Spinning Reels For Catfishing
May 30, 2014
Discovering the quintessential rod and reel has been a perpetual quest for scores of anglers. And across the years, many divergent opinions have surfaced about what constitutes an ideal rod and reel. Rick Clunn of bass fishing fame, for example, began his pursuit for the perfect rod-and-reel combination well before most contemporary cat fishers wetted their first line. He contends that the best combo is one that works in a variety of situations. In essence, it's one that won't upset his rhythm, efficiency, and concentration, because if those three elements go awry, his casting and presentations suffer.
Doug Stange, In-Fisherman Editor In Chief, says the selection of a rod and reel for the serious angler is a matter of logistics and location.'‚He points out that the needs of catfishermen are strikingly different from those of bass anglers. Because the size of the catfish can range from a pound to a 100 pounds, Stange asserts that catmen require a diverse range of rods and reels, that they can't work with the one-rod scenario that Clunn desires — and Clunn agrees, saying it's a difficult proposition even for bass anglers.
Although Stange is a proponent of diverse tactics, he often shuns spinning outfits for catfishing, saying that casting tackle is the way to go 95 percent of the time. Likewise, Steve Hoffman, In-Fisherman Publisher, who also favors casting tackle, says: "I know guys who pursue flatheads with spinning tackle, but none that I would consider serious. The light-tackle stuff that guys do in Missouri and Kansas makes sense, but at some point most flathead anglers realize that baitcasting gear is better suited to big fish in heavy cover. Even English anglers fishing for giant wels catfish usually prefer casting tackle, and they are as hardcore spinning fans as you're likely to find."
Jeff Williams, Grove, Oklahoma, has considerable experience catching trophy blue cats from Lake of the Ozarks, Missouri, and Grand Lake, Oklahoma. He says that for years most of his fellow catfish anglers have been wedded to the notion that baitcasting is better than spinning. He says they have a bias in favor of baitcasting, probably because few have given spinning outfits serious consideration.
Williams says that spinning tackle has always been the best option when pursuing gargantuan blue cats at reservoirs like Lake of the Ozarks or Grand Lake. He agrees with Hoffman's assessment about the effectiveness of casting tackle when dealing with flatheads in heavy cover. What's more, Williams says that in heavy current situations on some rivers, the winch-like power of a lower'‘gear'‘ratio casting reel works better than a spinning reel. But those are the only situations wherein Williams would opt for casting paraphernalia rather than spinning.
Stange lauds the effectiveness of spinning tackle at tailraces. He says: "Spinning does well in areas where flatheads are taken from the deep water spilling out of a scour hole. This is done with a jig-and-minnow combo in the same fashion as vertical jigging for walleye or sauger. Light casting tackle would work there, but probably not quite as well as spinning tackle." For a comprehensive approach to plying tailraces for catfish and for tips on how to make long casts with spinning tackle, anglers should visit distance caster Tim Smith's website (catfishin.net).
Besides the effectiveness of spinning tackle at tailraces, shorebound anglers at Lake Texoma regularly use spinning reels and 14-foot surf rods to make extraordinarily long casts.'‚ Cody Mullennix of Howe, Texas, for instance, used such an outfit to land the former world record 121.5-pound blue catfish at Texoma in 2004.
Although Williams fishes from a boat, he says spinning tackle allows him and his clients to make long and accurate casts — even into the wind — without worrying about backlashes.'‚ He finds that casting into the wind with baitcasting tackle is always problematic. And when anglers use lightweight baits, it's even more of a problem. By constantly executing long, accurate, and backlash-free casts, Williams says catfishermen can approach those elements of rhythm, efficiency, and concentration that Clunn hopes to achieve with his bass fishing tackle.
