Fishing for Channel Cats on Reservoirs

    As I get closer to retirement I have a lake that is only five miles from my home, CJ Brown reservoir which is located in Clark County, just outside of Springfield, Ohio it is loaded with large Channel cats, Blues and Flatheads I will spend a lot of time on this lake when I retire, I already am spending a lot of time on it now because it is so close and would rather fish than spend fishing time on a road trip to the Ohio river. The main forage bait is Shad on this lake tons of them and all sizes. This lake also has one of the finest launch ramps in the state of Ohio, I mainly fish during daylight hours so I'll concentrate my efforts on how I fish this lake.

    For years I only fished one area and that was the North end it is shallow and mainly mucky mud bottom but there are numerous gravel bars along with some old road beds and rail track beds, now I fish all over the lake if the boating traffic will allow me. North end is around 5 foot or more in depth the main portion of the lake is around 25-40 foot in depth

    I use the bait dragging technique or some people call it Drifting and it can be used on any lake in the United States with great results, but this article is about my home lake, first off I gather bait, the launch ramp wall at times can be a hotspot the Shad eat the plankton off the iron walls but I throw the net mainly on the inside of the ramp wall, if you throw on the lake side there is a bunch of structure along it and your going to trash a net quick, the Marina is another great spot to find bait, I'm using my sidefinder to locate the schools but you can also watch for them to break on the surface resulting in circular rings or watch the Seagulls diving down on them and there are always the White Bass that herd them near the surface watch for the commotion. So I gather my bait and I'm ready to fish, I always carry frozen Shad and chubs just in case that the bait is tough to get they will hit them also actually when the water is hot I like using frozen the bait makes a longer scent trail than fresh .

    My set-ups are pretty simple I use 7-8 foot rods with fast tips, Abu 6500 reels spooled with 30# BigGame green line anywhere from a 18 inch to a 3 foot long leader 50# line with a 6/0 snelled circle hook, and Bottom split bobbers bright yellow is my favorite, they are split so you can adjust the location on the leader, also use sinker slides from the same company so I can change weights which are mainly different size pencil sinkers, 1/4th ounce up to 1oz. I use them because I have found that they will slip thru and overtop most structure and trees without getting hung up, because the bobber is on the leader line it will ride up above the sinker without getting hung up in the structure. rods are placed in Monster rod holders that are positioned all over my boat but I mainly use the rod rack that is mounted on the back of the boat.

    After I select where I'm going to fish I cut up my Shad into steaks the first cut is the head just behind the gill plates and I angle it back towards the tail, then I just chunk up the rest of the Shad and toss the tail, my favorite is the head section lots of blood and oil in this section, I pass the hook under the chin and out the top of the head or under the eye socket and again out the top of the head anywhere else and the bait will rotate and hook back into the bait resulting in a missed fish, the steak sections I hook them thru the main meat part leaving the guts loose in the cavity, the channels will bite down and squeeze the gut section out but then you just trim out the open pocket and use the meat chunk if they do that. another way I like to do is Buterflying a Shad where you split the Shad down the middle from the back of the head to the tail cutting off the tail, when they are hitting large baits this is my preferred way to present them bait as your dragging this bait along it releases blood and oils but also imparts some action into the bait with the flapping split sections opening and closing and whipping around. Make sure after you pass the hook into your bait you check the point of the hook and confirm it is free and no scales on it.

    Once I'm baited up and ready to fish I set my trolling motor so I can drag baits around .5 to 1.5 mph if using two rods I put them on the outside rod holders in the back of the boat and toss the rig out the back and I want the rig running about 75 feet behind the boat, my rod holders are 33 degrees so the tip is way up high in the air and the farther back you have them the less likely you will get hung up because of the angle that you are dragging the baits behind the boat, if running four rods the two on the outside I run at 100 foot back and the two rods on the inside are 75 foot back so that they don't get hung up on each other you will only have an issue if you make a sharp turn and not a gradual turn or if a fish hits an outside rod and rips across the back of the boat tangling the whole mess but generally that is a huge cat that will do that.

    For me rod control and boat control are very important, if windy I point the nose of the boat directly into the wind and drag the baits that way, I can go with the wind but then I have to deploy drift socks and that is a ton of work doing that, just  much easier into the wind. The rod tips should be bouncing along as you pass over the gravel bars in the lake the tips will shake or vibrate as your dragging across a mud bottom the tips will kind of bend down and be real soft, as you pass over structure they will bend down and spring back up but they are always moving down and back up, depending on the type of structure there are times when you are going to get hung up the rod will go down slowly and not come back up I have been able to grab the rod and lift it up high and pull back and it will release. I don't get hung up too often even on a stump filled lake like Indian lake I have not lost too many rigs.

    When a fish hits the bait they will bang it maybe a couple of times then hit it hard don't get in a hurry that's why I use circle hooks lift the rod out of the holder and pull back once you feel the fish then I set the hook solid by putting a big bow in the rod, keep the line tight at all times pulling back and reeling down on the fish, I can tell you this much I have caught several 20 # fish on CJ and when they hit a rod it goes down and it don't come back up they keep it down solid and fight all the way to the boat. I'll get pictures out of the rigs I use at a later time.........thanks and good luck.........Doc