Since he was five years old, Shane Chase has been hunting monsters on — or in — the Ohio River.
The Rising Sun, Indiana native started chasing big blue cats and flatheads with his dad. In the 16 years that he’s been doing it, Chase has hooked some big cats and launched his own brand, Catfish USA.
Catfish USA promotes the sport of catfish reeling on its social media pages and sells branded merchandise through their online store. In spite of his burgeoning empire, Chase still studies in college and chases catfish whenever he can.
Chase alternates between shore fishing and drifting the Ohio River with his dad. When drifting, the Chases drag the bait just off the river bottom, putting it within reach of any cats they may encounter and hopefully away from any structure they may snag on. Chase swears by the drifting and dragging technique for blue cats, which move around more than flatheads and tend to like deeper, cooler water.
Big cats often feed more aggressively at night. If Chase is hunting catfish after dark, he’ll build a campfire on the shore and hunker down for the evening.
When fishing from the bank, he looks for spots where tributary creeks empty into the big river. Such creeks carve out holes in the river bed where cats can lie and wait for the stream’s current to carry baitfish into the river.
Regardless of his fishing location, Chase sticks to the same general bait patterns. For blues, he relies on cut shad. Flatheads, on the other hand, like a little more life in their meal. So, Chase uses live bait, like a bluegill, on a long leader. He uses circle hooks, which set themselves when the fish turn and run, but they are also easy to remove when it’s time to release the cat back into the water.
Sometimes, rain causes water levels to rise in the creeks. The faster-moving water in tributaries becomes more oxygenated, and catfish — blues, in particular— move into the streams. Aggressive blue cats on the prowl in smaller bodies of water can make a good day for reelers like Chase.
Chase has hauled some good-sized catfish out of the Ohio River. The young reeler’s personal best flathead was a 28-pound slab he wrestled from the depths. His best blue cat tipped the scales at 26 pounds.
But catching that big one was not Chase’s most memorable blue cat experience.
Shore fishing on one occasion, something hit Chase’s line. He set the hook and started the battle, but whatever was on the other end broke him off.
Chase re-rigged his line and started over again. Forty-five minutes later, he got another hit. He fought and reeled in a scrappy 20-pounder — with his first hook in the corner of its mouth. He retrieved his hooks, snapped a pic, and sent the fish on its merry way.
Chase says that the most important thing when hunting big cats is patience.
“If you know the big cats are there, you have to be patient and keep hitting the spot. Change your depth or your bait, but don’t give up on the spot. You’ve got to keep trying: Being patient will pay off.”
Chase enjoys sharing fishing with others. He had friends who didn’t know anything about the sport, and started tagging along when Chase went fishing.
“And now their hooked,” he says. “They bought their own gear, and everything.”
As much as Chase loves catfishing, being able to share what he loves doing with others tops all the big fish he’s caught.