When the water is high and muddy after a heavy rain,Channel catfish can be caught when you couldnít get a strike from a bass or crappie to save your life.
One reason for this is that most other fish species are sight feeders. They rely on being able to see their prey, if they canít it then they wonít feed. Catfish on the other hand can smell and taste the water which allows them to detect food from many yards away if the current is right. Their entire body acts as one big tongue or nose depending on how you want to look at it. They have sensory organs all over their skin that allow them to detect minute odors so that they can find food even when they canít see it.
One aspect of their feeding behavior that endears them to fishermen is that as long as the water is warm enough they seem to feed whenever the opportunity arises and often to excess. Needless to say catfish can put on weight very quickly. They will eat almost anything. In nature they will feed on live fish, carrion, amphibians, crayfish, worms, mollusks, plant material, insects and almost anything that smells like food and that they can swallow. The list of baits that are used for attracting catfish is almost endless. The most common would be cut bait(pieces of fish), shrimp, nightcrawlers, crayfish, minnows and shiners, sunfish, hot dogs, dough balls, clams and clam snouts.
There are many people that think that catfish are blind or cannot see well but in fact most catfish species have fairly good vision and channel catfish can be very efficient sight feeders. Baits that emit odors are primarily used to catch Channel cats but it is not uncommon to catch catfish on artificial lures especially channel catfish. I have seen them caught on jigs, spinners, rubber worms and even crank baits, If fact I find that they can be quite a nuisance when I am bass fishing.
My own personal experience has been that channel cats seem to respond best to lures with white in them. In fact I have caught a number of channel cats on a small red and white roostertail inline spinner.
Although catfish will eat at all times of day. Larger fish are generally more active at night or under low light conditions.