Hot Date With Some Cool Cats'
Summer's here and the weather is bringing on the "dog days of bassin," so why not get out the ole' inner tube and look for a cooler alternative to the upcoming hot summer season. I know of no better way than to float the Snake River for Channel Cats. That's right, leap into your favorite floating craft and set forth down the river on a refreshing and rewarding adventure.
by Dennis P. Udlinek
Many years ago, before I was introduced to the Snake's mighty bronzebacks, I went floating myself and some fishin' worms down the river. I carried with me only a small bag with my bait, usually nightcrawlers, a home-made sandwich, that usually got mixed up with the worms, a long limber rod (no graphite in those days) and a big hook with a 3/4 inch implement nut for a weight. All this topped off with a large red and white globe bobber, and plenty of the great outdoors added up to some awesome fishin'. Nothing can compare to silently drifting through natures' home in an old truck tire inner tube covered with as many patches as grandpas’ ole’ coveralls. Back in those days my equipment wasn't very sophisticated but the enjoyment was beyond measure. Listening for every little creature's motion that stirred the bushes on the nearby shore, or the water slapping of fish as they fed on the surface in the cool evening sunset. Ah yes, what memories, what serenity, what a cool way to catch big cats. Today the mighty Snake still yields large numbers of channel catfish and there is no better way than to drift stink bait by their underwater lairs. The modern way of drifting the current is by using a slip float behind a bead and bobber stopper that allows for controlled drifts at varied depths. This provides an angler with a better chance for getting the scent to the fish by covering more area. In hot summer months the cats movement is limited to deeper pools during the day. Adding a split shot or two a few inches above the bait allows you to reel down near the bait for tangle free casting and keeps the tasty morsel beneath the bobber when it enters the deeper wholes. By putting a bobber stopper on first you create an automatic depth gauge at which to set your hook.
With this in mind it's important to know how deep the river is where you're going to fish. If you don't have a clue, pick a depth to set the bait (usually about three feet) and cast upstream. If the float travels slower than the current, then one of two things is happening, either your bait is dragging on the bottom or the water is moving faster on the surface than at you're baits set depth. This means it probably entered a deeper pool or drop-off. If its dragging to hard on the bottom you’ll know right away.
In this case you may want to shorten the distance between the stopper and the hook to allow the bait to suspend as near directly beneath the float as it can while still maintaining contact with the bottom allowing the bait to tumble slowly along the gravel bottom as it travels down river. For the later it would be best to lengthen the distance between the hook and float to continue contact with the river bottom.
The most important keys to remember for float fishing river current are: maintain contact with the bottom as directly beneath the bobber or float as possible by adjusting the depth range with the stopper, use an adequate float for the job (the larger the bait and swifter the water the bigger the float), a long rod (7 feet or more), 15 pound plus test line, a casting reel for long drifts and smooth line discharges, and good sized stainless steel hooks.
Most of today's catfishermen still prefer to use the "just sit and wait" method, but I can attest to no better way to cool off and catch cats than to drift the river in a "float using a float." One for you and one for Mr. Cool Cat, which by the way would probably work best suspending a piece of sucker for cutbait. See Ya on the Water, and remember, be safe, and wear a personal floatation devise whenever you're bobbing around in uncharted waters.