Why We Catfish: A Guest Editorial by Scott Cress
Editor’s Note: Scott Cress is known among his friends for his absolute passion for taking care of catfish. With an eye on the future he gives willingly of his time and treasure to support catfish conservation efforts. Scott joined Chris Debow as the two catfish anglers that served on the 2018 workgroup to propose regulations aimed at protecting Kentucky’s trophy catfish.
Good memories have nothing to do with the size of the fish.
When I was asked to write a guest editorial in the “Why We Catfish” section of CatfishNow I jumped at the opportunity. It’s probably my favorite section in the magazine! But then I began thinking about it—man that’s a loaded question! It might be easier to write an article about why we don’t.
I questioned whether I could really put into words all the reasons and meaning that fishing has on my life. It didn’t take long to realize this was no simple task. I doubt if I’m any different from those of you reading this article; we fish to remember, we fish to forget. Sometimes it’s to spend quality time with friends and family and others it’s time for self-reflection on a solo trip. We fish to celebrate and we fish to mourn. We fish to compete and we fish to relax. The reasons why we catfish are endless and so too are the blessings it’s had on my life.
Some of my fondest memories are from times when I was fishing and yet very few have anything to do with the size or quantity of fish that were actually caught.
I got my start in fishing much like many other people—from my father. There are pictures of me holding poles with bluegill on the end of them before I could barely walk. I can’t remember a time in my life where I didn’t love fishing. My parents divorced when I was at a young age so much of the time I spent with my dad when I was young was spent fishing. I’m sure there’s a psychologist somewhere that would connect those dots as to why I love fishing but that’s above my pay grade. And since this is a catfishing magazine, I’ll fast forward to how that all started for me.
Catfishing was really born out of necessity. My first real love was chasing striped bass. My dad caught “striper fever” as it was known back then in the 80’s. The fishery was coming on strong in Lake Cumberland and many guys were dedicating their pursuit to that species. As most of you guys know, striped bass are like freight trains. They can wreak havoc on your gears and humble you really quick. I can remember lying in bed many sleepless nights as a kid filled with excitement knowing we were about to embark on a weekend fishing trip. The only problem—Lake Cumberland was almost a 4-hour drive time so the opportunities were limited.
When I graduated college, I saved up my first few paychecks and bought a used 16-foot aluminum boat with a 60 horse Johnson. I didn’t even have a truck to pull it at the time but knew I’d find a way. That little Lowe was a fishing machine and produced some of the greatest memories of my life.
I’m three boats removed from that first vessel but I could never bring myself to sell it until recently. There had to be a “worthy” buyer and I finally found that in my main tournament partner, Carl. Let’s just say he got a great deal but I know it will be taken care of and used to create more memories.
When I first bought that boat in my early 20’s all I wanted to do was fish. The problem was living in Northern Kentucky where my favorite striper hole was a 4-hour drive. I found a hole only 20 minutes away in the Ohio River. The rest, as they say, is history.
It didn’t take long until I was spending every free hour I could trying to figure out how to catch the biggest catfish in the river. Back in those days, I didn’t know much so it was lob an anchor—lob some bait—and hope for the best.
People that aren’t tied to this sport seem to think that catfish are easy to catch. They think that any random person can go out and put any stinky concoction on their hook and load the boat. It didn’t take long for me to realize that isn’t true and I needed to up my game.
I have a strong desire to succeed at anything I’m doing in life and fishing is no exception. The internet was pretty new and I started using that as a tool to absorb anything I could about the species. It also introduced me to like-minded people. One of those people I met early on was Jeremy Leach.
Jeremy told me about a tournament his club was having out of Tanner’s Creek and I decided to enter. I fished that first event by myself and ended up coming in 2nd with 70 something pounds crammed in a 20-gallon livewell. During the tournament, I caught my personal best at the time which was a flathead around 35 pounds. From then on out I couldn’t wait until the next event. Twenty years later I still feel the same way.
Today I’m in my 40’s, married to my high school sweetheart, raising two young daughters, and charging full steam ahead in my career as a CPA. As most of you can relate this can take up most of your free time so I’m only able to fish a handful of events a year which is why you don’t find me much on the local tournament trail anymore.
Today, the reasons I catfish aren’t much different than when I started 20 years ago. And while I know a little more now than when I first started the only golden rule that never changes is you never stop learning. That possibility is part of the appeal for me. I’m still always trying to catch the biggest fish that swims and I’ve learned to accept the “hero or zero” outcome that normally results.
The biggest difference today is that I get more of a kick watching someone new to the sport or young kids reel them in. And that is why I’m passionate about being a steward of conservation. It’s on us to make sure that 20 years from now the next man up has the chance to tell a similar story.