The Power of Leeches
by Phil Stockwell
If you are looking for an exclusive catfish bait then look no further than the leech. For some reason that I am not sure of yet, catfish seem to be the only fish to eat them, making them a ‘catfish only’ bait, and they love them!
The closest relative to the leech is the earthworm which is also a very productive catfish bait but, as you may well know worms can only be used during the hours of darkness as every other fish in the water will devour them within minutes of casting out! This is where the leech comes into its own as it can be fished during the daylight hours without the attention of all the small fish pecking and nibbling away at it.
Leeches can be found in various types of lakes, farm
ponds and streams. Unfortunately they are not nearly as common place as they where many years ago when people would search all over the country looking for them to catch and sell for medical use. Leeches must not be removed from the wild as they are a protected species.
I buy my leeches from Biopharm as they are of a decent size and arrive in top condition ready for fishing. The leeches
arrive in a special ‘Hirudogel’™ which is a revolutionary material for keeping leeches healthy. Once unpacked I keep them hidden away in the fridge (away from the Mrs!) until I go fishing.
I have found the best way to transport leeches is to place them in a small portable fridge which plugs into the 12v power supply in the boot of my car, keeping them in top condition ready for use at the lake. The fridge them acts as
a cool box whilst fishing, keeping the Hirudogel nice and cold
Fishing with Leeches
For many just the expense of buying the leeches will be enough to put you off using them but the results more than out-way the cost.
The first batch of leeches I purchased from Biopharm lasted over six weeks and caught me quite a few cats including two over 30lb. The first time I used them I caught two cats on the same leech then, at the end of the session I returned it to the pot ready to use again on the next trip!
The main reason for losing the leeches was when a cat charged off with only the bait clamped in its jaws, so on applying the pressure the leech snapped in half!
As far as hooking the leech, I have found the best thing to do is mount it direct on the hook by passing the point of the
hook through the bigger of the two suckers and then it is best to push a piece of rubber band onto the hook to stop the leech coming off.
The reason for hooking the leech through the big sucker is because the small sucker is the head
and it swims in this direction creating lots of attraction for the catfish to focus on.
I have tried several rigs now, some work well and others are more trouble than they are worth! The best thing to do is keep it simple and minimise the chance of tangles as much as possible by using a stiff hook length material or some form of tubing.
The first rig I used was similar to the dumbell rig which looks very good, caught me a few cats but did prove to cause quite a few problems in practice, especially when putting the rig out with a bait boat.
I have also experienced problems getting the rig to pop up to the correct depth and have found myself having to reel in and re-boat on several occasions. This may have been due to the fact that I use a braided mainline and not mono. Having said that, I have modified the rig to suit my fishing requirements and now the rig works perfectly fine with leeches or worms.
The best all round rig I have used so far is the cork ball rig which is very simple, effective and has caught lots of cats with only a few missed or dropped runs. I use a 20lb amnesia hook length tied to a light size 4 owner circle hook one end and a 100lb swivel at the other end.
The cork ball is tied to a short length of 4lb mono and then tied to the eye of the hook. Simply thread a lead onto your mainline followed by two rubber beads then tie your hook length on via the swivel, attach your leech and you are ready to go!
Once you have cast out, take up the slack line until you can feel the lead and the leech will be popped up to the same length as your hook length. If you want to fish higher in the water simply pull some line off your spool allowing the cork ball to raise the rig up higher in the water.
The Poly Rig is pretty much the same rig apart from the cork ball being replaced with a poly ball which you attach a longer length of 4lb mono. The idea is that the poly ball appears on the surface suspending your leech below the water, the longer the length of mono, the deeper the leech is fished. This rig
is also very good for live baits fished below the surface.
I have pictured these rigs above to make them easier to understand.
Now go out and give Leeches a go, they do really work that well!