Catfish Profiles in Passion – Jeff Williams
by Ron Presley
The Team Catfish Guy
For Jeff Williams fishing is simply part of an outdoors obsession. In fact, just about anything that gets him outdoors and in touch with Mother Nature makes him happy.
“I’m not sure why,” expressed Williams. “I think I was just born with the desire to go fishing. I love being outside. Hunting, fishing, camping, and boating/rafting are all avenues that I love and they connect me with the outdoors.”
Williams loves all kinds of fishing, but catfishing is at the top of his list. The species of catfish doesn’t necessarily matter to him. In fact, the variety of having three species to fish for is a bonus.
“I like all kinds of catfishing,” offered Williams. “From channel cats with dip bait to targeting monster cats in huge lakes and reservoirs. It’s all good for me. I like to eat smaller catfish but like to target and release big cats. I’m not really sure why I like catfishing so much. I grew up catfishing and continued doing it. I think that learning how to target all three species, plus having small cats and big cats to fish for, keeps it very interesting. Catfishing also offers anglers something to target year around.”
In years gone by Williams was well known for his ability to catch big blues in large lakes. He was targeting them 20 years ago when there were not that many anglers that knew how to catch reservoir blue catfish on rod and reel.
“Blue Catfish are historically a river species,” explained Williams. “They have been transplanted into reservoirs all over the country. A lot if these state stockings came in the early 90’s. In Oklahoma, blue catfish are native to the Arkansas River, but were not impounded in the Grand River arm because it was too far North.”
“We did not see blue catfish really emerging here until the late 80’s and early 90’s,” continued Williams. “The population exploded in the 90’s but no one really knew how to target them with rod and reel methods. I figured out how to target them on deep channel ledges in the winter months and discovered that some of the active blues moved extremely shallow in the late winter and early spring to feed on winter-kill shad that wash up in the shallow flats.”
Williams acquired knowledge allowed him to run a year-round guide service, almost exclusively, for blue catfish. He averaged 220 trips per year.
“I figured out that blue catfish, just like any other species, was targetable and used the same feeding patterns from season to season,” offered Williams who was also on the Lowrance prostaff during those years. “I figured out how to use the GPS mapping technology along with a new high-end sonar to pattern fish in reservoirs. Once the patterns were in place it was just a matter of looking for fish then stopping and trying to catch them.”
Williams started fishing on Grand Lake and the Neosho River, both in NE Oklahoma. He lives on Grand Lake so he spends most of his fishing time there. Nevertheless, he likes to travel and fish too.
“I spend most of my time on Grand Lake,” revealed Williams. “But I like to travel and fish. The Mississippi River, Lake Texoma and Wheeler Lake are three of my favorite destinations.”
Regardless of where he fishes he has a deep respect for the environment and a working understanding of conservation.
“I like to keep things in the environment as I found them or a little better,” said Williams. “I’m a firm believer in selective harvest. I believe fish are a resource and should be managed like one. I spent time working with the Oklahoma Wildlife Dept on their catfish study a few years ago and learned a lot about age and growth data. Essentially here in Oklahoma we need anglers harvesting a lot of fish under 30 inches to make room for slower growing mature fish. Too many little ones and everything suffers.”
Williams was a tournament angler at one time, but currently he has plenty to do without that drain on his time and energy. That was especially true once he decided to venture into the supply side of the fishing industry.
“I don’t enjoy the stress of competition when I just want to go fishing,” offered Williams. “And, the tackle business is very time consuming. Once you start in the tackle business, and it becomes your livelihood, the desire to stay hooked up is very real. Turning your passion into a full-time job sounds wonderful, but people need to realize it’s all still a business that needs to be profitable. For me, feeding my family is the only motivation I needed.”
Williams got into the tackle business because he thought catfish anglers needed a better quality, more well-rounded assortment of catfishing tackle. In 2006 Team Catfish was founded on that theory. Williams was a pioneer in providing catfish anglers with catfish tackle. If you look around the market today you will see that other companies are beginning to see the need that he recognized years ago.
“I wanted something that spoke for the angler, “said Williams. “I wanted it to say, ‘We are proud to be catfish anglers and we deserve the best equipment we can get.’ Up until Team Catfish came along anglers were buying rods and reels from typical rod and reel manufacturers, or anglers were buying other products and trying to make them work for catfishing. Catfish anglers needed a brand of high quality, serious tackle, just for them. Something that looked nice. A brand that was appealing with trademark names that anglers could trust. I started building a brand that has a lot of these essential items in a catfish only assortment.”
Williams looks to the future with a goal of continuing to build great products that help anglers catch more catfish.
“I like to listen to my customers suggestions and create items that fill a hole in the marketplace,” said Williams. “I think that catfishing is growing and I’m glad I have a brand growing with it.”
He contributes to the growth of the industry by creating how-to videos and posting them on the Team Catfish YouTube channel.
“I really enjoy doing the how to videos on our YouTube Channel. We have great customers that appreciate the help, tips and tricks that make landing a whiskerfish easier.”
Williams has been fishing his whole life. That’s about 48 years now. And, he is not worried about longevity because he enjoys fishing in ways that will allow him to fish for a long time to come.
“I will fish until I can’t fish anymore, “speculated Williams. “I really enjoy dock fishing and bank fishing just about as much as being on the boat. My enjoyment of these simple techniques will allow me to fish for many, many years to come.”
“I would like to be remembered as a great father and husband first and foremost,” offered Williams. “I love spending time outdoors with my wife and boys. I guess however history judges me professionally will be up to the folks that are interested in what I’ve created.”
“My main goal in life was to get everything I could out of the time I have here,” philosophized Williams. “Time is probably the most precious thing anyone of us have.”
Jeff’s Favorite Fishing Holes
Jeff Williams has a long history of catching plenty of big blues in his home state of Oklahoma. He pioneered catching big blues in reservoirs and ran a successful guide service in his younger years, long before the national catfish craze hit. He contributed to the rise in popularity that catfishing enjoys today by doing his share of TV and newspaper articles in the early 90’s and with his how-to videos today.
William’s passion for catfish remains. He still enjoys experiencing other area’s fishing opportunities. In addition to his home waters on Grand Lake he names the Mississippi River, Lake Texoma and Wheeler Lake as some his favorite destinations.
“Grand Lake is a fish factory,” said Williams. “There are not a lot of giant cats but there are a lot of numbers that keep things interesting. It holds a large population of blues and flatheads.”
“The Mississippi River has monster cats on every corner and there is always current. I like the challenge of targeting cats in current since we mostly only have still or very slow water to fish here in Oklahoma.”
“Lake Texoma, and that part of the state, has a biomass and mineral composition that historically produces large fish of all species including some monster catfish! Texoma is far enough south that it rarely experiences a large shad kill. That means that the forage is there to keep the blue catfish munching down all winter.”
“Finally, Wheeler Lake has a thriving monster catfish population that seems to be fairly easy to target. You can fish a river in the upper lake and/or still water in the lower lake. It offers a great variety of ways to target huge blues.”