The Catfish King Of Woodbine

This late angler’s simple but effective techniques are perfect for taking advantage of great fishing on the lower Satilla River.

Craig James | December 10, 2016

Michael Jordan, who passed away about a year ago, with a pair of Woodbine catfish from about 12 years ago.

Every now and then, a legend is born. On a cool day in November of 1958 when Michael Dale Jordan entered the world, that’s what happened. If Mike was around to hear that statement, he would humbly try to disagree. Unfortunately, but thankfully, in the fall of 2015, he went to be with our Lord.

During his life, Mike became a master of catfishing. His techniques were simple but effective. He didn’t rely on cutting edge equipment, he took pride in being thrifty. He amassed catches that on paper are almost unbelievable. I’m certain after reading this you, too, will agree he rewrote the game.

Before we go any further, let me give you a little background on Mike. He loved three things in this order—faith, family and fish. He was molded this way by his father Joe Jordan, who had a great love of being on the water, also. Fishing was almost always a family event for Mike as he could frequently be found fishing with his brothers Danny and Tim, and daughter Brandy, along with many other family members.

I was only lucky enough to fish with Mike on a few occasions, and the lessons learned were unforgettable.

Like I said earlier, his methods were simple. Instead of spending his time searching for the best new equipment at the Bass Pro Shops, Mike stayed on the water. Every chance he could he devoted his time to being on the water. He paid attention to every detail in God’s creation around him—things like the tide, wind, weather and current. All the things some of us young bucks tend to overlook at times.

Now for the info to get you catching fish the way the king did. Woodbine is home to some of the greatest catfishing in the state of Georgia. There are white, blue, channel and flatheads all waiting to be caught

The launch is easy to find. From Brunswick, take Highway 17 south for about 20 minutes until you cross the river bridge in Woodbine. As soon as you cross, hit the brakes, and turn left. As you enter the parking lot, there are newly remodeled restrooms on your right. There are nice picnic tables and plenty of dock fishing access for the bank-bound angler.

When planning a trip to this awesome destination, one thing to keep in mind is tide. Though it’s a good distance to the ocean, the tide still swings several feet between high and low. The fishing can be really good during all tide stages, but trying to get a boat out at low tide… not a great idea.

I can remember a few stories Mike told me about trucks that had gone a little too far back in an attempt to load their boat only to have their trailer drop off the ramp—not a good day at all. All that being said, pay attention to the tide chart, and try to stay off the ramp within an hour and a half of dead low.

As you climb in your boat and fire up the old outboard, the next question is which way to go. Either way offers great fishing, but Mike’s preference was mostly to go upriver with the thought in mind that if he had motor trouble he could drift back down.

Another thought is you don’t have to go far to load the boat. Most days Mike could be found within sight of or just a few miles of the ramp. His tried and true tactic was to anchor about 30 feet from the bank, so he and his fishing partner could fish both the slack water and the faster current to see where fish would be holding that day.

He generally would stay put for at least an hour to give the whisker fish time to find him. If there was little or no success, he would move the boat 100 yards or so and give them another try. The great thing about this tactic is it may take a little bit, but usually when you find these brackish water cats, the bite is on fire and cooler space begins to diminish.

I guess now the next topic would be bait. It seems that every serious catfisherman has their own preference, and Mike’s was shrimp. He would occasionally buy shrimp if forced to, but his preference was to catch his own. He would usually dedicate a few early fall days to throwing a cast net in the small creeks around Brunswick. All shrimp were immediately frozen fresh upon arriving home, and most years Mike could catch enough shrimp in a few days to last him an entire year. If you decide to try to catch your own bait, remember to check all regulations before going, as rules are subject to change year to year. Whatever your choice in obtaining them, as far as the best bait for Woodbine catfish goes, the answer is shrimp.

Anytime of the year is a good time to catch Satilla River catfish in the Woodbine area. Here is Brandy James, wife of the author and the daughter of Michael Jordan.

Now that brings us to tackle. Mike believed in using heavy-action rods spooled with 25-lb. test line.

To save money on sinkers that are frequently lost to bottom snags, he had a pretty good method. While shrimping at low tide, he would always keep an eye out for cast nets tangled on oyster beds that had been left by other anglers. Seeing money, he would take out his knife, cut the net off the bed, and bring it home so he could remove the weights at a later time. The only downside is these weights tend to have an extra-large middle. Mike’s remedy was to use an extra-large barrel swivel. With an 18-inch leader of the same line and a solid 1/0 hook, this simple Carolina rig is really all you need to catch catfish.

A cast is often rewarded with a thump followed by your rod growing heavy. Just like Mike used to say… wait… wait… now! It seems being a little patient helps to get the hook a little farther in the fish’s mouth. Much like us, a catfish usually won’t spit out a good wild Georgia shrimp!

When reeling in fish of good size, try to play the fish away from the boat. This helps to avoid a monster cat showing out and breaking your line at the boat. Speaking of getting these fish in the boat, it’s a good idea to keep a large landing net handy.

As far as time of year is concerned for planning a successful trip to Woodbine, I have some great news. Any time! Naturally summer is a great time anywhere for catfishing, but Michael had great success 12 months out of the year in wind, rain, hot and freezing temperatures. It seems like sometimes most of the catfish will be whites and blues, but other times channels will quickly fill your cooler. The good thing is filleted and fried, your stomach won’t care either way!

Most fish caught on this stretch of the river will be between 1 and 5 pounds. Mike’s personal best was a 20-lb. blue. Catches of 100 or more fish can be accomplished frequently, and most bad days you can still catch 15 to 20. I once asked Mike what was the best he ever done at Woodbine, and he said roughly 300 in a weekend. He said it took a couple days to clean them all. That’s another thing, there are no limits on catfish at this time. But remember to always check regulations to make sure no laws have changed.

That’s it, like I said before, nothing complicated. Michael Jordan took a simple method on a river in south Georgia, perfected it, and ran a catfish monopoly for years. Now it’s the turn for others to get in the boat and just catch fish. The way our fathers and grandpas did. No fancy stuff, just a bent rod and a cooler full of cats!

There is no way I could finish this article without saying what Mike loved most. That was God, and he often said there was nothing like being out in God’s creation and enjoying everything God has put here for us. I hope if there’s fishing in heaven, the good Lord makes Mike leave some for the rest of us! In the meantime, get down to Woodbine, and when you throw your first one in the cooler, think of the Catfish King of Woodbine.

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