It was a scene of pure agony. And of eventual ecstasy.
Parked along a dark riverbank one night many years back, friends and I had just settled in for what was sure to be an epic evening chasing channel cats. Everything was right — new moon, warm southerly breeze, baitfish flipping in the shallows — until a singular sudden event turned everything, well, weird.
Propped on a flimsy forked stick, my brand new Ugly Stick seemed ready for action. Meanwhile, as we kicked back on the dewy grass, swapping stories, a sudden strange clink-zzt-splash! brought our flashlight beams sharply to bear on our forked sticks. Sickeningly, I noticed mine was folded over in the sand, and no longer clutched its rod. No!!!
I was soon groping along, feeling for glass and graphite in the muddy shallows, on the verge of diving into the drink, when Keith's rod thumped twice, and started to jump. Just before his combo nearly launched lakeside, too, Keith snatched it up and threw a deep arc into the blank. "Man, there's a lot of weight here," I recall him remarking. "Feels big, but . . . sort of weird."
Soon enough, standing there in a foot of water, I was amazed when a colossal channel cat rolled into the net, three lines protruding mysteriously from its muscular jaws. Keith extracted his hook first, before going to work on a second, which looked oddly familiar. Rigs, line and sinkers seemed to be coming from all directions. And upon removing the second hook and rig, we realized it had to be mine. So retrieving the line hand-over-hand, I soon clutched a rod tip and then, amazingly, the whole recognizable outfit was back in my muddy paws. Yes!!!
As Keith reveled in his big catfish catch, and I in my recaptured Ugly Stik, our buddy Matt had managed to grapple the third line and now held in his hands a very expensive — and more or less mint — rod and reel combo, which was attached to a still-intact plastic worm. "That's one hungry fish," someone remarked. And for the next hour, we laughed like 5-year-olds.
Never caught another catfish that night. But it didn't matter. The outing would live on in our minds and memories, forever — Attack of the Cat Burglar, and fortunes lost, restored and then some.
Here's hoping you'll hang on to your favorite catfish rods tight, next time the catfish burglar comes a callin'.
B 'n' M Poles Silver Cat Magnum
— The crappie pole experts at B 'n' M know catfish, too. So when they released the Silver Cat rods last year, these flashy sticks were met with immediate enthusiasm. The brand new Silver Cat Magnum rods are built to tame big blues and flatheads, and with muscle to spare. Like the original Silver Cat, the 100-percent fiberglass blanks on the Magnums sport wrapped nylon cord grips for super sure handling. Heavy-duty actions start with mega backbone and end with sensitivity in the tip. Eight 'Super Slick ' guides and graphite reel seats enhance this three-rod series. Two casting models include 8 and 7-1/2 footers and one 8-foot, 2-piece spinning rod, each rated for 25 to 50 pound test line. Retail price is $70.
— Essential for night-fishing adventures, the Glowstik sports a sweet light-activated blank that nearly hums with luminous energy. These brawny yet comfortable catfish rods are constructed with nearly indestructible E-glass blanks and premium cork handles. A handy dial on the rod's butt-cap lets anglers turn on the lights when the sun fades and big cats go on the prowl. Four spinning and four casting models include 7, 8, 9 and 10 footers, each in medium or medium-heavy actions, with line ratings of 10 to 30 pound test. Retail prices range from $40 to $50.
Driftmaster Series by The Rod Shop KC
— Tom Knox crafts some of the most beautiful custom bass and trout rods on the planet. Yet his real passion is for catfish, and quietly, Knox has built a mini empire of devoted customers who swear by his line of 'Driftmaster ' customs. Designed with input from Phil King and John Jamison, these rods consist of graphite or E-glass models, each made for varying levels of current and weight. Specifically, these rods shine for walking bait in rivers or drifting reservoirs for big blues. However, Knox can build a rod for about any purpose you desire. A recently fashioned Jamison Bait Walker Special is a 7-foot 2-inch, heavy power gem built with high modulus graphite. It hefts like a feather yet easily handles blues exceeding 60-pounds, detecting light bites from great distances. Contact the affable Mr. Knox for pricing.
