Catfishing photo

Photo by Keith Sutton

Most freshwater anglers associate spring with prespawn bass fishing and trout pursuits. While they’re casting jigs and spinners, however, channel catfish are waking up from their long winter nap and putting on the feedbag.

Catfishing can be phenomenal as the water temperatures climb out of the 40s, and they’ll continue to chew hard until the water hits the 70s. Put yourself in the right spot, and you’ll have more bent rods (and bigger fish) than those guys chasing largemouths and stocker rainbows.

The Location
Farm ponds are an especially good choice in early spring, because they warm much faster than big lakes and rivers. Cats are drawn to the shallows that have dark mud bottoms, which heat up much quicker than hard bottoms.

The Gear
A 7-foot medium-heavy spinning or casting rod is perfect for spring catfishing. Spinning reels with a bait-runner feature or casting reels with a clicker are ideal, as they allow big cats to run off with the bait while tension remains on the line. Spool up with 20-pound braid.

The Rig
Slide a 1⁄4- to 1⁄2-ounce egg sinker up the main line, then tie on a barrel swivel. To the other side, attach a 12- to 18-inch leader of 20-pound fluorocarbon, and finish the rig with a 3/0 Kahle hook. Channel cats will be scavenging for baitfish that died over the winter, so strong-smelling baits produce best at this time of year. Chicken livers are my personal favorite, but dough baits loaded with baitfish scent work, too.