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Spilling the Beans On Channel Catfish

by Ned Kehde   |  August 23rd, 2012 2

To most catfishermen, chumming means scattering fermented soybeans, wheat, or milo around a covert to attract catfish or to stimulate those that are in the area to feed. Besides fermented grains, some anglers in Texas opt for cottonseed cakes, which are manufactured from the residue of cottonseeds after most of the oil has been removed.

Cottonseed cakes are expensive, and at many locales, they aren’t readily available. Consequently, some anglers use 20-percent range cubes, which are big pellets that contain a number of ingredients, such as alfalfa and cottonseed meal. A 50-pound bag of 20-percent range cubes costs about $6, and they’re available at many feed stores.

Cottonseed cakes and range cubes aren’t offensively odiferous, and that appeals to anglers with weak stomachs who find spending a day afloat with a 5-gallon bucket of rank soybeans to be a miserable ordeal. Yet, in the minds and noses of the devotees of foul-smelling chum, it’s the redolence of the fermented grains that attracts channel catfish and stimulates them to feed. These anglers gladly endure the smell to reap the benefits that it renders.

Reservoirs, Rivers and Recipes

On a map of the U.S., draw a line from slightly north of Topeka, Kansas, southward to Laredo, Texas. There lies the axis of the chumming world among channel catfish anglers.

Reservoirs have been the domain of channel catfish chummers, and its roots can be traced back at least four decades. But some folks recall that as far back as the late 1940s and early 1950s, anglers at the Lake of the Ozarks in Missouri used cottonseed cakes and grains as chum around their boat docks to attract crappies, carp, and channel cats.

Until 1993, most anglers thought that chumming a riffle or a hole in a river wouldn’t work because the current would swiftly wash the chum downstream, limiting its effectiveness. But after the Great Flood of 1993, Wayne Smith and Catdaddy Shumway, both of Topeka, Kansas, successfully chummed holes and riffles and some runs in the rapidly flowing Kansas River. Their chum was created by mixing chicken or turkey blood with woodchips, allowing it to stew in a 30-gallon barrel until it generated a massive population of maggots.

They deposited several gallons of their chum upstream from lairs that they wanted to ply. As the chum coursed downstream through a logjam, for instance, it activated the channel catfish and an occasional blue. They caught catfish on treble hooks encased in bloodbait presented upstream from the chummed logjam.

Nowadays, Shumway, a catfish guide and tournament angler, uses a chum that he concocts out of ground shad. The fish he catches with it are bigger than those he and Smith caught by using the blood-woodchips-and-maggot chum. At a hole he chums with ground shad on the Kansas River, for example, Shumway has caught three In-Fisherman Master Angler Award flathead catfish. He’s also caught and released from this same hole blues and flatheads weighing from 30 to 88 pounds, belying the notion that chumming only works for small channel cats.

Across Texas, catfish anglers chum streams by placing a fish basket or tow sack partially filled with range cubes in the lair they’re fishing. Because the cubes can stay intact for up to 3 days, anglers can move them and fish from spot to spot.

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