Usually in October thru November and possibly December, if there is no ice in lakes and reservoirs, I will start looking for big channel cats on ledges, drop-offs, and underwater creek and river channels.
The water is cooling rapidly at that time of year here in the Midwest. Consequently, the bait will be headed to deeper water and the fish will follow to feed. They normally stay in that deeper water until ice out the following spring.
I prepare my rods with a basic Santee Cooper rig. My mainline runs through a sinker slide before I tie it to a barrel swivel. I add a 2- to 3-foot leader with a demon dragon for my float. About 4 inches from the float I add a dual action circle hook.
These drop-offs and ledges provide a place for the cats to lay and ambush baitfish. As the water cools in October I reduce my dragging speed down to about .5 mph. With the even cooler weather from November through December, I slow my pulling speed down to about .3 mph.
We don’t have skipjack here in the Midwest so my favorite baits are white bass, white perch, shad, crappie, and bluegill. Common carp are good too if the body of water you are fishing has them in it.
Bigger fish hammer the rod, usually hooking themselves. The small fish peck at the bait for a long time. For those small fish or one that hits and doesn’t get hooked, I’ll pick up the rod and hold it. In my experience, 80% of the time a channel cat (not blues) will come back and you will get a second chance!