up their sleeve using breakfast cereal, oatmeal, or breadcrumbs for chum in an attempt to draw feeding fish to the spot they are fishing.

As summer temperatures heat up, fishing at dawn, dusk, and during the night are good choices, and deeper water may prove to be a good option as temperatures rise. When fishing during the day, be sure to take plenty of water or other appropriate drinks to stay hydrated. Folding seats with an umbrella also can add to your comfort. However, a 5-gallon bucket with a lid also provides seating and a means to store extra bait and tackle. You can also use it to haul your catch home for cleaning at the end of the day.