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'The Misadventures of Catfish and Cut Bait:' A Visit to "Fishing Americana"

Updated on March 12, 2020
Gerry Glenn Jones profile image

Gerry Glenn Jones is a writer of fiction and nonfiction, as well as scripts for theatre and film. This is a factual article.

Catfish and Cut Bait At Work
Catfish and Cut Bait At Work | Source

An Introduction of two "Southern Catfishermen"

If you love the small towns, their highways, and byways, you must also love the lakes and rivers that adorn this great country. Along with the waterways, you certainly must appreciate the adventures of two southern fishermen and friends, Catfish and Cut Bait. These gentlemen (just being polite); these dudes are not the normal southern fishermen, but the die-hard "Southern Catfishermen."


The Infamous Catfish and Cut Bait

If you've ever fished the Tennessee River between Savannah, Tennessee and Interstate 40, there is no doubt that the names, "Catfish" and "Cut Bait" have echoed off the high rock walls along that stretch of the river, and many times it will be the voice of Tennessee Fish and Wildlife Ranger, Bob Gotchu. This voice will usually contain some pretty strong expletives (cuss words). The reason for some of the screaming, ranting and raving produced by the ranger is caused by the constant run-ins he has with these two in attempts to catch them fishing illegally. It seems that each time he thinks he has them "dead to rights" they are able to finagle out of it. This causes Ranger Bob to lose his mind for a few minutes, and let go with those, aforementioned expletives, oh heck, cuss words.

In addition to driving Bob crazy, they use elaborate disguises; even to the extent of dressing like two little (big) old ladies, and using different boats to throw the Wily ranger off their trail. You would think there beards would give them away.

Ranger Bob Gotchu
Ranger Bob Gotchu | Source

Where did "Catfish" and "Cut Bait" get Their Names

Now you ask, "Where did Catfish and Cut Bait get their nicknames?" Well, it's simple "Catfish" got his name because of his ability to out-fish any other catfisherman on the river, and Catfish gave "Cut Bait" his nickname because he is very adept at cutting up shad and other baitfish for Catfish to use to reel in the gigantic fish he catches.

Catfish and Cut Bait in disguise
Catfish and Cut Bait in disguise | Source

They Have Their Moments: Don't we All

Now, Catfish and Cut Bait not only love the river, but they love to have a little drink, they love the women and they love to out lie each other when telling their fishing stories. Sometimes, well generally - okay, all the time, this leads to a fight over the argument that erupts when one calls the other "A stinky bottom-feeding, lie telling, bed-wetting, redneck fishing amateur." The "amateur" part is what usually causes the fists to start flying, the hair pulling, biting and shin-kicking to get started but they always make up.

Well, now that you know who Catfish and Cut Bait are, we shall begin with one of their most famous exploits.

Catfish and Cut Bait fishing as darkness falls
Catfish and Cut Bait fishing as darkness falls | Source

The Misadventures of Catfish and Cut Bait Begins

It was early spring in the Tennessee River Valley, and the river was still quite cold, but that didn't stop the "dagnabit duo" from fishing. As a matter of fact, it was early morning and they were just coming out of the mouth of Indian Creek, where it runs into the Tennessee River when Tennessee Fish and Wildlife Ranger, Bob Gotchu motored up to their boat. He knew Catfish and Cut Bait and he knew that sometimes they didn't exactly play by the rules.

The Boys in Another Disguise
The Boys in Another Disguise | Source

Fishing Without a License

"How you boys this morning?" he asked, and almost in the same breath said, "Need to see yore license!" At this statement, both Catfish and Cut Bait remembered, when stocking up on all the necessary things like beer, Moon Pies, Curly Chips, and did I mention beer? Well anyway, they had forgotten a small detail; they had not renewed their fishing licenses.

Sunset on the Tennessee River
Sunset on the Tennessee River | Source

Catfish as Pets

As Ranger Gotchu grinned at them, Cut Bait said, "But Bob, we ain't fishing." "Oh really," said Bob, "Well why don't you open up that cooler and let me see what's in it?" Catfish reluctantly opened the cooler and the ranger immediately pointed at four nice channel cats flopping in there. "If you ain't fishing, what do you call that?" "Why them's our pets," spouted Catfish with a big grin. "We bring them out here every morning and let them go for a swim and to get breakfast, and after while, we whistle and they swim back up and jump back into the boat." "Yep, that's what they do," said Cut Bait.

Ranger Gotchu looked at the two fishermen; uh, I mean pet owners, and said, "Okay, I tell you what, if I dump these fish in the water and you whistle and they come back, you don't get a ticket for possessing catfish without a license. How does that sound?" He says, with a sneaky little smirk on his face. "Sounds good to us Ranger Bob," both men say in unison. At that agreement, Ranger Bob Gotchu dumps the catfish from the cooler into the crisp Tennessee River and they swim gracefully away. "Go ahead, whistle for 'um," He said. "Whistle for what?" Cut Bait asked in a perplexed southern drawl. "Why the evidence; your catfish," replies Bob! Catfish scratched his head and looked at Cut Bait, "What evidence is he talking bout? We ain't got no fish!"

© 2018 Gerry Glenn Jones


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