Catfishermen are well-known for searching far and wide for that “magic catfish bait” to tempt catfish into biting a hook. The list includes all manor of natural baitfish, other aquatic substances and even a few concoctions straight from the kitchen.
Capt Mac Byrum, a retired fishing guide who hails from North Carolina’s Lake Norman, has catfished with just about every species of baitfish that will stay on a hook. Despite all his concern about finding baitfish, Byrum reserves most of his hook space for a special bait that didn’t come from the water. The old catter has an interesting tale about how he was introduced to the novel catfish bait.
“A friend of mine, Dieter Melhorn, is a professional TV cameraman and was doing some video work for ESPN down in Alabama. On this occasion, he was filming an interview with an 87 year old Hall of Fame fisherman,” explained Byrum. “This guy had won big tournaments for striper, crappie, bass; you name it, including catfish.
When the interview was over, Dieter asked him what his favorite fish was and the Hall-of-Famer said Arkansas blue catfish. He explained his choice was because you never knew what you were going to get when you put your line out.
Since Dieter is also a big cat fisherman, he asked the old gentleman what his favorite bait was. The old guy said “Well, I use a lot of the same natural baits that everybody uses but I’ve had good success with chicken breast, marinated in garlic powder.”
Surprised by the tale, Byrum tried the old angler’s secret bait, and was sold.
The recipe for garlic chicken was different from any he had ever seen. Cat fishermen are no strangers to unusual concoctions, but catfish recipes typically border on rancid, not make the angler hungry for lunch.
Byrum claims the cat fishing version of garlic chicken can be prepared ahead of time
“You can start with bone in or bone out but you’ve got to take the bone out to do this,” he said. “In the summertime, I use a cut that you could lay a 50 cent piece on, but in wintertime, I go down to the 25 cent piece.”
Mac reason’s that a catfish’s metabolism is much slower in the wintertime than in the summer so smaller baits are more productive. He suggests cutting the bait first, then sprinkle garlic powder on just one side. He claims using more garlic will bake the chicken, making it stringy reducing the blood content of the meat.
“I lightly sprinkle garlic powder on each 25 cent or 50 cent piece, depending on the season. Then put the pieces in a zip lock bag, seal the bag and squeeze the bait around in the bag, which moves the garlic around,” he said.
After preparing the chicken, Byrum will leave the bag out on the kitchen counter about an hour or two to let the seasoning work. If he’s going fishing the next day, the guide will put the bag in the refrigerator. The bait can also be stored in the freezer, to be thawed at a later date.
Byrum warns that with handling any raw chicken, be sure to wash your hands afterwards and before handling anything you intend to eat because of a risk of salmonella.
Phillip Gentry is the host of “Upstate Outdoors,” broadcast from noon to 2 p.m. Saturdays on 106.3 WORD FM, 101.5 in Anderson, or online at 1063WORD.radio.com.