Williams targets tributaries that carry fresh water into the creek arms that feed reservoirs. Channel cats use a flooded creek channel as a migration route when they move upstream in search of spawning habitat. They typically spawn in holes in rock or wood cover. After their eggs hatch, they stay in these holes to protect their fry.
"It's hard to catch spawning channel cats," Williams said. "But it's game on just before they spawn."
Prespawn channel cats feed voraciously when they gang up in creeks that have suitable spawning cover. Use the right tactics, and you'll catch them in bunches.
"Sometimes the channel cats grab the bait as soon as it hits bottom," Williams said. "When that happens, you can't keep up with two rods."
Williams has enjoyed this kind of frenzied action many times. He remembers one spring outing from his guiding days at Oklahoma's Hudson Lake. He had two clients who were more interested in catching lots of catfish than hooking into a whale.
Rock Creek was on the rise with good water, and that's where Williams went. He anchored his boat, set out lines and proceeded to bag two limits of channel cats, 30 in all, over the next 4 hours. The fish weighed from 3 to 11 pounds, which is typical for channel cats.
These days, Williams relies on the StructureScan feature of his Lowrance HDS-10 to quickly find channel catfish spawning areas in creek arms. It displays the rock piles, log jams and other catfish spawning cover under the boat and off to either side.
"That StructureScan is the deal," Williams said. "You can make one pass up a creek that's 80 feet wide and find every sweet spot on the bottom."
Jeff "Catfish" Williams uses Lowrance StructureScan to find suitable channel catfish spawning habitat.
After Williams locates suitable spawning areas with the HDS-10, he anchors his boat from the bow a short cast upstream from where he wants to present his offerings.
Williams then sets his lines out over the transom, which the current points downstream. An excellent alternative is to beach the boat's bow and fish off the transom.
Jeff "Catfish" Williams either beaches his boat's bow or anchors his boat from the bow and fishes off the transom. Note the rod holders.
Rods & Rigs
Four to six medium-heavy, 7-foot, 6-inch, sensitive carbon fiber iCat baitcasting rods rest in Driftmaster Pro Duo holders spread across the boat's transom.
The rods are matched with 400 size Daiwa Millionaire reels filled with 65-pound Tug-O-War braid. Williams knots the braid to a 1/0 barrel swivel that sports an 18-inch, 30-pound high-vis monofilament leader.
A 2-ounce bank sinker is attached to a No. 6 sinker slide that glides freely on the leader and allows for fast sinker changes.
When fishing with cut bait, such as shad, bluegill or skipjack, Williams opts for a 3/0 to 5/0 Team Catfish Double Action Catfish Hook. After fishing a cut bait for 30 minutes or so, he applies Dead Red Blood Spray to rejuvenate it.
Williams prefers his Team Catfish prepared baits because they are deadly and more convenient than cut bait. A bare No. 6 treble holds his Sudden Impact fiber bait. An EZ Load Dead Red Dip Bait Tube with a 2/0 Cam Action Dip Tube Hook holds Secret 7 dip bait.
Jeff "Catfish" Williams hauls aboard a channel cat that went for one of his prepared baits.
It's a good idea to rig rods with a variety of baits, because channel cats may prefer one to others on any given day. If that happens, rig all the rods with whichever bait gets the most bites.
Williams fan casts his baits over the transom. They often cover a drop-off from top to bottom.
After a sinker touches down, he places the rod in a holder and reels in until the line is semi-slack. This lets him read the rod tip and the line for bites. He keeps the reel engaged and does not use the clicker drag.
"If I don't get a bite in 10 to 15 minutes, I'm out of there," Williams said.
He usually moves at least 100 yards or more up or down the creek and sets up again. Williams repeats this process until he starts getting bites. When that happens, the action can be furious.
Editor's note: You can find the Team Catfish products mentioned in this article at www.teamcatfish.com.