Discussion in 'LUKE CLAYTON' started by Luke Clayton, Jul 21, 2008.

  1. Luke Clayton

    Luke Clayton New Member

    "CATTIN’ THE RED" by Luke Clayton

    Luke Clayton

    As guide Norman O’Neal launched his airboat from the Red River shoreline a few hundred yards below the Eisenhower dam below Lake Texoma, I was in the driver's seat, foot on the accelerator that feeds fuel to the big engine, and hand on the rudder controls. Granted, my job as driver was short lived; as the boat eased off the trailer, I fired up the engine, pushed hard to the right on the rudder control stick and cranked up the horsepower that pushed the big boat back to shore and kept it there until our guide parked the truck and took over control of the big craft that, heavy as it is, floats like a feather on the emerald green waters of the Red River. My two ten year old twin grandsons were with us on this quest for Red River catfish and their little faces were beaming with excitement under ball caps covered by hearing protectors that are must when the big engine is running.

    “The catfish bite has been awesome the past few days, really since last years floods stocked the river below Texoma with enough stripers and catfish to keep anglers happy for a long, long time. We’ve been catching lots of blue catfish in the 20-60 pound range and even though I’d rather you come earlier in the morning, I think we can get our lines stretched. The water release will begin later this afternoon and that always turns the fish on, but I know some lay down trees that have been holding lots of blues.” tips O’Neal as we idle away from the bank, then hammered down in route to our first ‘hole’ of the day, about 4 miles downriver.

    A first airboat ride is an exciting endeavor for anyone, and especially so if you’re a ten year old! The airboat’s rudder is above water; propwash from the propeller actually causes the craft to alter it’s course, which results in a sidewise sliding motion during sharp turns, unlike boats with conventional engines, or automobiles, where steering is instant. As Norman steered the boat around small islands, brush and an occasional stretch of skinny water, the twins were thoroughly enjoying the ride.

    Our first stop was a long cast away from a big tree that obviously had been in the water for some time. Norman brought the boat aground on a tiny little island that was mere inches under the water. The boat was positioned perfectly for casting toward the submerged limbs of the giant old cottonwood that erosion several decades ago had deposited into the river. Through polarized glasses, Norman had seen several big blues hanging around the tree the previous afternoon. “During early morning, late in the afternoon and evening hours, catfish move out of the heavy cover to move in shallow water to feed but during mid day, they usually stick close to the shade and cover provided by the downed trees. “ says Norman as we toss the heads from gizzard shad close to the limbs.

    Catfish below the dam have an affinity for shad and, pieces of shad. When water is released at the spillway, a natural bait chum is created and dumped into the river. We had the baits rigged on #4 treble hooks with just enough weight to keep them near bottom. Reels were in free spool. Blue catfish, especially bigger blue, make long hard runs and it’s important not to set the hook too quickly. We were instructed to let the fish pull several feet of line before engaging the reel and rearing back and setting the hook. Within minutes, the clickers on the reels began singing and we boated several good eating blues. When the bite slowed, Norman decided it was time to hit another hole a couple miles farther downriver.

    Photo by Luke Clayton

    Our next spot to fish was perfect catfish water. A big tree was lying on bottom in water about 8 feet deep, on a submerged ledge that dropped quickly into the channel. Catfish could move from deep to shallow in a matter of feet and the submerged limbs and trunk of the tree provided plenty of shade from the mid day sun and, cover for baitfish. Norman had a big shad about a 10 inches long reserved and promptly severed the batfish's head with a diagonal cut that left plenty of the mid section with the head. “This bait should draw ‘Ole Moe’ out of the cover,” Norman says as he heaved the big bait up close to the submerged tree trunk. “We lose a lot of baits to hang ups doing this but we also catch a lot of big catfish. I pulled a 65 pounder from this tree not long ago and we regularly catch 20-50 pounders here.” The words were no more than out of his mouth when his rod bowed heavily toward the water and a big blue catfish made his move. For the next couple of minutes a tug of war of gargantuan magnitude was underway. The reel’s drag would scream in short bursts as the big fish darted for cover in the midst of all the cover. Norman took up slack when he could but little slack was given by the big fish. “Gotta get his head coming toward me or he will wrap around a limb and break off for sure!” he says between clinched teeth. Then, as quickly as the battle began, it was over. The line went limp and the rod recoiled back to it’s ‘at rest’ position, just a piece of graphite/fiberglass that seconds ago was straining to the max against the strength of a fish that intended to break it - or the line! With the water around this catfish hotspot disturbed by the battle with the big fish, we fired up the engine and moved to the first hole we fished. We promptly resumed the non stop action with the smaller blues. The twins enjoyed battling the smaller catfish and inquired what would they do should a fish like the one that took Norman’s bait hit one of their rods. “Just hold on and reel when you can”, instructed our guide.

    We left the river with a cooler full of catfish for an upcoming fish fry and I made a promise to return and experience the morning bite. The youngsters vowed they would get up at 3 am. if they could come back and catch ‘one of those big boys’ like Norman hooked!

    To contact Norman O’Neal, call 903-624-4900 (

    Listen to Outdoors With Luke Clayton at and check out the new fishing videos at
  2. Cattledogz

    Cattledogz Active Member

    Great article and picture Luke!

    It makes you feel like you are there with you on one hand and on the other it sure makes you WANT to be out there fishing on the Red!

    Thanks for sharing the articles each week. I really look forward to them.