Flathead Cat Fishing

Fishin’ with Capt. Gus

Capt. Gus Gustafson is an outdoor columnist and

a full-time professional fishing guide.

Visit www.FishingWithGus.com or call 704-617-6812 for more information or to book a trip.



There was a time when people went catfishing, and were happy to catch any kind of fish. But, just like everything else in this world today, catfishing has become specialized. Now, there are those who fish for channel cats, others who target Arkansas blues, and a growing number of anglers enjoy catching flatheads.


Flatheads are predators that follow bait and fish schools when they are hungry. If there are not significant amounts of bait or feeder fish around, they hide inside logs and other types of cover to ambush the next small bass or sunfish that swims their way. Flatheads have a large mouth and gullet capable of swallowing a rather large fish. It’s not only their aggressiveness that makes them a favorite with fishermen; it’s also their size. They grow to great sizes and put up a quite a fight when hooked. If that’s not enough, they are arguably the best tasting of all cat fish species.


Flatheads have been in Lake Norman for years, but were seldom targeted until the recent influx of white perch and spotted bass. That’s when anglers learned that big flatheads, followed schools of perch and spots to feast on the bits and pieces that settle to the bottom during feeding frenzies. The flathead is perfect for most area lakes since its brown color blends well with the clay lake bottom, and makes it almost invisible to fish feeding above.


Knowing this, anglers who target flatheads now search for white perch schools on the depth finder, and instead of fishing for them, they drop live baits and/or jigging spoons to the bottom. Both are great baits. A flathead cannot resist the fluttering action of a spoon or the vibrations of a live bait tethered to a hook and line.


The muddy water in this part of the world has produced dozens of flatheads that tipped the scales at over fifty pounds. Wide spool bait casting reels, loaded with thirty or fifty pound test line and medium to heavy action seven foot rods, are used for these large fish.



Flathead Cat Fishing Tips:


* Flatheads have a thick jaw bone, therefore a wide gapped 5/0 to 10/0 hook is best when fishing with  live or cut bait.


* When jigging, a one and a half ounce (or larger) spoon with extra strength treble hooks is preferred.


* Flatheads will take line when hooked, so be sure the drag is set to less than half the breaking strength of the line.


*A large hooped net is required to land trophy flatheads. Don’t leave home without a net.


The North Carolina State record flathead catfish is 78 pounds and was taken from the Cape Fear River on a live eel by Brain Newberger in 2005.

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