CHANNEL CATS: THE FINESSE WAY Chuck Butkauskas The mist curls off the water in the early morning hours. Droplets of water hit the damp leaves of the forest floor on the banks of the small river as I glide slowly with the current. The rain ended sometime before daylight and now the sun is trying to peak through the trunks of the mighty oaks and hickories lining the shore. I see it ahead, a tiny creek dumping its mud stained water at the edge of a sandbar. Gently I paddle up to a half-submerged tree and tie the little johnboat off. A seven-foot medium action, spinning outfit is filled with 8# mono and fitted with nothing but a size 10 bait-holder hook. I grab one of the fat nightcrawlers from the bucket and thread just enough to cover the hook completely and leave the rest of the worm dangling. My first cast lands 3 feet this side of the creek and I feed out line to let the worm float with the current. Just as my bait goes in front of the coffee-colored water coming into the river my line starts running to the side. I immediately set the hook on what turns out to be a feisty 2 # channel. This scene is repeated over and over until my bait bucket is empty. What a way to spend a lazy Sunday morning! No fancy tackle, just presenting a natural bait in a natural way. I have used this method many times with worms, small crayfish, leeches or just about any critter with 6 legs. It is simplicity in its finest. It is man against catfish. Sometimes I will anchor in front of a stretch of riffles and let the bait glide through to the still water below. You never know what you are going to catch. It could be anything from a half pound bullhead to a 30 pound flathead. Sure there are the occasional drum, carp or bass, but hey we can always use more bait. It always seems to be best right after a shower when the cats seek the inflowing water that rings the dinner bell. If you are fortunate enough to have a pond or lake with willows hanging over the bank, try tossing your bait right underneath the overhanging branchs. I have seen and caught 10-pound channels in less than one foot of water. I believe they bask in the shade and wait for an unlucky bug to drop from the canopy. Of course, you may end up with a cooler full of palm-sized bluegill in the process. This method is deadly at night, if you can see well enough to make an accurate cast. Be prepared to tie on a lot of hooks. Try anchoring downstream from a logjam and casting your worm or crawdad just upstream and to the edge of the pile. Then let it drift with the current into the eddies and logs. Some monster cats can be found with this method, if you are lucky enough to bring them away from the logs. I am not saying that there is not a time and place for heavy tackle, but for a change try evening up the odds now and then. Have you ever felt a 30 or 40-pound fish on light tackle?