CANADA, Kan. (MCT) - Warren Kreutziger could use a few air fresheners in his fishing boat.
Put simply: His boat stinks.
Every time he goes fishing, he takes several five-gallon buckets full of foul-smelling catfish chum - fermented soybeans that have turned many a stomach.
But that rotten concoction smells sweet to channel catfish. And to Kreutziger, that's all that matters.
"You mix soybeans and water and leave it out in the heat for three or four days, and it will really turn sour," said Kreutziger, who runs a bait and tackle shop and guide service at Marion Reservoir in central Kansas. "That odor will really get strong."
"But that's what these channel cats want. You dump some of that in the water, and a lot of times that's all it will take to draw those cats in."
Kreutziger provided a demonstration on a recent weekday.
With his boat tied to the limbs of flooded trees, he ladled several scoops of the fermented soybeans into the water near where a fishing line descended into the depths.
No sooner had the cloud of soybeans started to drift down than Kreutziger watched his fishing rod slowly bend. He set the hook and felt the strong tug of a good-sized channel cat.
A few seconds later, that whiskered fish was flopping at the bottom of the boat, one of many catfish that recently has fallen victim to its strong sense of smell.
"It's been really good here lately," said Kreutziger. "The other day, I had a family of five out and we came in with 50 fish, all the way from little ones to 10 pounds."
"Marion has always been known for its catfish. And in the heat of summer, when the fishing for some other species slows down, that's when these catfish will really bite."
Dog days? No, these are cat days at Kansas reservoirs such as Marion, a 6,210-acre body of water that opened in 1968.
Once the weather heats up and the channel catfish get active, Kreutziger knows it's time to go fishing. He generally starts his guide trips about July 1 and will stay busy through the hottest part of summer.
"A lot of times we'll go out about 7 in the morning, and we'll be back by noon at the latest," he said.
Kreutziger has several holes that he baits heavily with the fermented soybeans that usually are reliable spots to catch catfish.
But the soybean mix isn't the only thing in his boat that puts off an odor. The stinkbait that he uses, Sonny's Super Sticky Dip Bait, also could gag a maggot.
Kreutziger uses a painter's wooden stirring stick to cake the mixture on a plastic bait with treble hooks until it looks like a big mud ball. Then customers drop the offering to the bottom and hold it there until a hungry catfish swims by.
As for the practice of chumming for catfish, he certainly isn't alone. Fishermen at Perry Lake popularized the idea in Kansas, dumping gallons of fermented soybeans into one section of the lake to attract catfish. That area became known as the Hog Trough and has become a famous catfishing spot.
Since then, the concept has spread to other Kansas reservoirs, such as Clinton and Pomona, and has resulted in plenty of good fishing.
Kreutziger has caught channel catfish up to 18 pounds in baited holes at Marion. But fish in the 3- to 5-pound range are far more common.
"I'll start off by trying to find an area that they use naturally - like a dropoff or a place with some timber. The chum just activates them to feed."
For Kreutziger, fishing for channel cats has always been part of his summer lifestyle. He remembers the days before Marion Reservoir was built, when he would fish the Cottonwood River for catfish.
"We would either ride our bikes or get a ride from my dad down to the river," he said. "We'd either set limb lines or fish with rod and reel, and we'd always catch catfish."
"There's always been a lot of interest in catfish around here," Kreutziger said. "That's one of the reasons I decided to start my guide business."
"By chumming like this, I can usually get people into fish."
"I've had families out here, and even the young ones will be catching fish."
© 2008, The Kansas City Star.
Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.