SMALL RIVERS BIG FLATHEADS

You Dont Need Big Water For Big Flatheads

Fishing on the big cat rig is very comfortable, relaxing and very convenient for fishing medium to large rivers and lakes. However sometimes we like to get real close with nature, literally up to our waste in it. Spots so hard to reach few ever fish these locations. A spot that fishing after dark would make even Manny Puig uneasy.

Getting to these backwaters that consistently produces large flatheads takes balls and boats that are small and tough even Kayaks will work. Sometimes this involves dragging them through the woods for hundreds of yards in snake and gator infested swamps or wading up or down rivers for miles just to reach a secluded location.

Big flatheads live in these skinny small creeks and streams virtually undetected, unlike blues & channel cats flatheads do not need large bodies of water to grow into trophies. In fact, a flathead can reach 50lbs in a ditch feeding on crayfish and other woodland creatures as many have been caught this way.
Unlike big water flathead fishing where you want to keep moving, here you will sit and wait like a hunter in a tree stand. Watching your poles as the tips glow in the dark night sky for a sudden take down will be your main goal.
From spring to fall these small rivers can be fantastic fishing, from small fish only a few pounds to monsters that you may never turn. With little room for error hooking and landing a flathead over 70lbs will be a real challenge, many of these smaller rivers are littered with fallen timber just waiting to wrap you around. As soon as you’re hooked up start cranking hard and fast making sure the fish is clear of cover.

These flatheads will preferably hold in the deep bends in shallow rivers only emerging after the sun has set. Sometimes the time it takes to get bit may stretch on for 2 hours or more, persistence will pay off in the end.
Sometimes these tiny rivers may simply be branches and tributaries that fork off the main river itself. These small rivers are almost always over looked by fishermen, with so many big fish caught each year on large rivers most anglers get the impression it takes big water to catch big fish, and that’s simply not the case when hunting flatheads.
In order to find these locations that harbor flatheads you will first need to do your homework, gain a understanding of how the small rivers flow and where they go in your area, then all you need is proof of one fish, if you have seen a photo or just heard of someone catching a flathead from a nearby creek or little river its worth investigating. If there is one there are thousands hiding like panthers in the woods.

You will need a very unique location different from the surrounding stretches of river; the best spots will hold the largest fish in most cases. These spots may also only one big fish so it may be best to clear out two locations to fish before the sun sets

fish the bends

In order to catch these big flatheads consistently on rod & reel in small creeks bank fishing will be a must. If the body of water you plan on fishing is less than 50 feet across, bank fishing will be your best shot at a trophy.

Not because your boat can’t make it to them, but because stealth will be required to land these big fish. Banging around in that small boat will send that mature flathead scrambling for cover. Park the boat, set up base and fish from the silence of shore.

Tackle set up
Four rods is plenty for the task at hand. Use three bottom rigs, two rigged with slip sinkers and the other with a three-way rig with your hook position about 1.5 feet off the bottom. On the 4th rod try and use a float, the float will be positioned in slack waters. Large hooks will be required, 7/0 to 10/0 King Kahles when using live bait is a must.

Heavy braided lines will ensure you pull that big fish from his snaggy hole. Too much work is involved in getting hooked up with these trophy flathead just to lose one after your line snaps from being a light tackle hero. One hundred pound braid and higher is needed for main line, using 60-100lb mono leader will ensure you get your weight and swivel back after a hang up.
Live bait is the bait of choice for Flatheads, however in recent years fishermen have really been having luck with fresh cut bait using the head portion cut to the end of the gut pocket, the cut bait works well into spring. Once summer arrives live bait seems to be all they want, but it’s always good to try a few different baits just in case.
Bluegills, Shiner’s, bullheads, carp, suckers, small catfish if its legal it’s on the menu.

On night adventures deep in the woods and along the river banks expect to have company. From gators, spiders, raccoons, beers, large cats, big turtles and snakes will be the norm.
Flatheads and Floats 
Small rivers sometimes have less current than big rivers during dry seasons, giving more opportunities to use floats. Floats can be presented in slack waters and above submerged timber keeping your bait in the strike zone of active fish. Another advantage of using floats in small rivers is they allow you to let line out covering more water.

When selecting a float try and use the largest float available especially if using large baits, pool noodles can be easily converted into floats and many floats are available for cat fishing. To prevent your bait from skipping on the surface use a fairly large weight to keep your bait down below the surface in swifter water.
While your bottom rigs sits and waits for a bite, actively fish your float rig in search of active flatheads that may be patrolling the shallows. Make sure to hook baits behind the dorsal fin using large Kahle hooks for maximum penetration on hook sets. Hooking the bait behind the dorsal fin will also allow the bait to kick harder and longer on the hook

Another spectacular ability flatheads have compared to blue cats is its ability to reach 50+ pounds in as little as 10 years living in ditches, creeks, small rivers and canals. 

The first 10 years of a flatheads growth is extremely rapid compared to blue cats, blues actually grow faster after 10 years of age with their first few years of growth very slow. Blues also require fairly large bodies of water with large quantities of food to sustain a healthy population of big blues cats.