Channel catfish start spawning when the water temperature tops 80 degrees. That means about a month before that period, they’re moving into the shallows en masse to fatten up on their favorite chow ahead of the big event. This is both the best part of the season to land a double-digit channel cat, and to stock the freezer for a summertime fish-fry. But first, you need good tackle. Like this stuff right here.
The same reel suited for a 90-pound blue cat is a little overkill for a 5-pound channel cat. What you need is a good spinning reel that holds plenty of braided line in the event you tangle with something heavy, but one that also allows for short, accurate casts and comfortable all-day use. This Abu Garcia spinning reel gives you a lot for the price, including 6 stainless-steel ball bearings and a 200-foot, 20-pound line capacity.
With an angled eye and rear-facing barbs on the shank, these might be the perfect hooks for threading on juicy nightcrawlers—which are about as fine a bait as a person can use for channel cats this time of year. But they work nearly as well with whole shrimp in the shell, too, which seem to attract bigger fish. A 1/0 size will hold a hefty channel cat with a good hookset, but upsize to 2/0 or 3/0 if the fish in your home waters are especially bulbous.
This timeless piece of catfishing gear isn’t just for people who can’t stand touching the slimy things. Channel cats sport barbed spikes on their dorsal and pectoral fins that’ll punch right through the web of your hand and hurt like the dickens, if you’re not careful. Sure, there’s a proper way to grip them that minimizes the risk, but these grippers guarantee you won’t get poked while unhooking fish—and they save on a little of the slime mess wiped across your pants, too.
Peruse the menu in the right southern diner and you can find “fiddlers,” which are whole channel cats of about 2 pounds, skinned and gutted and deep-fried. Because catfish have smooth skin that’s difficult to grip with your fingers, specially designed pliers like these have found homes in the tackleboxes of dedicated whiskermen everywhere. They’ll make short work of your catch at the end of the day.
Channel cats aren’t the pushovers some anglers think. They’re incredibly sensitive to vibration, which means your best chance for getting a bite comes from making a good cast, and then setting the rod down. From bankfishing ponds to riverside sandbars, a good rod holder like this allows you to keep an eye on your rigs without touching them. It keeps your hands free for things like swatting mosquitoes and sipping cold beverage, too.