That's the rule, but there are plenty of exceptions to prove it is a good rule.
Before getting into the exceptions, we will discuss the rule.
The best all-around fishing tackle for both catfish and carp is a heavy action spinning or bait casting rod, with matching reel capable of holding at least 20-pound test line.
The reason is obvious. Heaving heavy sinker and bait plus handling channel catfish that commonly exceed ten pounds and carp that are not rare in the 30-pound range requires stout equipment.
On the end of the line, should be tied a standard bottom fishing rig available in all tackle shops. They can also be made with a couple of swivels and some heavy monofilament line.
On the bottom of the rig, place a sinker. A pyramid sinker works best on most bottoms, but in rocky areas a bell sinker will not hang up as much. The size of the sinkers will depend on the
flow of water where you are fishing. The idea is to use the smallest sinker possible, but hold bottom. In fast water, like during spring run-off, appropriate sinkers can weight three, four to six ounces at times. In ponds or slow moving rivers, a half ounce or one ounce sinker will do the job.
Snelled hooks are the easiest to handle because they slip right on to the bottom rig. A larger hook can be used for catfish because they have a larger mouth. A 1/0 bait holding hook is adequate for cats, while the same style hook in No. 6 will work on carp.
Some anglers prefer treble hooks for both species. In the case of catfish, they like the three tines because of the hooking capability. In the case of carp, they prefer treble hooks because the popular doughball baits will hold better with the three prongs.
With this rig, all one needs is bait.
Catfish will hit a wide variety of baits. All species of the whisker-chinned creatures will bite on worms, especially nightcrawlers because of the size. The only drawback on worms is that every creature that swims will eat them, also, including
small catfish, bluegills and even minnows. Cut fish will eliminate the problem of bait stealers. Herring, though not as plentiful as they once were, is a good choice, but any kind of
fish will do including bluegills and crappies.
Some anglers fishing for big catfish will put whole bluegill or crappie, about three to four inches long, on their hooks.
Chicken livers, or slabs of any kind of liver, is also a good bait for cats. Chicken entrails, for those who don't mind the mess, are excellent. Peeler crabs is also very good even in
freshwater areas where the catfish have never seen or smelled a crab. In addition, there are several commercially prepared catfish baits available in tackle shops that entice catfish with strong aromas and catch them.
Carp are much more selective in their diet habits. Being mostly plant eaters, the most popular bait is doughballs. There must be hundreds of recipes around, but a good one follows:
Super secret Carp Dough Ball recipe
l package strawberry flavored Jello
1 cup cornmeal
4 cups water
3 dozen cotton balls
3 dozen treble hooks
Put cornmeal, water and Jello into a pot and boil for ten minutes or until substance forms thick paste. Stir to keep from sticking.
Put cotton balls on treble hooks and dip into cornmeal paste. Make balls around cotton and hooks with eyes exposed and place on a greased flat tray.
Place tray of formed dough balls in pre-heated oven and bake for10 minutes at 350 degrees. Be careful not to burn dough balls.
Nightcrawlers are also a good bait for carp, because they are not complete vegetarians. Whole kernel corn, several impaled on a hook, will also work. Ripe mulberries will work very well when fished under a mulberry tree with branches overhanging the water.
Now for the exceptions to the rule that says catfish and carp are bottom feeders.
Channel catfish and Arkansas blue catfish are predatory at times, meaning they will chase and eat live fish. Therefore, they can be caught floating live minnows, small bluegills or crappie up off the bottom. They will also hit lures like Rapalas or jigs, but casting lures is not a recommended activity if you want a lot of action.
When carp are cruising on top of the water, they are a sucker for whole kernels of corn floating on the surface. Some anglers like the sport of fooling them at these times by baiting
a small hook with corn on the end of a fly line or ultra-light spinning tackle. Fighting a 15 to 20 pound carp on this kind of tackle is exciting sport that will really test your fishing ability.
One of the most important things to remember about carp is that they are extremely skittish fish. They will bolt at the sight of people or sounds of their voices or from boats. Even the
sound of a bait splashing in the water will cause them to swim off.
It is unlikely that you can move to within casting range without spooking them, but if you found an area where they have been feeding they will usually return if you remain quiet and still. Even your cast will spook them unless you are using ultra-light tackle and no more than a splitshot. If they spook, they will return after a wait that could be a half an hour or more.
Lots of folks look down their noses at carp and catfish and call them trash fish. Lots of other anglers can point to them as the only fish over 10 pounds that they have a chance to catch.