If you love the small towns, their highways and byways, you also must love the lakes and rivers that adorn this great country, and along with the waterways, you must appreciate the adventures of the Southern fisherman. Not just the normal Southern fisherman, but the die-hard “Southern Cat-Fisherman.” Once a week this writer will publish an article about the “Misadventures of Catfish and Cutbait.” These are two real characters, with a little southern levity thrown in. However, if you would ever like to meet these two celebrities of the Tennessee River, come on a camping trip with this writer. They have given me the equally impressive nickname “Spiderbite,” which will be explained in another article.
If you’ve ever fished the Tennessee River between Savannah, Tennessee and Interstate 40, there is no doubt that the names, “Catfish” and “Cutbait” have echoed off the high rock walls along that stretch of the river. Catfish was nicknamed “Catfish” by Cutbait because of his ability to out fish any other cat fisher on the river, and Catfish gave “Cutbait” his nickname because he is adept at cutting up shad and other bait fish for Catfish to use.
Now, Catfish and Cutbait 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 chin kicking to get started. Well, now that you know who Catfish and Cutbait are, we shall begin with one of their most famous exploits.
It was early spring in the Tennessee River Valley, and the river was still quite cold, but that didn’t stop the “dangnabit due” 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, when Tennessee Fish and Wildlife Ranger, Bob Gotchu motored up to their boat. He knew Catfish and Cutbait and he knew that sometimes they didn’t play exactly by the rules.
“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 Cutbait remembered, when stocking up on all the necessary things like beer, Moonpies, Curly Chips, and did I mention beer? Well anyway, they had forgotten two little details; they had not renewed their fishing licenses.
As Ranger Gotchu grinned at them, Cutbait said, “But Bob, we ain’t a fishing.” “Oh really, ” said Bob, “Well why don’t you open up that cooler and let me see what’s in it?” Catfish opened the cooler and the Ranger immediately saw four nice channel cats flopping in there. “If you ain’t fishing, what do you call that?” As he pointed at the fish. “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 awhile we whistle and they swim back up and jump back into the boat.” “Yep, that’s what they do,” Said Cutbait.
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?” Cutbait asked in a perplexed Southern drawl. “Why, the evidence; your catfish,” Replies Bob! Catfish scratched his head and looked at Cutbait, “What evidence is he talkin bout? We ain’t got no fish!”
There’s always next time for Ranger Bob Gotchu to get you boys! Be sure and watch the video. Even though this is not “Catfish” as a boy, this exact thing happened to him and he reacted the same way.
If you would like to see these articles on “The Misadventures of Catfish and Cutbait” once a week in the “Small Town Travel Articles,” please let me know.