Channel Catfish are well known for their nocturnal tendencies. Most anglers target Channel Catfish after sunset and usually this is the best time but Channel Catfish will bite during daylight hours. It might take a little more effort but you can find active Channel Catfish at this time. My favorite method is running and gunning in the search for those fish willing to stray outside their daytime haunts for a midday snack.
Run & gun is usually associated with bass fishing running from one point to another searching for active bass willing to bite. The same method works for daytime Channel Cat fishing with some modifications. Instead of running and gunning points and ledges you want to run & gun brush piles inside coves. Many people think that Channel Catfish retreat to deep water during the day but they can be found in very shallow water.
Channel Catfish in shallow water still prefer low light so they will bury themselves deep inside brush piles and root wads. Their intensions are to wait out the day in these dark domains but some can be lured out with the right snack food. Not all Channels will venture out but there is always a few, for whatever reason, that will aggressively take your presentation. These are the fish you are looking for and the reason that the run & gun method can put more Channel Cats in your live-well than any other method during the day.
What I look for when searching for catfish during the day is shallow coves with brush or standing timber. Brush seems to be better during the day while the standing timber is a great structure for night time pursuits. I usually hit all the coves as you just don't know what is underwater and unseen. There could be plenty of brush below the surface, so leave no cove unfished in your run & gun approach. I usually only give a spot 15 minutes or so before running to another spot so you don't waste too much time if the barren looking cove actually is and if it isn't you might put a couple good Channels in the boat.
I prefer to fish out of the back of the boat and have my rod holders set-up for this. When approaching the cove I shut off the big motor and maneuver into position with my trolling motor on a low setting as Channel Catfish tend to be easily spooked. I drop an anchor off the front of the boat then back the boat into position letting out a little rope to ensure that moving to the back of the boat won't break loose the anchor in the front. When in the back of the boat I then drop a second anchor with just a little slack so the boat can not swing. Once in position the rods are baited then set out strategically in the cove.
If there is visible brush be sure to surround the brush with your baits. It is important to let the fish come to you and keep your baits out of the middle of the brush where you will end up hanging every line and wasting time re-tying instead of running & gunning. Hang ups will also run every fish out of the brush where you might pull two or three out of the same brush pile if you make them come to you, leaving the brush somewhat undisturbed. Besides that I have returned later and caught more fish out of a brush pile that produced an hour or two earlier.
My bait of choice might surprise some folks at least as far as Channel Cats go, as I stay away from any kind of stinky baits. For one thing they stink up my boat for another I find that fresh meat tends to lure the bigger fish. Don't get me wrong,stink baitswork great for Channel Catfish and you can catch big ones as well so don't be discouraged as stink baits are easy and can be the ticket with the kids as the bites are plentiful. Channel cats are scavengers until they reach a few pounds then they actually become a predator. Some may argue that Flatheads are the only catfish that are predators but I have caught way too many Channels on crankbaits while bass fishing, as well as trolling, to convince me they are not predators and everyone of them have been over 4 pounds.
My personal favorite, where legal, is fresh bluegill. Cut shad is fine but bluegill seem to be preferred, especially in a lake that is full of shad. I think bluegill becomes a delicacy. I use cut bait because I can get more bait out of one bluegill which are actually hard to come by in my home lake as there are so many shad they have pushed the bluegill out. I scale both sides of the bluegill then fillet both sides discarding the carcass. I scale the bluegill because it seems to release more scent and make a soft bait for the Channel Cats to easily engulf. I hook one chunk to my hook. Don't wad the meat up on the hook just one stick is enough with the bluegill meat as the skin helps to keep it on. When you ball the meat up on the hook you tend to lose the gap and therefore loosing hookups as the wad of meat will slide out of its mouth too easy as well as covering the point of the hook on the hook-set.
Terminal tackle for the run & gun method is the conventional catfish rig. I use heavy tackle as I am targeting big channels not the little feeder cats so many people are after. I seldom ever hook a channel cat less than 3 pounds and you have to be able to wrestle the fish quickly away from the brush as that is where it intends on taking its mid day snack and if it makes it you will probably have to bring the whole brush pile into the boat if you want that fish.
I spool my bait casters with 20 pound mono. At the end I thread on a sinker slider then tie on an inline swivel. The swivel is mainly to stop the sinker slider but if you have caught ever caught a good size Channel Catfish you know how they will roll and the swivel will help with line twist from that. I use a 2/0 to 4/0 circle octopus hook. I use an octopus circle hook because with a circle hook you want to let the fish hook itself. If you set the hook with a circle hook you will pull it out of the fishes mouth. If you let the fish hook itself when fishing these heavy brush piles you run the chance of it getting into the thick brush before hooking up. With the octopus circle you get the benefit of the circle hook but are able to set the hook with the slightest bite so you can stick the fish before it gets into the brush. I snap a casting sinker to the slider and the rig is ready. I use the slider as it protects your line as well as keeping the fish from feeling any resistance which is important with Channel Cats.
Try this on your next trip and you might be surprised at the results. Use that fresh meat and see the size of your Channel Catfish grow. You might not get as many bites as with stinky baits but the fish are quality and usually they are not messing around on the takes. The run and gun method works and you should try it the next time out and see what happens. I think you will be surprised.