Eagle Claw Cat Claw
— The classic fishing company's yellow rod remains as iconic as the Duke Boys' bright orange Dodge Charger. Certainly, Eagle Claw's American made Cat Claw series is equally tough, and thankfully, a good bit lighter than the General Lee, made with stout glass blanks, aluminum oxide guides and EVA foam handles. An 8-foot casting model handles 12 to 30 pound test and matches medium duty channel and blue cat situations. The medium-heavy action 7-foot spinning rod is a fine all-purpose catfish rod. Both two-piece rods retail for $20.
Rippin Lips SuperCat
- Built on the foundation of superior S-Glass blanks, SuperCat rods offer the perfect balance between toughness and sensitivity. S-Glass, a lighter more advanced fiberglass material than it's older counterpart, offers twice the modulus of E-Glass, and provides awesome blank strength, smoothness and sensitivity. Pro catter and designer John Jamison also extols the virtues of the SuperCat's custom EVA split grip handle for leverage and balance when casting and battling big catfish. All six rods in the series sport extra tough, chrome-plated stainless steel guides (spinning models have hard ceramic guide inserts for lighter line applications.) Rod tips also feature high glow finishes for nighttime visibility. Three casting and spinning models cover applications from eater-size channels in ponds all the way to goliath blues and fast river current. Retail prices are an affordable, $30 to $40 each.
Shakespeare Ugly Stik Catfish
— What can you say about an Ugly Stik? Archetypal fishing rod. Classic catfish wand. Tough as nails. Reliable as an old pair of boots. If the original was great, imagine what a cat-specific 'Stik' must fish like. The Ugly Stik Catfish series features five specific models, each with lengths, powers and actions appropriate for whiskery beasts. Clear Tip design and blank-through-handle construction adds sensitivity and strength, while EVA handles add comfort and leverage over big cats. Spinning and casting models are each available in 7- and 8-foot lengths. Retail price for each is $40.
St. Croix Premier Glass
— Made with a blend of St. Croix's proprietary SCII graphite and SCI S-glass fibers, the Premier Glass PGM80HM may be the perfect premium flathead rod. At 8-feet in length, this elite glass composite matches up with 40 to 80 pound test line and easily handles 1 to 8 ounce weights. Lighter than traditional E-glass, S-glass fibers offer enhanced sensitivity, yet with a measure of 'give ' in the blank, ideal for lobbing big baits and working with self-setting circle hooks. Other excellent accoutrements include Kigan Master Hand 3D guides, Fuji reel seats and high-grade cork handles, plus a standard 5-year warranty. Retail price is $200.
Tangling with Catfish Extreme
— Increasingly popular Tangling with Catfish rods are made with topnotch components, including the Extreme Spinning rod — a 7-foot 6-inch E-glass model tailor-made for landing limits or lunkers. A special rubberized butt provides a positive fighting grip, while a Class-A cork handle and foregrip give the rod a measure of style and added sensitivity. Extras include a stainless steel hook keeper and stainless steel, double footed guides that are reinforced with silver solder and two coats of epoxy. This sweet spinning rod is a steal at $70.
Team Catfish iCat
— High-end catfish rods were once an oxymoron. But times are changing. The rise in big cat methods, which parallel national tournament circuits, have created a demand for lightweight, sensitive catfish poles. Team Catfish's iCat rods utilize custom carbon blanks, stainless steel guides and an exposed-blank reel seat. The 7-foot 6-inch iCat is built to handle ½ to 8-ounce sinkers and 12 to 65 pound test. Jeff Williams of Team Catfish says the rod was designed for drifting and walking bait in rivers. Retail price is $150.
Team Catfish Thundercat
— Fine all around medium to heavy-duty catfish rods, Thundercats feature extended EVA 'power foam ' handles over high-visibility white E-glass blanks. Stainless steel reinforced guides are spaced optimally to maximize blank leverage and lifting power. Reel seat is graphite and bolstered with a stainless steel band. The rods' long straight handle is made to slide easily out of any rod holder. Each of three these casting rods (7' 6 ' medium, 7' 6 ' medium-heavy and 8' heavy power) sport soft tips for bite detection and shock absorption. Retail prices are $70, $80 and $90, respectively.