Tom Whitlock

HOW BIG?: Tom Whitlock trades jabs with another angler about the size of the fish being caught. The Whitlock family is about catching lots of fish and not about landing the big ones.

If you want to land more catfish, you need to bait your treble hook with Mr. Whiskers bait.

That is a bold statement when it comes to fishing, but the proof is in the pudding. In this case, the evidence is in a container of goop that smells like something you forgot and left in the back of your fridge for six months.

“I’ve got another one,” Granbury’s Mike Whitlock said. “How many do you have?”

Whitlock, who represents the third generation of Mr. Whiskers, is tossing a little jab at his grandfather, Thom, who founded the company.

“He’s not very big,” Thom said with a bit of a jab of his own.

The elder Whitlock barely has little time to laugh at his joke before there is a tug on his line, and he lands a fish too.

HOOKED UP

THE WHITLOCK GUIDES: Wendall, Mike and Tom Whitlock represent three generations of fishing guides and makers of Mr. Whiskers Catfish Punch Bait.

While size may matter when it comes to the day’s bragging rights, the Whitlock family will tell you right up front, “we are about catching catfish to put in the cooler and into the fryer – it’s not about the size of the fish.”

It was Thom, 82, who, after “retiring” from a career selling building supplies and appliances, came up with the Mr. Whiskers Cheese Catfish Punch Bait for himself and friends to catch more catfish in 1984. Things started slowly at first, but when people began noticing Tom and his buddies were always on the fish, they began to take notice.

“I gave some away to family and friends,” Thom said. “The word of mouth began to get around about it, and we started thinking we should make and sell it.”

Catfish

STINKY: Mr. Whiskers is a bait best opened when you are upwind.

SECRET TO THE RECIPE

The word-of-mouth business has grown with Mr. Whiskers appearing on bait shop shelves throughout Texas, Oklahoma, and as far away as Nebraska. Area Walmart stores have also carried the bait, but a vendor who passed away and COVID has delayed its return.

The “secret recipe” has two admitted ingredients — cheese, and the plant Bulrush, more commonly known as “Cattails.”

In addition to the stinky ingredients, it is the fibers the bait contains that make it so popular among fishermen. Those fibers give the bait the ability to stay on a hook until a catfish comes along and slurps it up.

The plant is harvested before the first freeze (when the cattail is still hard). Over time a network of “growers” has been established to gather the plants. There’s even a little cattail for fishing trips bartering that takes place now and then.

Judging by the smell, mixing up Mr. Whiskers bait is a job best done upwind.

The idea of getting such a smell on yourself is unappealing, and the good news with Mr. Whiskers being a “punch bait,” is that you do not have to submerge your digits to bait your hook. Punch bait is designed to use a stick (or another object) to push the treble hook into bait. A slight twist of the wrist and the bait wraps itself onto the hook and its barbs.

Catfish are bottom feeders, and they are attracted to several kinds of bait, including chicken livers, shrimp, and even hotdogs — but those baits also come with the problem of keeping them on a hook.

HAVING A GOOD TIME

Early one Tuesday morning, all three generations of Mr. Whiskers were on Lake Granbury to demonstrate the potency of their bait.

While Thom may have taught Wendell and had a hand in teaching Mike how to fish, all three have their methods of presenting their bait.

Thom moves his bait along the bottom in a side-to-side manner. Wendell is more up and down with his approach, and Mike likes to let his bait lie still a little bit and then pop it around to settle again. The bait floats and is held down near the bottom with an egg or barrel weight.

All three methods proved efficient in getting fish aboard one of the three boats the men use as part of their guide service. They take clients on Lake Granbury, Squaw Creek and other area lakes. Squaw Creek is a favorite of the Mr. Whiskers clan. Together the men produced an estimated 10,000 fish for their customers in a single year.

The one common thread to their success: Mr. Whiskers bait.

“That’s all we use,” Mike said. “People will bring their bait at times, and it’s not very long before they are switching back to Mr. Whiskers.”

The bait may be the key to catching more fish, but a little experience doesn’t hurt.

When Wendell left his trucking job, it was a case of Dad was getting to do more fishing than he was, and the catfish bait business was taking off.

“There’s a blue,” Wendell said. At the end of his line, the catfish was in 18 feet of water and impossible to see in the murky water.

“Different kinds of catfish approach a bait in different ways,” Wendall said as he perfectly balanced his pole on his forefinger. “You can see if they are tugging straight down or side to side.”

The trio of anglers hauled in 20 fish in 45 minutes. It does not take much to conclude Mr. Whiskers is the key to their success.

At one point, all three men were hooked up before Thom “early released his fish,” complete with a theme song of chuckles from his offspring.

The mood is light, and that is how the Whitlock family runs its guide service. No matter how many fish you catch, you will have a good time.

FOR MORE INFORMATION

To learn more about Mr. Whiskers and the Whitlock guiding services go to mrwhiskerscatfishbait.com or mrwhiskerscatfishbait@charter.net.

Russell@hcnews.com | 817-573-7066 ext. 231