Faking-Out Flatheads

Any new tips for flathead catfish fishing?

Your gear for Flatheads needs to be pretty stout. These are big strong fish, and will destroy marginal equipment. I would recommend a minimum of a Medium-heavy action 7′ rod, a large spinning, or better yet, a good bait-casting reel such as those made by Penn and Ambassadeur. Your hooks should be no smaller than 4/0. This may sound large for freshwater, but Flatheads have a very large, wide mouth, and your baits will be large as well, such as whole live sunfish (where legal), large shad, goldfish, or 7- inch shiner minnows. And you should only use stainless steel hooks. A Flathead will straighten out anything less. Since you will be fishing right on the bottom in heavy cover, it is best to use many larger size (1/8 oz. or bigger) splitshots on the end of your line so that if they hang up, you can simply pull them off without losing your fish, or entire rig. The best rig for Flatheads is to use a Medium-Heavy spinning, or bait-casting rod with a large spinning or bait-casting reel spooled with no less than 15-pound test line. On the terminal end of the line, use 6 -8 pinch-on spit shots (or however many it takes to get the weight you want). !2 to 18″ above this, make an 8″ dropper loop and attach a 4/0 stainless steel Kahle hook. Bait this with at least a 4″ live minnow, shad, goldfish or sunfish, hooked behind the dorsal fin, and gently lob this into likely places. If you don’t get a hit in 15 minutes or so, try moving the bait a few inches. If you still don’t get any bites after another 15 minutes or so, try repositioning the bait one or two feet to the left or right. Another good rig is a Grouper Rig. Slide a ? oz. or larger slip sinker onto your line, then attach a large swivel to the end. Make an 18″ leader and attach a 4/0 or larger stainless steel Kahle hook to the end of the leader. Bait with a good-sized live baitfish, cast it into likely places, and leave some slack in the line. This allows the Flathead to pick up the baitfish without feeling any resistance from the line, or sinkers. This rig is especially good for ‘moody’ fish. But be prepared to re-rig quickly. You will loose a lot of rigs in the brush. Other good rigs are jug-fishing (where legal) and trotlines. Flatheads become active at night, cruising the shallows for suitable victims. You can drop jugs up-current from good holding areas in slow moving streams, or lakes where there is a light wind, and allow the to drift through the good spots. Jug lines have accounted for some of the largest catfish ever caught. However you catch them, Flathead catfish are the tastiest of all species of catfish. They are great fried, broiled, sauteed, or baked.
Happy Fishing.


Dan Eggertsen is a fellow catfish fishing enthusiast to the point of obsession. :) He's been providing solid advice on catfish fishing since 2004.

One Response to “Faking-Out Flatheads”

  1. Luis says:

    A 18 lb flathead will probably snap 15lb test. Also unlike some fish flatheads like to hold bottom for as long as possible. This means your line will rub up against rocks, mud, tree-limbs,debris and the catfhish itself. Fifteen pound test wont afford you much abrasion resistant. Therefore, i would recommend a minimum of 20lb test for these guys. Split shots wont hold down live bait, which more often than not will try and seek cover of any sort. This includes hiding in between rocks and will foul your rig up. So you have to use at minimum a 2 oz sinker, if using small live bait. Three ounce or more, depending on size of your bait and current. The Carolina rig is the favorite of most catfishermen. You’ll want to play the fish for a little but not too long as it will try and snag you into something. Best bet is to try and get the fish away from cover as quickly as possible and as careful as possible. Once the flathead reaches near surface, this is where the fight starts. This is when they will usually make there run at,they will try and go to bottom and snag you into something. However once you get them out of there initial brush piles you stand a better chance than if you let him run too long.

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