It all started when I took my pile of 6 kids to a small walk-in fishing lake a couple miles from my house in mid May. It's a large pond/small lake that covers approximately 25 acres.
I had expectations of the kids catching some bluegill and maybe some small channel cats. I had them all set up with 1/0 snalled bait holder hooks with an 1/8oz split shot under a small float. Night crawlers were the bait of choice. The rods were all medium light action with 10-12 pound test mono line.
I threw my 8 year old daughter's line out next to a brush pile next to the shore. I sat the rod in a holder and turned around. A few seconds later my daughter is screaming "my bobber's gone" and whatever was on the other end of the line was pulling so hard she couldn't get her rod out of the holder! I removed the rod from the holder and handed it to her.
After several nice runs pulling drag, my daughter landed a 6 pound channel! Definitely her PB lol. She later landed a 10 pounder.
About 10 minutes after my daughter landed the 6 pounder, my 12 year old step son landed his very first fish, which happened to be a 13 pound channel!!
Several more nice channels were caught that day and I had a new outlook on this overlooked body of water. I started fishing the lake on a regular basis using more appropriate gear and baits.
I chose medium heavy 6 1/2 to 7 foot rods with 15 pound test mono. Never used a hook smaller then an 8/0 circle. During the spring I tore up channels up to 11 pounds on chicken breasts and cut bluegill on shallow flats.
As the season progressed, i stopped getting hit as regular and switched almost exclusively to live bluegills and moved to areas a long the shore that held large numbers of gills with steep ledges into the deepest parts of the lake. I floated large gills under big floats fairly shallow (3 to 5 feet deep). I usually only caught 2 fish a night but I never scored a fish under 6 pounds the rest of the year! I caught 3 in the 13 pound range, 3 in the 12 pound range and somewhere around 10 in the 8 to 10 pound range.
After fishing most of the summer at my new found honey hole, I plateaued at 13.5 pounds. I decided to take my newly learned tactics and hit a bigger body of water. I don't think I've mentioned, all my fishing is from the bank.
I satelite scouted a mid sized reservoir near me and chose a bank spot that I believed would hold large numbers of bait fish. To get to the spot, required me to backpack with all my gear about a mile. To me this was perfect, because I figured it wouldn't be heavily fished.
The first night fishing my satelite scouted spot, I landed 2 channels. One was 12 pounds caught on a 6 inch bluegill and the other was just shy of 14 pounds that I caught on a piece of cut gill on the bottom. I was stoked!!
A week later, now into mid September, I took my wife back out to my satelite spot. I had a heck of a time catching what I thought would be appropriate sized gills. Everything I caught was 8 inches or bigger! I managed to catch 3 under 5 inches.
After getting set up, I grabbed my largest of what I considered "appropriate size" bluegill, a 5 incher. I forgot to flip the bail on my spinning reel and chucked that gill right off the hook! Now I had 2 smaller gills and several of the jumbos. The jumbos I would never believed to be channel cat bait! These were huge bluegill I would have considered prime flathead bait.
I used the 2 smaller gills and got hung up with both.
At this time, a storm front was rolling in and I thought our day was done. My wife said, you have more bait, you might as well throw one on and see what happens! So, with little to no expectations of getting hooked up on my target species, I baited up one of those huge gills and somehow managed to cast it out with my light gear.
My wife was watching the poles as I started packing up to get out before the storm hit. While my back was turned, my wife started yelling (it's gone, it's gone, the bobber's gone!!). I turned around to see my rod folded over with drag screaming out. It was a repeat of the first fish my daughter caught in the spring lol!! She couldn't get the rod out the holder and she was freaking out! I grabbed the rod and started fighting this giant. After about 5 minutes I had the fish about 10 feet from the shore and seen it roll. Absolutely,without a doubt the biggest channel cat I'd ever seen in person! My heart was pounding so hard!! At this time I had no net, just a pair of fish grips to land fish with. I finally got the fish next to the riprap bank and took a relaxing breath as I grabbed my 40 pound mono leader. My at-ease moment was short lived... the leader popped and I freaked!! I threw my grips somewhere out in the lake to give myself 2 free hands to try an wrangle this fish. I got both hands on top and stepped into the lake. I didn't stop when I stepped into the water, my momentum kept going and i went for a swim. It's dark by this time and I was was completely disoriented. My wife could still see the fish in the water and was screaming "he's right there!" By the time I got my bearings, I got to watch the huge shape casually swim back into the depths.
I cried lol. When we got back home I was sitting at our dining room table still wearing my soaked clothes from the lake. I was flipping through this years issue of Catfish Insider magazine pondering the events of the night with my wife. While flipping through the pages, my wife sees a picture of Stan Liberty posing with his 23.8 pounder and she says "baby... that fish was at least that big!". I wanted to choke her lol.
Anyway, I will be doing this again next year and probably as long as I'm physically able. I will never pass up an opportunity to hunt flatheads and blues but my passion has become the chase for big channels.
Hope y'all enjoyed the read. Tight lines!
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