Many new catfishermen simply do not know how to specifically target flats and become frustrated when multiple trips are fruitless.It is a common misconception that all catfish are scavengers and prefer rotting and smelly baits. While stinky baits work very well for smaller (10 lbs or less) channels and blues, it will very rarely if ever catch a flathead. Flathead catfish are a top level fresh water predator so, live baits arealmost always the best option. Live fish such as crappie, sunfish, shad, bullhead catfish, and carp are all great baits for targeting flatheads. Live baits are most often hooked just behind the dorsal fin or the anal fin depending on the chosen rig.
Due to the flathead’s agressive nature, raw power, and potential size having a proper rod and reel can determine whether you land a monster or are left standing there with a broken rod or reel in your hand. A medium- heavy rod, 7-8 feet in length, and a heavy duty spinning or baitcastingreel with a good amount of line capacity is a good place to start. Spool the reel up with 30-40 lb mono or 65-100 lb braided line.
Slip rig with a no roll sinker is very popular, this rig is very simple: a sliding sinker on the main line, a bead to protect the knot, a swivel, and a leadered hook. This rig presents the bait to the fish on or near the bottom. Float rigs have also worked very well for many flathead fishermen, Floats allow you to suspend a bait at any depth and can decrease the odds of getting snagged over bottom fishing. You will get snagged, sometimes alot. Snags are just part of flathead fishing especially in the Maumee River.
Flathead Catfish tend to be much more structure oriented. Since they are ambush predators, they like to hide deep in cover waiting for a passing fish to feast upon. Structure can be nearly anything that they could hide around, under, or inside. Bridge pilings, log jams, root balls, undercut banks, and rocky areas are all good places to try and locate a flathead. Structure can even be something as seemingly insignificant as a hump or ledge on the river or lake bottom. Flats can be found in nearly any depth of water as long as there is proper cover. Shallow inlet creeks, flats, and weed beds can also be very productive.
One last tip , do not feel like you have to throw your bait as far as you can. Many of the larger fish I have seen were caught less than 20 feet from the bank! It is a good practice to work all sides and angles of a specific piece of structure whenever possible.
Have Fun, Be safe and Good Luck Fishing