Getting Started- The 5 basic Rules

What You Need To Know About Getting Started Flathead Fishing
The 5 basic rules 

Rule #1 Locations

Flathead Catfishing; the ultimate challenge...

In this section, you will learn the five basic rules and principles that can make or break a successful flathead trip. Follow these simple rules and your success rate will increase as time goes on. Naturally, your strategy will adapt to your own unique way of fishing. 

This section is for the beginner flathead fisherman. If you feel you are a more advanced flathead fisherman, this may not be for you.

The first rule to flathead fishing is locating a population of flatheads in your area. Wild flatheads, not farm raised or pond stocked, flatheads that live in your area either in a local river, stream, creek, or lake. Most catfish anglers will already have their areas picked out. But for some this may seem like a real challenge. After a while, this will be part of the game.

Do your homework: find local reports, newspapers, Facebook friends, anything about flathead fishing in your local area. UseGoogle earth, and use it a lot. Google earth will become your ultimate tool in your flathead arsenal for finding locations. Get good with it and buy a PC if you don’t already have one. I want you to be able to visualize your areas from satellites view in your mind anytime and anywhere. Welcome to the modern era of fishing; use it to your advantage!

If you have a boat locate all your boat ramps on the body of water you have chosen. If a boat is not an option for you find a suitable location to bank fish as far away from the general public as possible

To become a great flathead fisherman/women you must learn to master the rod and reel.

Now that you have decided to take your angling to another level it’s time to get rid of those old and busted Mickey Mouse R&R’s and get some real tackle. If you plan on flathead fishing often it’s just a matter of time before you hook a few fish that’s going to hurt your feelings. Breaking your line, busting your rods, dumping your reels and bending your hooks straight will happen if not prepared with the right tackle.

Buy heavy duty reels that can hold up to such a predator in tight locations with heavy structure. Buy good rods. Throw out them wimpy bass rods and put some meat on them bones. 7.6” – 8 foot medium heavy rods for strong hooks sets are perfect. Make sure to have a fast tip to detect movements in your bait and bites.

Spend a little money and buy cat rods from cat dealers that sell quality made rods.

Mojo Cat:  Winner Field & Stream 2016 Best Catfish Rod

Rule # 2 Master the rod & reel

With so much water to fish knowing where to start can be over whelming at times. In this section I’m going to give you some tips that may be very useful on your next trip out. These are techniques that we have developed over time that are extremely effective.  Follow them carefully and you will catch more Flatheads.

When you first get to the water I’m going to assume you already have your bait. This is very important; make sure you have gathered your baits beforehand. This will insure you can focus all of your attention on catching flatheads.

You will want to launch 1-2 hours before dark. This will give you time to gather locations making it much easier to identify dangerous objects during daylight hours.  It’s also more effective to see the locations to fish while it’s light out.

Rule #3 Strong Fishing Line

One of the biggest mistakes rookie flathead fishermen make is buying cheap or light line. If you can’t afford good line you will pay the piper on the water. Heavy braided lines are ideal for fishing in the snaggy badlands where flatheads like to lurk.  

Too many entry level Flathead Hunters come into the game thinking they want to whip flatheads on super light tackle just to get their line snapped by the big one that got away. This is not a game of ego; I don’t care if you use rope on your reels, if you hook a 60-pound flathead you're going to know you were in a fight. This is not a bass or walleye- no light tackle necessary. Buy the biggest braided line you can pack on your reel. This may seem ludicrous now but it will make sense in time.

Try and only mark the places that look the best. A good GPS and chart plotter is very handy for this but a smart phone will also work. There are many apps you can get that will act as a chart plotter until you get one.

You will keep marking these locations until you have gone as far as you want to fish, after you have your spots you will get set up on the first hole.  More than likely there will still be light out. This will give you time to get everything set up. It’s best to put two rods out right off the bat in case you have a hungry fish lurking nearby. Don’t waste too many baits until the sun has set.

After the sun goes down this will be your twilight bite. You will want to stay on your first hole for at least two hours after dark. This will ensure the fish have left their resting areas and have begun to feed.  

Rule #4 Night Fish

If you plan on fishing all night from dusk till dawn I would suggest gathering at least ten key locations. Ten locations will make for a good night if properly scouted. After launching your boat head in the direction you want to fish marking places as you go.  Scout each area very well while it’s light out.

You don’t want to be fumbling around in the dark trying to figure out where to drop anchor or tie off once the sun has set. Also check for snags and find out where and how you will fish that spot.
Mark dangerous obstacles while you work. Who knows what the visibility will be on the way back down. I have had nights when fog and mist rolled in so thick you couldn’t see the bow of the boat. The only thing that got me back safe was knowing exactly where to go with my chart plotter.

Many situations will call for daytime flathead fishing and you will discover these in time. As a general rule, flatheads prefer to feed at night. This is when you need to go on the hunt. Bring all your night time gear: Headlamps, spot lights, bug spray and warm clothing. The nights will be long and tough so you gotta be ready for anything.

Rule #5 Live Baits

This rule in some people's book may very well be arguably #1...  And for good reason! There are times when flatheads will readily accept cut baits and you will discover these. As a general rule of thumb flatheads prefer healthy, kicking, live fish most of the year.

We have an entire section devoted to different types of live baits to use. To see a complete list of baits follow this link:  
Baits Selection

Take care of your baits. They must survive the entire duration of your trip. Change the water regularly, only taking half the water at a time. If you are fishing in the heat of the summer bring frozen bottles of water to cool down your bait tank. Water temps over 88 degrees will severally weaken baits over the course of a night of fishing.

Keep a good aerator system pumping oxygen at all times. The stronger and the livelier a bait is, the more likely he will draw in a hungry flathead.
After this spot has run its course you will want to head to your next location. Motor in very quietly trying not to stir the fish up, stealth is key. It was daytime when you scouted this area so you should know exactly where to set up. Give this place no more than 30 minutes to one hour then move on. 

Generally if fish are in the area the bite will come within 20 minutes.  Flatheads will home in on bait very quickly, it’s important not to waste too much time on one spot.
 Do this spot after spot until you have reached your final location, once you get to your last number you should be very close to the boat ramp.

The final thing you need to know about flathead fishing is what type of rig to use. In the world of catfishing there are many, I’m going to show you only two. These are the two types of rigs most commonly used. Both are slip leads, the only difference is one rig is equipped with a hook setting Kahle while the other has a self-setting circle hook. The basic components are made up of a flat sinker, bead, swivel, mono leader, and your hook. Use them both until you figure out which hook is right for you.