Special to the Tribune-Star
TERRE HAUTE —
Here it is a hot overcast summer’s day on the banks of the Wabash River. With no rain in sight it is a lazy old river practically stalled on its way to the big waters on south.
The stories it holds that will never be told, like giant catfish that looms in its deep holes and eddies that most humans never find, or settlers that met their ‘doom’ exploring the new world from drowning or were attacked by Indians that didn’t want to give up their ancestral lands.
The swirls in the water tell me the Asian carp are enjoying a buffet of algae and moss while feeding on the surface.
The river draws a special kind of people who enjoy a simple laid-back type of living. To sit on the river bank can be romantic as well as productive while catching your next meal.
Sixty-year-old Phil Jackson from Westville, Ill., is a dedicated river fisherman and you can tell he is as much a part of the river as the water itself.
He uses a typical river pole big enough to fish for a great white.
Phil told me the contour of the river bottom is critical for big catfish. He fishes where there are deep channels in the floor, up to 10-feet deep. They like to come out to feed and then go back to their lair. He drags his sinker across the bottom and when it drops in a channel he leaves it.
A flathead’s eyes are located on the top of its head, so it never sees directly below itself. That is why you place your sinker at least 12 inches up the line with the hook on the end so when baited it can float around up from the river bottom. A catfish is like an opossum under water. It scours for anything they can eat.
A four-inch Indiana dark chub is Phil’s favorite bait, along with rock bass and bluegill. A flathead takes his time taking the bait by mouthing it, but a blue cat will take the bait on the run and steal all the line off of your reel.
While mouthing the bait, a flathead will calmly back up so when you set the hook it will be in the center of the top of the mouth.
Best bait is six to eight inches long, in “other words”, the bigger the bait the bigger the fish you catch!
What brought me to the river is people telling me about a man becoming a legend that caught a 55-pound flathead, Phil Jackson. What makes him so special isn’t from only catching such a fish but he also released it unharmed to assure his heritage to live on from family members in the future.
Phil’s six-year-old granddaughter Chloe logs a lot of hours on the river with Grandpa and hopefully with her young ones someday.
I felt a touch of melancholy setting there wishing I had brought my own fishing pole.
Phil quotes God and tells heartfelt stories while setting on the riverbank watching the line on his poles hoping to see it come taunt and the pole quiver with excitement telling him to grab and hold on!
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