Pond Hopping – Lake Barkley catfish

Pond Hopping – Lake Barkley catfish

Sep 30, 2012

Juggin’ with the Judge on Lake Barkley

By Mike Pehanich

Small Waters Fishing would be remiss to go an entire season without relating a catfish adventure.

Last season, Noel Vick of Traditions Media and I teamed up with Wade White on Lake Barkley near Eddyville, Kentucky. Wade is County Judge Executive for Lyon County, but get him out of the courthouse and he’s pure outdoorsman. Our afternoon of “juggin’ with the judge” was, without a doubt, the most entertaining and productive catfish outing I’ve ever engaged in!


Now catfish are ubiquitous. You’ll find them in most American waters, big and small. Personally, I don’t target them often, but tackle-busting cats have provided welcome surprise on numerous occasions while I was fishing for bass, crappie and even king salmon!

County Judge Executive Wade White transformed into a jug fishing guru when he held court on Lake Barkley catfish.

If you like to catch fish that pull hard and measure large, consider that many of the largest fish caught in the U.S. each season are blue and flathead catfish. Don’t count out channel cats for size and a spirited tug of war, either!

But, if jug fishing is your game, you can leave the rods and reels at home.

The Judge’s Juggin’ Basics

Jug fishing is a simple concept, but it takes preparation. Commercially made jugs are available today, but much of the juggin’ tradition builds upon the practices of making your own equipment and cutting and acquiring your own bait.

Judge White loaded the boat with 50 painted Slimfast containers, steel cans he had painted and rigged for jug fishing with cord, duct tape, bell sinkers and an assortment of stout hooks in several styles ranging in size from #1 through #2/0.

We baited up with deer heart that the judge had kept in the freezer with the prior season’s venison.

“Most fish with shad; some with leeches,” he said. “But I’ve found deer heart to be the best bait!”

We scattered the 50 jugs on the upper end of the creek arm, then scouted the water for sign of a bite.

Noel Vick of Traditions Media holds up one of our jug-caught catfish.

It came within minutes with one of Judge White’s red-painted cans twitching nervously and moving away from the rest of the jug flotilla.

The judge started the outboard, and we raced to the nervous jug. I grabbed the camera, and Noel grabbed the can, which, lo and behold, pulsed with the tug of a channel catfish.

That was the first of 28 catfish we rounded up like cowboys in a wild but all too brief afternoon. No, this wasn’t fly-fishing, figure-eighting for musky or pitching thick cover for largemouth, but it was entertaining and exhilarating outdoors exercise.

It was primal, too, bringing us into that intimate circle of life that we higher-order predators enter when we fashion our angling tools, corral our own bait, set our traps, and harvest our catch.

The tools of the jug-fishing trade are simple and homemade. These jugs were fashioned from steel Slimfast cans, cord, bell sinkers, hooks and duct tape.

We’ll revisit Judge Wade White and his juggin’ ways in Traveling Angler and other SWF posts. But, for now, enjoy our exclusive “Juggin’ with the Judge” video at the beginning of this post!

For more information on Lake Barkley fishing, check the Lake Barkley Tourism Commission’s website, www.lakebarkley.org or phone 270-388-5300.


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