Spring time to a cat man means a time of plenty. Bait and channel cats are abundant, moving upstream to take care of their yearly ritual spawning. In the meantime channel cats are eating well as they travel and look for spawning locations again. We will take a look at some prime locations on the Tennessee River at Pickwick Dam area. Time of day, year and methods used to catch those Channels.
Several things determine the best location, channel cats like banks littered with rocks, man made riffraff, and like other species fallen timber is a plus. Depths ranging from 2’ to 30’ drop-offs in the river below the dam seem to produce the best results. Above the dam in the lake rock bluffs line different portions of the lake and are laced with fallen timber over the years. There are all kind of cracks in the rocks where the fish can back up in to spawn and ambush a meal.
The best time of year in the Mid south is mid-April through mid-June. This period you will catch pre-spawn fish, spawning fish and late spawners. The best time of day is from sunrise to 10 AM then 3 PM till dark, once the sun gets up over the trees and shining directly down on the shallow water the fish tend to slow down. Another thing to consider is boat traffic usually picks up mid morning till later afternoon.
Baits to consider: dip bait used with the surgical tubes or plastic worms and #6 treble hooks, shad guts, cut shad, crickets, worms and chicken livers have their days to. One key thing to remember is to keep moving if the fish slow down or your not getting bites within 10 minutes. If the channels are near, they aren’t shy about biting.
Tackle: I have a couple of favorites, a medium action spinning rod with 14 lb. test line. Use a slip float that will cast and adjust to different depths. Use as little lead as possible to cast up to 30’ away from the bank and a single #6 hood for using worms, crickets and shad guts. I generally cast as close to the bank as possible and let the bait set for a minute or so, then pull bait toward the boat out in deeper water. Once I find the depth the fish are holding in that day, it’s time to reset the slip float and continue fishing that depth. My other method of catching channels is to use a flyrod. I use the same setup and just continue to cast and let the bait sit for a minute or so to see if there is a channel cat close by. Boy this is a blast when you get one of those 8 to 12 lb. channels on a 8’ fly rod and they go from 3’ of water to the other side of the boat to 30’ deep.
Good luck this year fishing for those fighting channel cats, I believe if they got up to 30 lbs in the Tennessee River you couldn’t land one by the way the smaller ones fight. Remember this is a good trip for a kid -- lots of action to keep them excited.