Williams notes that making lengthy pinpoint casts is critical to properly presenting baits from an anchored boat when anglers target blue cats on shallow mudflats. When anglers are working with large livebaits such as gizzard shad, it's essential that the bait isn't harmed during the casting process. To coddle his bait, Williams makes a lob cast, and he's found it easier to make a long and gentle lob cast with spinning tackle than with baitcasting gear. Bloodbait aficionados also find that spinning outfits do a stellar job of placing their bait, which is often a tender morsel, into a catfish's lair.
Williams also drifts baits for blue catfish, using the same spinning outfits he casts with, finding them superior to baitcasting equipment. Hoffman agrees, saying that drift-fishing is easier with a fixed spool reel. Whether Williams is casting or drifting, he uses a 7550X Pflueger Contender Saltwater Spinning Reel mounted on a 7-foot medium-action BWS 2200 Shakespeare Ugly Stik Tiger rod.
During the past decade, more reel manufacturers began producing saltwater spinning reels that fitted the needs of anglers like Williams. Hoffman finds that the bait-clicker system on most of these spinning reels is better than those on baitcasting reels. In addition to the Pflueger that Williams uses, Stange and Hoffman suggest that catfish anglers examine the reels produced by Penn, Quantum, Shimano, Daiwa, Shakespeare, Silstar, and Mitchell, among others.
Because Williams uses circle hooks, he doesn't employ the spinning reels' bait-clicker system; rather, he prefers the line to tighten as a catfish takes a bait, which helps set the hook. He likes the retrieving speed of spinning reels, saying that they do a better job of quickly putting line on the spool than baitcasting reels do. When there's a hot bite and a blue cat steals a bait, it's important to get the empty hook back to the boat, rebaited and returned to the water quickly.
Fishing guides work in an excellent arena for scrutinizing the effectiveness of various products. But because Williams focuses only on using spinning tackle for catching big blue cats in reservoirs, it's important to consider the spinning rods and reels of guides who fish for channel catfish and smaller blue cats.
Jerry Martin hails from Stephenville, Texas, and is the proprietor of J Pigg Stink Bait. When he and his clients pursue channel and blue catfish in the reservoirs of central Texas, they use spinning and baitcasting equipment. But Martin readily confesses that his favorite outfit is a 7-foot medium-light-action vintage Garcia spinning rod and a 2000RG Shimano Solstace spinning reel, spooled with 10-pound-test Ande monofilament.'‚ He describes it as his "search rod" because it's extremely easy to cast, making it a great tool for locating schools of suspended blue cats. He also calls his spinning outfit his "joy stick" — a delightful way to do battle with scores of 18-inch blue catfish per outing.
Clyde Holscher, Topeka, Kansas, guides on flatland reservoirs in eastern Kansas, and during summer his primary quarry is channel catfish. He agrees with Stange that spinning tackle is the best choice for vertical presentations, and he agrees with Hoffman that "the light-tackle stuff that guys do in Missouri and Kansas makes sense."
Holscher's a chummer, using fermented soybeans for channel cats. His favorite chum holes are usually situated on the edge of a hump, adjacent to a drop-off or along a submerged creek channel edge. The depth of these locales ranges from about 12 feet to 30 feet. To fish these areas, he fishes from an anchored boat, vertically probing the chummed area with punchbait on a #8 barbless Gamakatsu treble hook.
Holscher's clients often catch and release fish at a hand-over-fist pace.'‚ Even though the action can be fast, Holscher describes the typical chum bite as a subtle one. To detect bites, he's found the best outfit to be an 8-foot medium-light action Pflueger DR 4780 rod paired with a Pflueger'‚Trion 4735 reel, spooled with Shakespeare Supreme 8-pound-test blue line. Holscher designed his outfit for catching oodles of small catfish, but he says a deft angler can eventually whip a 15-pounder and have the time of his life doing it.
While Williams, Martin, and Holscher acknowledge that baitcasting equipment works in reservoir situations for blue and channel catfish, they all agree that spinning is the best option for the situations they fish. Carefully weigh the advantages and disadvantages of spinning versus baitcasting for the situations you fish, and you're likely to choose a winner.