How I Discovered Trophy Catfishing

by Ron Presley

How my first trophy catfishing trip changed my life.

Muse choose his SeaArk boat for their reputation of being well-built and for the large tournament size livewell. He has it outfitted for trophy catfishing.

My introduction to trophy catfishing came from well-known tournament angler Larry Muse. Larry and I had a mutual friend in T.J. Stallings of the TTI Blakemore Company. I noticed that Larry had taken T.J. on board while prefishing a tournament near Memphis on the Mississippi River. When I saw the monster catfish they were catching I wanted to give it a try.

Anyone that knew T.J. would also know that if you ask him for something and it was in his power to deliver it, he would. Well, he could, and he did. After I told him that I would like to try trophy catfishing it was less than a month before I found myself on Wilson Lake, Alabama with Muse.

Muse gave me a location to meet him and he picked me up at the dock in his 2010 SeaArk ProCat. I discovered that he got his SeaArk after a fire destroyed his previous boat, truck, house, and belongings. He was literally wiped out.

“The first thing I replaced was my boat when the insurance paid off,” explained Muse. “I told my wife, if you don’t have a boat, what do you need with a house? I choose SeaArk because of their reputation of quality construction and because they support the catfish community. Their boats are well built and have a tournament size livewell—that’s a must for me.”

Fortunately, Muse has an understanding wife who supported his decision to buy the boat. As it turns out, she is as much a part of the catfish community as he is. Joyce travels the country with him as they support the sport of catfishing.

When Muse picked me up at the ramp, my first impression of the SeaArk was the comfort and roominess. Muse had nothing but praise for the boat and how it adapted to his catfishing style. I knew I was in for an enjoyable day on the water.

Mr. John Stephens, often a tournament partner with Muse, is shown here with the author at the first-ever Catfish Conference. He is a little camera shy so I treasure this photo with him. He is also a member of the SeaArk family.

It all started on our ride to the fishing hole when Muse revealed some insights into his character. He introduced me to his Granny French by way of recollections.

Muse’s love for his Granny French was obviously great. He briefly told me how she was his inspiration in life and in fishing. I think she helped make him a common-sense thinker as well as an excellent catfisherman.

“My Granny French taught me how to fish when I was a very small child,” revealed Muse. “In fact, she taught me a lot about life through fishing. Without her influence, I would not have the insights into fishing or the insights into life that I have.”

“…if you don’t have a boat, what do you need with a house?”

One recollection was when Granny French patted Muse on the back for catching a catfish. It was a lesson in encouragement from a loving grandmother that taught him many other things. Her lessons helped mold his life as well as his love catfishing.

“She was always right in her assumptions about where the fish were and how to catch them,” recalled Muse. “She just seemed to know things. At the end of her life, she was ready to go, so solid in her salvation. Her readiness to go had a huge influence on my Christian life. She’s waiting somewhere now for me, on a river, with a big box of chicken livers.”

I am sure there is more to learn about the influence of his Granny, but we arrived at the fishing spot and Muse began to prep the poles. He had his SeaArk equipped just the way he wanted it, including a set of Driftmaster Rod Holders placed all around the boat.

He pointed out the large livewell and its importance in tournament fishing. He had it outfitted with an oxygen system to help keep the trophy catfish alive. Fish care was obviously very important to him.

We were fishing deep water with timber all over the bottom. Dragging baits through the timber was likely to result in hang-ups and break-offs. Muse explained that we would be suspending baits up off the bottom and drawing the catfish out to our offerings of bloody skipjack heads and chunks.

Muse is shown here with Don Dalton when they won the Monsters on the Ohio tournament in 2015. Not shown is Mr. John Stephens the third partner.

Our terminal tackle was a basic Carolina rig. Muse slides a 2-ounce egg sinker up the mainline and adds a barrel swivel below it with a 2-foot leader. He finishes the rig with a 7/0 Daiichi Circle Hook. If he wants to target smaller fish too, he will add a second hook, a 5/0 Daiichi Circle Hook, about 4 inches under the 7/0. He always snells his hooks to add a trigger effect to the hook set.

Although the giant fish did not cooperate as Muse had planned, we had a great day on Wilson Lake. We caught several fish including a 20 pounder that was my personal best at the time. I was hooked. That experience with a professional catfisherman sealed the deal for me and I began to follow the catfishing community and write about them.

My content found in CatfishNow and other outlets is a result of that first encounter with a trophy catman, a quality boat, and the many friends that have been made since. I found a new vocation that I hope to use in support of the sport.

I will end by thanking all those anglers, spouses, and friends that have willingly shared their knowledge of catfishing to the betterment of the sport.


Fish with Passion

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