- "Get that sucker," "Don't let that sucker
get away from you," "Stick that sucker," "I
can't believe I missed that sucker," are just a
few of the phrases you'll hear when you go
sucker-gigging on the Current River in Missouri.
After doing some research, I also learned
that you can gig suckers in Alabama with Blount
County mentioned as the hotbed of the state's
sucker gigging. After my trip to Missouri, I may
head up to Blount County this fall for some
serious sucker gigging.
I'd never gigged suckers before I went to
Missouri, nor had I ever had a reason to want to
gig suckers. However, gigging suckers on the
Current River has a long and illustrious
Donald Black of Van Buren, Mo., explains
that, "No one can remember a time when people
haven't gigged suckers on the Current. In the
early days, giggers used lighted pine knots to
see the suckers on the bottom at night."
When sucker-gigging season begins in
September, the Current River resembles the Las
Vegas Strip because of the large number of
giggers in what's known as "sucker boats," with
their bright halogen lights.
"On opening weekend, the Current River
generally will have 1,500 or more sucker boats
on it," Black says.
The crystal-clear Current River is home to a
great population of smallmouth bass besides
suckers. Although you can gig suckers in the
daytime, you actually can see the fish better at
night. The well-camouflaged suckers stay on the
bottom, and you only can see them when they
You use a 10- to 15-foot-long gig with a gig
head on it for suckers. A quality sucker gig,
usually handmade and hand-forged by an area
blacksmith, will cost $60 to $100.
"A good gig is made of high-tempered,
hammered steel, and it won't bend or break when
you hit the rocky bottom of the Current River
with it," Black says. "The faster you run the
boat into the current, the less likely you are
to spook the suckers. Once you spot a sucker,
put your gig in the water, try and hold it about
6 inches above the sucker, lead like you'll lead
a quail, and then jab the gig as hard as you can
to stick the sucker."
Most giggers prize the hog suckers and the
yellow suckers. Although people often don't eat
suckers, you'll find the fish delicious - if
prepared properly. On Friday nights near Birch
Tree and Van Buren, Mo., a sucker fry on the
riverbank is a fun social event. That's when the
men in the area go gigging for suckers in their
After about 11/2 hours of gigging, the
fishermen bring the suckers back to the bank
where other anglers already have prepared a
kettle of boiling grease. Then the anglers
scale, fillet and score the suckers.
"The scoring of the fish is the critical
ingredient for eating a sucker," Black explains.
"Score the fish all the way down to the skin,
cutting the bones as well as the meat. Then you
fry the suckers after battering them with
cornmeal. The bones will dissolve, and you'll
have a tender piece of delicious-tasting fish."
If you've never gigged suckers before or
eaten a mess of suckers, don't turn your nose up
at the idea. These Missouri outdoorsmen have
discovered a great sport and a delicious-eating
fish that the rest of us have overlooked