I'm just guessing here, but I'm thinking that your Socal lake is probably stocked with channel cats, and that they probably run from maybe a half pound to perhaps 10 pounds. If this is true, then (if you are fishing from the bank), I would consider fishing with a 8-10lb outfit. UNLESS there are lots of obstructions (rocks, down trees, etc), in which case you may wish to go up to 15 lb line. Channel cats tend not to be line shy, so you can use heavier, but it misses the sport to me. If you are fishing from the bank, I would consider a 7-8 foot pole so that you can cast as far as you wish. For a reel, you can use spinning, you can use bait casting, you can use a conventional reel. It helps to have a decent drag, but you ain't fishing yellowtail here. Now, the key thing in catfishing, IMHO, is the bait. Since you are a beginner, I would suggest two baits to start. Set up one pole with nightcrawlers. I use a number 6 bait holder bronze hook. I happen to use an Eagle Claw 181 model, but it doesn't matter. The bait holder hook looks like this:
I use a whole nightcrawler on the hook, which means that you have ends and loops flopping around. That's good. I start out with the hook at the end of the line, a small swivel about 2 feet up, and an egg sinker above the swivel. Typical size is 1/2 oz, but you use what you need to hold the bait in place. (Catfish feed primarily by smell. If your bait is washing all over the place, it's harder to find.) The idea of the egg sinker is that the fish doesn't feel the weight so much when it pulls out the line (I keep the reel on free spool, or a spinner with an open bail). If there is a lot of current with clear water, sometimes an inflated worm works better than on the bottom. Use the same rig, but inflate the worm with a needle. Your second bait should be "stink bait". There are many brands and styles. Some folks swear by chicken blood, some by cheese, some by others. I personally find that stink bait based on dead shad (bait fish, not east coast shad) works wonders. (Bring a towel and some of that nonwater based handcleaner ifyou use stink bait.) Nowadays, folks don't like getting their hands in it, and they make it thinner ("dip bait") and use a "plasic worm with groves" to put the bait on. I just don't think it works as well as the old fashioned stuff. When I use stink bait, I use a size 2, size 4, or size 6 (the smaller ones) treble hook and mold the bait around it. When you get done, all you see is a ball of bait. There is a style that has a spring around the shaft that works great. It looks like this:
The ones I have are old, and I don't remember the brand or model. The picture above is a "Bill Dance" model and it's too expensive for my tastes. Eagle Claw has a model called 374SBA, but I don't know the sizes. (Different companies use different rules...small numbers big hooks and vice versa.) I buy shad stink bait from a local guy, but for commerical stuff I've found that this
brand works well. (I like the original, not the garlic or blood) When I use stink bait, I wad up a half dozen balls of it and toss them into the area I'm going to throw my bait into. (Chum) Back here you can fish two poles, and I have one with worm and one with stink. If one bait works much better, I switch both to the same. Now, as you get more experienced, you can go to more exotic baits that often catch bigger fish.....tho there is more time waiting for bites. The biggest cats I've caught have been on 2-3inch bluegills. (Check whether this is legal in Cal.) Another good bait (sometimes) is crawdads. Finally (and strangely) I've had a wide open bite on regular ole shrimp (yep, the kind that you get in the market) BUT (trick) You leave them out in the sun until they start to stink. (And boy, do they stink.) Finally, chicken livers work well at times....use the spring trebles to keep 'em on. But for a beginner, nightcrawers and stink bait will catch you a lot of cats. Here's a site about cats and bait: http://www.catfished.com/bait.html
(It doesn't list stink bait....which is an error.) If it weren't for their heads, Channel cats would be nice looking, at least until they get up to around 4 pounds. But they fight ok, and they taste great.
This post edited by Oldtimer 06/04/2008