How to catch Channel Catfish at Night: Flippin for cats

By Steve Douglas

This is a technique I developed as a result of my experiences during my bass fishing days in late 80’s and 90’s. When I was fishing Taylorsville lake in Spencer county Ky, I would often catch catfish as was flippin a jig or a worm near cover such as lay downs or other wood structure searching for bass, I would always catch a good sized catfish. So this got me thinking on how I could combine my bass fishing knowledge with my catfishing knowledge and come up with a way to target the more aggressive catfish that roam the banks.

As a kid growing up in Nelson co Ky. I always loved to set bank poles out for the catfish along the Beach Fork and Rolling Fork River banks and the key word here is ;( the bank). Catfish will roam the banks or shallows in search of there next meal. So I mixed a little bass knowledge with some old school cattin and targeted these catfish using the bass method of flippin, but changed up the presentation with a more suitable bait choice that the cats would prefer such as crawdads, night crawlers and cut bait.

The technique is simple, fast paced and a fun way to catch big active and aggressive channel cats at night time and the action can be deadly. While using a black light or fluorescent light to illuminate the bank and your float the idea is to flip your bait to the mostly likely pieces of wood structure along the banks using your trolling motor to ease yourself along not staying in one place to long. The best banks will be close to deeper water and have several structure targets to fish and sometimes will be as long as a ½ mile.

I personally like the small 12v florescent lamps instead of the black lights; it seems to give me more illumination to my target areas for a better presentation not to mention making my bobber glow bright.

I have mounted my fluorescent light on a 10 ft. aluminum pole that I insert into my front seat pedestal and it acts like a street light illuminating the boats deck area so I’m not tripping all over the place and it lights about a 50 foot view span of the bank making it easier to maneuver the cover. This light will not spook the fish however a noisy angler will, making racket because he can’t see what he’s doing.

These fluorescent lights can be found online or at most sporting good stores and even Wal-Mart. But you will have to get creative on how you want to mount it to fit your needs; most will come standard with suction cups to stick to the side of your boat.

I use a medium action seven foot spin casting combo spooled with 30 lb FINS extra smooth Situational Braid. But the bait casting combos are just as effective.
The rigging is pretty much the same as rigging a crappie bobber, Just a simple slip float rig that consist of a bobber stop, a bobber, a ¼ oz split shot sinker and a gold crappie hook. Caution: stationary bobbers will not be as effective in this method of cattin.’

Thread your bobber stop up on the line a foot or so and separate the black tube from the bobber stop thread and slide the tube off your main line and disregard the tube, leaving the yellow thread on your line. Grab the two tag ends of the bobber stop and pull tightly and snip off the tag ends. Next thread your bobber onto your line and tie your hook to the end of your line and add the split shot sinker about 4 inches above your hook. Now adjust the bobber stop by grasping your main line and pull the stop up or down to adjust the desired depth. I will generally target 4-5 foot of water so my bobber stop will be set at 2-3 foot.

Once you have your tackle rigged and your bank picked out, it’s time to start flippin, this action is achieved simply by pointing the tip of your rod at the target spot with your right hand and holding the cork or bobber rig in your left hand, then in a fluid motion begin to lift the rod tip up while letting go of the rig, swinging the bait into the right spot..
As I start to approach the wood structure I start flippin to the edges of the structure first, never leaving my bait in one spot more than 30 seconds, hitting all the open areas, as I get on top of the structure I will flip the center of the structure, again not leaving my bait sit more than 30 seconds before flippin again to a different part of the structure, using my trolling motor to ease around the target area.

With this method we are looking for aggressive and active catfish and most of the time, the catfish will take the bait within the first 30 seconds. If you don’t get bit in one piece of structure, ease yourself along the bank with the trolling motor to the next likely target. Even though you may not see visible structure You can still flip the bank in between targets as active catfish will move along the bank looking for food, just put your trolling motor speed on low and continuously flip to the bank as your boat catches up, reel in and flip ahead again, you can continue this process until you hit your next lay down or wood structure.

Anglers who try this method using monofilament will probably get discouraged and will be constantly retying do to the hang ups, that’s why my two key ingredients to this rig is the 30 lb FINS braided line and a big gold crappie hook, one that will bend out of a snag, just pull slowly with the strength of the 30 lb braid and the hook comes free and then you just bend it back in place with your thumb and fore finger and continue fishing. This type of hook works well on the channel cats as I’m not targeting monster catfish that require the stronger hooks. The channel cats you will be targeting with this method are the 15lb or less fish. The idea with this light gauge hook is to fish more and snag less and not to have to retie several times throughout the trip.
This technique will also work well in the day time in April and May, however as the water warms in the summer months, the night time action is best.
Bait choices;
In the spring time I prefer night crawlers over cut bait, but after the spawn in July and August, the night crawlers tend to attract the bait stealing pan fish more. The best baits for the summer months are cut bait, chub minnows and crawdads but the cut bait seems to dominate more.

Although this technique works well on the channel cats because they tend to gather around the structure to feed, the technique can also be used to catch flatheads in the day or night. The flathead will use the structure as a home so to say, flatheads will hold tight to the cover during the day and come out to feed at night. But if you put a live sunfish in their face while they’re home in the day time, they will not pass up an easy meal.
Equipment required for the flatheads is similar in rigging, only beefed up considerably.
Using a medium heavy rod and reel combo spooled with 80 lb FINS braid and a larger float to accommodate the live bluegill along with a #7 j hook, be sure your rod has plenty of back bone to pull the large flatheads from the log jams quickly so they don’t get tangled up. I always like to cut my live bait to keep it from swimming around a lot and getting tangled. Cutting it also to make it bleed a little, and seems to get their attention quicker.

This method of catfishing is not limited to Taylorville lake, it will also work anywhere where cover is found in shallow water such as small river like the beech fork, salt river and other lakes and streams throughout Ky. and the U.S.
If you would like more information on how to catch catfish you can visit my websites; or you can visit my YouTube channel for how to videos.

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