Catfish –to strike or not to strike 2.The answers.

To be able to correctly answer the question of when to strike you have to approach the situation from a scientific point of view and forget about what the winner of the previous competition told them or led them to believe.
To do this one needs to look at the anatomy and behaviour of the catfish and indeed any other fish that is targeted to be able to determine when to set the hook or lift the rod. Also understand that there is division between fishermen about this aspect as well , whether it is necessary to strike the rod or just to lift the rod as the hook will set itself. And both have merit as far as I’m concerned. 
The catfish in our waters most certainly is the top predator and dominate the scene from as small as 1 and a half centimetres. They first start eating their own brothers and sisters as soon as it has a 15 % size advantage over each other. This is why so many catfish farming attempts have failed. The product eats the profits. So they are extremely cannibalistic and born hungry.
But let’s look at the larger fish, the ones we target for competitions or when going for specimens.
Firstly catfish are river fish and therefore thrive in river systems and as far as I’m concerned grow larger due to the ease of getting hold of prey in rivers .The prey come to them . They don’t have to search for the prey. So the question arises, do dam catfish and river catfish differ in their approach to the prey or bait in our instance or do they take prey and bait the same way in rivers and in dams.
To get clarity on this we need to go underwater and observe a catfish taking natural prey and when they take bait and during various seasons. The next question that arises is whether a fish head for instance would be taken differently than a piece of chicken livers for instance. Maybe there are differences. And would live bait be taken differently from a small piece of fish that are taken by a catfish.
The other problem or obstacle to analysing this problem is that in my experience with them most scientists don’t really expose their findings especially to anglers as they know the damage anglers do to the habitat across the world. To add to this they will definitely not do a thesis on how a catfish takes a piece of bait or when to strike. That will be left to us. There are however many scientific documents completed on the predator prey relationship of catfish. And even if a scientist tries to tell me he can go to bed for as far as I’m concerned no scientist in south Africa has spend as much time as us observing catfish with a rod in their hands especially to try and hook them.!! They get Doctorates and things like that..we just take photos and memories we don’t brag with. Well some of us. Sad fact is most anglers kill their catch. As a matter of fact various scientists have used my input and observations as indicators. And I don’t want to sound arrogant but what got me fishing for catfish in the first place is the bullshit and myths around catfishing specifically. It is as far as I’m concerned natural to reduce the size of a catfish by halve when anglers talk about the sizes of catfish. (Outside the competition or organised angling where there’s witnesses).

Catfish are predators like hyenas and they only recently discovered that hyenas are just as effective hunters as lion and even better but are successful scavengers as well. A catfish is very similar to a hyena. They can individually lie and ambush prey fish that swim past or they can smell food very far away or the can feel the movement from very far away ..Therefore the not so good eyesight.

So what are the factors to consider in our problem of when to strike? Let’s take two factors to consider for now and continuo with the rest in a follow up article.
1-What does the habitat of the fish you are targeting look like if you target stationery fish , in a hole or behind well known structures for instance. Or does the fish roam the banks of a dam to get to the food? 
Fact remains it stays a predator. Take a river for the first example. There are various scenarios to consider such as, when the bait is dropped in a river the flow normally causes the bait to stop before or behind an obstacle –large or small. Let’s say the dead bait a mudfish head is used it can lay between two small rocks. The catfish gets anxious and pushes its head into the rocks but in the process moves around the bait with its body and bump the line continuously causing beeps on the alarm. Does the fisherman know what is happening or does it think that the cat is starting to bite? To take it a step further as soon as the cat moves the bait out between the rocks, the flow of the river washes it down causing faster alarm sounds similar to a take. What does the angler know? Zip! Exactly the same alarm sounds will be caused by a catfish actually swallowing the mudfish head while lying on the spot then moving slightly down or upstream. The one scenario the cat was ready to be striked and in the other scenario not. 
Now if the same situation played itself of in a dam much less needs to be considered. I leave it up to you to decide. 
2-Does the catfish know instinctively that the food it is about to eat is dead or alive and does it then behave differently in each instance. In other words if the prey or bait it is about to target move or not and does it know when it detects blood that the prey or food is already dead and therefore behave differently in each situation.
Catfish feeding on for instance a spot where local’s gut and clean fish every day will feed in a pack and will swallow food immediately. If there was only one catfish on that spot everyday it would feed passively. On the other hand there is just no way that a catfish will play around with live bait. It will swallow it in a split second. Waiting before you strike in this situation would be nothing less than foolish.
What have you observed regarding this point?
I will continue with the next factors in the follow up article!