Catfish hunters search far and wide for knowledge

Local author Jake Bussolini and Lake Norman Catfish guide Mac Byrum are co-authoring a book called "Catfish Hunters," to be published this winter.

While both are accomplished anglers, they felt value could be added to their writings if they included the expertise of other knowledgeable anglers and fishing guides. Collectively, they decided the best way to learn from the experts would be to fish with them.

So as pioneer television fishing host "Gadabout Gaddis from The Flying Fisherman" did in the 1960s, Jake and Mac flew from lake to lake researching their book.

Their quest took them to catfish holes in North and South Carolina, Virginia and as far west as the Red River of the North, which flows through the town of Grand Forks, N.D. This river is not to be confused with the Red River, a tributary of the Mississippi River that forms part of the border between Texas and Oklahoma.

Everyone will agree that flying 2,400 miles in a light aircraft is a long way to go to catch channel catfish. But both men attest the adventure, combined with the learning experience, was well worth effort. Jake's best Red River channel cat tipped the scales at 21.8 pounds, and Mac's biggest was not far behind, at 20.4 pounds. Jake's trophy was just shy of the North Carolina state record of 23.4 pounds.

During their two days on the river, they were professionally guided by Brad Durick. The two landed a total of 43 channel cats, the majority weighing between 10 and 14 pounds. What made the trip so unique, and has both anglers still talking, was the type of bait used.

It wasn't the sucker fish or the golden eyes, or a forage fish - but frogs. Yes, frogs; a leopard frog, to be exact, which is a small amphibian that's a favorite specimen for laboratory studies.

It seems this frog likes the fast-moving water of the Red River of the North and thrives on May flies and other insects. The fact leopard frogs do not produce a distasteful secretion, as some do, make them a tasty morsel for big channel cats and other river predators.

Jake and Mac also chronicled their fishing research from trips to Santee Cooper, Lake Murray, Monticello, Wylie and Wateree in South Carolina, the James River in Virginia and Lake Norman.

While some trips saw better fishing, like the 56 1/2-pound blue cat taken by Mac on the James River, none were as interesting as the North Dakota junket. Both writers are looking forward to sharing their experiences when "Catfish Hunters" comes off the press.

Upcoming Events

Free Fishing Seminar: "Frequently Asked Questions about Lake Norman Fishing" - Jake Bussolini and I will answer your fishing questions 6:30 p.m. Wednesday at Gander Mountain, Exit 36, in Mooresville.

This session will be of interest to those new to lake fishing and interested in catching bass, cats, crappie, perch and stripers. Bring questions to this informative seminar. Call 704-658-0822.

Boater safety: The Lake Norman Sail & Power Squadron will conduct Boater Safety Training 8 a.m. Saturday at the Duke Energy Environmental Center in Huntersville. The cost is $45. Registration required. Visit: or call Bob Yannacci at 704-660-5568.

Tips from Gus

To drift fish for catfish, drift in the current and drag the bait along the bottom. This method works well and a lot of water can be covered in a day.