The term run & gun is often associated with bass fishing, running from one point to another searching for active bass willing to bite.
The same method works for channel cat fishing with some modifications. Instead of running and gunning points and ledges you want to run & gun coves and pockets. Many people think that channel catfish retreat to deep water during the day, but they can be found in very shallow water.
During the daytime light penetration in shallow water will force channel catfish to seek dark places to wait out the day.
They can be lured out with the correct presentation and bait. Most channel catfish will stay in the brush, but there are always a few that will come out and aggressively take your presentation. These are the fish you are looking for and the reason that the run & gun method can put more channel cats in your livewell than any other method, during the day.
What I look for when searching for catfish during the day is shallow coves with brush or standing timber.
Brush seems to be better during the day while the standing timber is a great structure for night time pursuits. I usually hit all the coves, even those without visible cover. There could be plenty of cover below the surface, so be sure to fish all the coves in your run & gun approach. I usually only give a spot 15 or so minutes before running to another spot so you don’t waste too much time in those barren coves. If there is some unseen cover below the surface, you might put a couple good channel catfish in the boat.
Lake coves and pockets will hold catfish this time of year, so when approaching the cove or pocket, be sure to shut off the big motor and maneuver into position with your trolling motor on low. Channel catfish are easily spooked in shallow water. Drop an anchor off the front of the boat and back into position, letting out a little rope to ensure that the boat won’t break the anchor loose in the front. When in the back of the boat you can drop a second anchor with just a little slack so the boat doesn’t swing. Once in position the rods are baited and set out. Fan your casts to cover the cove completely. Be sure to focus on any visible cover.
If there is visible brush be sure to surround it with your baits.
It’s important to let the fish come to you. Keep your baits out of the middle of the brush where you will hang up. This will waste time in re-tying instead of catching catfish. Hang ups will also run every fish out of the brush and is why you make the catfish come to you. You can also return later and catch another fish out of the brush that produced an hour or two earlier.
Stink bait is a great option for efficiently harvesting many eater size catfish and is a go to bait for many channel catfish anglers. Catching these pan sized channel cats are fun, especially for young anglers, but if big channel catfish is what you’re looking for, live or fresh cut-bait will work the best. Fresh bait tends to lure the bigger channel catfish. The channel catfish is classified as a scavenger, but they act more like a predator once they get a few pounds in size. The bait doesn’t have to be alive for channel catfish, but it should be fresh.
Fresh bluegill works great for luring channel cats out of the brush. Be sure bluegills are legal for bait where you fish. Cut shad works fine, but bluegill seems to be preferred, especially in a lake that is full of shad. Bluegill becomes a delicacy where the main forage is shad. Cut-bait is best because you can get more bait out of one bluegill this way. Scale both sides of the bluegill, then fillet it and discard the carcass. Removing the scales will help release more scent and make a soft bait so the channel cats can easily engulf it. Only hook one chunk of fillet to your hook and don’t wad the meat on the hook. Just one stick is enough with the bluegill fillet. The tough skin will help keep it on the hook.
Don’t ball the meat up on the hook or you will lose the gap in the hook. This will cost you hookups because the wad of meat will slide out of the fish’s mouth because the meat is covering the hook point.
Terminal tackle for early spring channel cats is the conventional catfish rig. You should use heavier tackle for targeting big channel catfish. This technique tends to catch big channel catfish and you have to be able to wrestle the fish away from the brush because that’s where it intends on taking its mid-day snack. If it makes it to the brush you will probably have to bring the whole brush to the boat if you want that fish.
Baitcasting reels with 20-pound monofilament works great.
At the end of your line, thread on a sinker slide, then add an inline swivel. The swivel is mainly to stop the sinker slide, but if you have ever caught a good size channel catfish you know how they will roll and the swivel will help prevent line twist. A great hook for this technique is a circle octopus hook. An octopus circle hook works better than a true circle hook because with a circle hook you have to let the fish hook itself. If you set the hook with a circle hook you will pull it out of the fishes’ mouth and if you let the fish hook itself, you run the chance of it getting into the brush before hooking up. With the octopus circle you get the benefit of the circle hook, but you are able to set the hook with the slightest bite. Snap a 1/2 to 3/4 oz. sinker to the sinker slide and the rig is ready. The sinker slide protects your line and keeps the fish from feeling any resistance from the weight. This is important with channel catfish because they are very sensitive to the tension of the line itself and will definitely feel the sinker if attached directly.
Try this technique on your next trip for great results.
Use that fresh cut-bait for bigger channel catfish. You might not get as many bites as with stink baits, but the fish are quality and they usually aren’t messing around on the takes. These run & gun methods work, you should try it the next time out to see what happens.