When the spring weather warms up and the days get longer, this will trigger the catfish to begin to move from there wintering holes to places that will allow them to feed heavily before the spawn.
In rivers the Dam tail waters will attract a large number of cats this time of year as it’s the nature of most all fish including bait fish to travel up stream to feed in the well oxygenated tail waters these dams provide.
As the catfish begin to move up stream they will follow the so called underwater highways such as channels ledges, deep-water chutes around river islands, long points jutting into deep water, shallow flats adjacent the deep water, lock-wall edges and tributary mouths. These are all great areas where you can cut the off at the pass so to say as they travel up stream.
In reservoirs and lakes the catfish will begin to move and feed in the warmest parts of the lake as the warmer water will draw the baitfish and in turn will draw the predator fish such as a catfish. Look to the sunny shallow banks with wood structure, mid lake flats or humps, feeder creeks and sunny coves. The spring rains will wash insects and other critters into the lake and the catfish will be there to waiting for an easy meal.
Be sure to use tackle and gear that is sufficient for the size catfish you will be targeting. The best all-round rod for channel cats in the Kentucky region is a 6-7-foot, one-piece rod with medium-heavy action with a soft tip for detecting bites. Either type of reel, bait caster or spin caster will work it will just depend on your preference and what your most comfortable using. Spool your reels with 20# to 30# test, FINS braided fishing line and use a 20 lb-pound-test mono leader.
Catfish are not line shy so you don’t have to have to worry whether you have spooled your reel with the proper size line. However for bite detection when targeting channel catfish you wouldn’t want to use a 80# test mainline, the larger diameter lines will catch the current and or the wind and cause you to miss the some bites. The lighter lines are best suited for these conditions when fishing for the smaller cats and heavier line when targeting big cats as the bites from the big boys are not subtle.
What rigs to use?
There are many rigs to choose from, but few more effective than a basic Carolina rig, which can be used in a variety of fishing situations in swift current or still water. However in the spring time, flipping the river or lake banks wood structure with a float rig can pay off.
Fish the Carolina rig on humps, flats, ledges and near structure targeting the roaming actively feeding fish and try the float rig in and around wood or manmade structure to catch the catfish that are tucked in and around the structure waiting on the ambush.
I use the Mustad brand circle hooks, when I’m fishing with the Carolina rig. This hook will allow the fish to hook themselves in the corner of the mouth by letting them run with the bait. Circle hooks are becoming more popular as anglers are starting to release there catches as the circle hook will very seldom will gut hook a catfish.
I use the Mustad brand J- hook for the float rigs because its best to set the hook and start retrieving the fish before he finds something to hang you up on in the structure. The sinker should be heavy enough to carry the bait straight to the bottom regardless of water conditions.
What bait to use?
If you’re targeting a trophy-size catfish the best baits to use are other fish because all adult catfish feed primarily on fish. Shad and herring are excellent because they disperse aromatic oils catfish find irresistible. If these aren’t available, consider using live sunfish, suckers or other legal baitfish.
If whole dead or live fish are used for bait, hook the fish through the back just behind the dorsal fin, leaving the barb of the hook exposed if your in current , hook it through the nose..
Cut-baits work equally well for channel cats and are made by simply slicing whole dead baitfish into smaller bite-sized chunks, or cutting fillets or strips off the sides. With cut-baits, also run the hook through once and leave the barb exposed. Fishing with large minnows under a slip float around wood structure is a great way to land some nice catfish.
When you’re targeting eating-size cats, of up to 5 pounds or so, your bait choices can be much broader. Crayfish and night crawlers are plentiful in early spring, so both are top enticements. Store baits work great as well, such as fresh chicken liver and shrimp. Commercial dough-baits, dip baits and chunk baits also are hard to beat when you’re after eaters.
Catfish is fun simply to get outdoors with friends and family, it requires nothing more than sitting and waiting for bite while You and your buddies can kick back and enjoy the day until a catfish finds your bait and strikes.
But If you want to be catching catfish instead of just catfishing, a more active approach may be more productive. Allow 15 to 30 minutes at each spot and if a bites are slow, reel in your bait and try another spot. If hungry cats are nearby, it shouldn’t take them long to find and take your bait.
It’s typical to find a good spot and catch several cats, then the action tapers off. Once again, it’s time to move and try a different location. Don’t sit in one place hour after hour if nothing’s happening. move around. Try this spot, then another. Your catch rate will soar.
Another often-productive active catfishing approach this season is drift-fishing. Use the same Carolina rig described earlier. Put your rod in a sturdy rod holder, then use a trolling motor to move slowly over and along bottom channels or other catfish-attracting structure. As you move, pull the baited rig on or just above the bottom. Mark spots where cats are caught and drift through again. Where one fish is found, often they will be schooled up, some time catching several at once, this is where a good pole holder comes in handy
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