by Ron Presley
There is more catfishing in her future
Editor’s note: The RigRap Wheel on Catfish Weekly has been the source of many prizes for lucky catfish anglers. When Lyle Stokes spun the wheel on June 12, 2017 the needle landed on the CatfishNow logo and Callie Bowman became the first catfish angler to win “her story” in CatfishNow Magazine. We are pleased to share her story in this issue that is dedicated to lady catfish anglers.
The Pee Dee River and Blewitt Falls Lake served as ground zero for Callie Bowman’s introduction to catfishing. She became a catfishing enthusiast after sharing a fishing trip with her boyfriend, Jeremy Cottingham. It appears the 23-year-old North Carolinian has caught the catfish fever.
“When I was younger I used to fish for bream, but never anything big,” recalled Bowman. “I never fished for a catfish until I met my boyfriend, Jeremy. He and I have been fishing together for about three years now, going on four.”
In those few years, Bowman has become passionate about catfishing for the thrill that if provides. At the same time, she has developed a healthy philosophy toward catfish conservation.
Callie includes gars and turtles on the list of things she has caught while pursuing catfish. “I like to catfish because it’s fun,” declared Bowman. “You go out there fishing and you never know what you`re going to catch that day. My biggest catfish was a blue that weighed 51 pounds. We put him back and made sure he swam off. We wanted to give someone else the chance to catch their personal best.”
So far Callie has fished two tournaments in her fishing career. “We fished a Mastercatters Tournament three years ago and came in second place,” recalled Callie. “We missed Big Fish by half a pound. We fished a local tournament last month and didn’t place because our biggest fish ended up biting at daylight the next day and I didn’t get him in the net quick enough.”
Catfishing is the same for Callie as it is for most sportfishing anglers. The real fun is in the catching.
“I have never caught a fish during a tournament,” offered Callie. “So, I would rather fish just for the fun of fishing, but it doesn’t hurt to fish a tournament every now and again. I will like it better when I finally catch something instead of just sitting there cutting bait and reeling in poles.”
“Some people say you can tell if the fish is big by the way he will bend the rod,” continued Callie. “But to me, I’ve had the little ones hit the poles so hard they double over. You really don’t know what you got on until you start reeling, or when you set the hook and start reeling down on that fish and he starts pulling back and taking out line.”
“The fight of big catfish is something you don’t get with any other fish that I have fished for,” stated Callie. “The thrill of seeing that rod bend down, and fighting with that fish to bring it in the boat, is a real passion of mine and it always will be.”
“When you are fighting the fish, you have to tighten the drag and then loosen the drag so the fish doesn’t break your line. Then you have to tighten the drag back up and the whole time you are having to reel to keep the fish from going down and wrapping you around a log or something.”
“Fighting a log or a rock is no fun! Jeremy had a flathead once that wrapped him around a log and we had to pull anchors. We pulled it in, fish and all. The flathead ended up being about 30 pounds, without the log,” joked Callie.
Callie understands the importance of selective harvest. “We always put our big fish back,” said Callie. “Anything over 15 pounds we release so they can get bigger. There are always plenty of little 5- to 10-pound catfish swimming around that you can catch all day long to eat, but there isn’t enough 50- to 70-pound catfish here and I think that is because so many people keep the big ones. I wish they didn’t.”
Jeremy recalls that first fishing trip with pride. “She was excited to go,” said Jeremy. “I threw the poles out and told her that when the fish doubles the rod over to pick it up and reel down. We ended up catching a few decent blues in the lake. Now when we go she cuts up the bait and even helps me catch it for tournaments. She caught on quick.”
The Tar Heel state is known for good catfishing and good catfish anglers. With Callie Bowman, North Carolina has produced another dedicated and passionate angler that will do her part in conserving the precious catfish resource.
“Catfishing will definitely play a role in my future,” concluded Callie. “I will catfish up until the day the good lord decides it fit that I can’t no more. I like to catfish and I like the excitement of catfishing. If we could get some rules put in place for our lake and river, then I think future generations would have a better opportunity to experience the thrill of catfishing too.”