How to Catch Flathead Catfish From Shore

How to Catch Flathead Catfish from Shore : It’s actually a lot easier than you might think. With the proper spot location, bait, rig, and tactics, you can get on a great number of flathead catfish. I have often out fished people in their boats on the bank! Flathead Catfish can be tricky, but you can catch them from shore!

Best Time of Year to Catch Flathead

Smiling for the camera

The best time to target flathead catfish is from the spring to the fall. Flathead LOVE warm water, so usually around may – august I have my best luck. When the water temp reaches 55, they seem to pick up and start biting. This can be found by researching your local body of water. Most I have found have an updated water temp.

Flathead can be found typically shallower in the spring time throughout the summer. Usually on the hotter days, they will sit up under trees, logs, and any kind of shaded cover. These are key areas to place baits.

Sometimes I have to move often on the hottest days to find out where the fish are at, so do not be surprised if the fish are a bit deeper on the hotter days. Summer moving into the fall, the bite will pick up. The fish typically migrate throughout the river. This is one of the best times to get on some quality fish. Flatheads are usually in deeper water during at this time but, the fish are still feeding heavily.

By the beginning of winter, flathead are generally already in the deepest holes in the river. They can still be caught during this time but, they are very inactive.

Rod

Flathead catfish can be very powerful, so it is very important you bring the right tackle to hold up to the job. I recommend at least a medium heavy, to heavy action rod for catching flathead. You want a rod with a good backbone that is going to carry the weight of (potentially) a big fish. Flathead often get over 30lbs to be generous, so your gear must hold up.

When fishing from shore a longer rod is usually better for casting distance. It can also help keep the fish from swimming in the rocks when reeling them in. Flathead do have a tendency to run straight to the rocks when they are hooked. I use the Penn Squadron 2 surf casting for flathead. It is a 10 ½ foot rod that easily helps me pull fish out of cover.

FISH ON!

Reel

I think the reel may be even more important than the rod! The last thing you want when hooking a flathead is the reel malfunctioning. I go with the brands I trust, which are abu Garcia, okuma, penn, and avet. These are all reels I have tested and still own.

May I recommend the okuma avenger spinning reel, Okuma Coronado CDX spinning reel, and the abu Garcia 7000 casting reel. These are 2 trusted brands that have caught me many fish. For reel size I would make sure your reel can hold a good amount of line. I personally like no less than 180-200 yards of line on my reels. This covers the break offs, line tangles, and also makes sure you have enough line for the depth you’re fishing. I often go with the 6000 or higher size for fishing reels.

Line

Line selection is very important! You need to make sure you know the layout of the water you are fishing to choose the correct line. If you are fishing in heavy cover, such as trees, rocks, any kind of underwater debris, you should probably go with monofilament. The bare minimum pound test for this line I would go is 20lb test. 20 lb is plenty for hauling in fish over 20lbs. If you want to go higher you certainly can.

Flathead catfish are not line shy. I know guys who run anywhere from 30-40lb mono. I just prefer a bit more of a fight. For braid, no less than 50lb. I would only use it if you KNOW that there is no cover or rocks the fish can run you into. I PROMISE if they can get you in there, then they will. Let’s say you fish a lake with a sandy bottom, this would be a great place to use braided line.

Rigs

The most basic form of a catfish rig is the Carolina rig.

To tie this rig, all you need is a barrel swivel preferably size 1/0 or over, a sliding weight OR a slider with an attached weight, leader line preferably 50lb or higher, and a circle hook of your choice size 8 ot or higher. Flathead Catfish have big mouths, so using bigger hooks is a necessity to get a good hook set on these fish.

For your weight, go based on your body of water. For me I have relatively strong current in a deep rocky river. I use 6 oz torpedo sinkers to eliminate the chance of snags. If you are fishing a lake with no current with a muddy bottom, you can probably get away with a 3oz pyramid weight.

This rig is called a fish finder rig, or a high low rig.

This helps keep your bait off the bottom, and increase casting distance. If the fish in your area are not picky about feeling weight on the end of your line, this rig is an excellent choice for you. This definitely maximizes casting distance, and helps keep the fish out of the potential snags. I have success on both the rigs I mentioned but, I prefer the Carolina.

Bait

Live Bluegill getting ready to say his goodbyes

Many people swear up and down on different baits and claim to have the “secret bait”. I am sorry to burst your bubble but there is no secret bait. Flathead tend to prefer live bait, but you can also catch them on dead bait. The best bait for you is dependant on what’s in your area. If you have a large population of carp, than use carp. If you have a large population of bluegill, than use bluegill.

As for size, flathead like a bait that they can fit in their whole mouth, so I like using bluegill in the 6-8 inch range. I usually do one rod with cut bait, and another rod with live bait. Some days it can be weird, and all the bites come on cut bait, then some days the opposite.

Some common baits for flathead (live and dead) are carp, sucker, bluegill, sunfish, shad, perch, small catfish, and minnows.

Bait Rigging

For live bait you can hook your baitfish many different ways. The most common ways are to lip hook, and stinger rig. A simple lip hook, both up or down will usually keep the bait on, and provide plenty of freedom for the fish to swim freely. You generally want the baitfish to look as natural as possible, to not raise concern to the fish. A stinger rig is a bit more invasive, and is usually only used on bigger baits. A stinger rig consists of a main hook (usually a j hook) and 6-8 inches below a second hook (usually a treble hook). This rig is designed for fish that may be short biting, and for an extra point of contact when casting so the baitfish doesn’t fly off (I have done it a few times).

An alternative way that I have done in the past is tail hooking. You take the baitfish and hook just above the lateral line on the meat of the tail. People say they see an increase in hookup rate because of this; I have tried both and have seen no difference. Also to note, this method will result on more baits flying off.

Picking a Spot

A beautiful day on the Potomac river

Now that you have the proper rod, reel, rig, and bait, it’s time to catch some fish. You first need to see if Flathead catfish populate your river. Although these fish can be very common, they do not populate every lake and or river.

Flathead Catfish (generally) prefer faster moving current breaks, rocky drop offs, fallen trees, bushes, any kind of cover. These fish live in pretty tight areas. They also populate creeks when the weather is right and often come in shallow to feed in the evening hours. It is very important that you learn the topography of your body of water. This will be a key factor in finding a spot to potentially catch Flathead. Research depth charts for your local body of water, and look for the rock piles, trees, current breaks, and drop offs. Often sandy bottoms, creek mouths, pools off of main rivers, and coves are all great spots to find the flathead.

Also I forgot to mention flooded creeks. Flooded creeks can be flathead heaven, especially in the summer months. Of course the tough part now is accessing these areas from the shore. I have been a bank angler all my life, so best believe you will have to do some walking to find good spots.

Bait Placement

When casting Flathead baits, you want to cover a few main areas. If you have a river, casting a rod close to the bank and one further toward the middle of the river is the way to go. Target the areas we covered before. If you are fishing a lake or pond, try to target the drop offs and coves. For creek fishing, put a bait right behind a fallen tree, and the other on the other side of the creek. Cast behind big rocks, trees, and shaded areas. The main point of doing this is to find out where the fish are.

I usually give baits 30-45 minutes in one area before I recast to the next area. Really from here on out, it is trial and error. You can say you know everything about Flathead catfish, but without going out and exploring YOUR body of water, you will learn nothing. Tips and techniques vary widely across different bodies of water. You need to figure out where the fish are for your local lake, pond, river, etc…

That’s it! Go put these tips to good use and catch you some flathead!

Check out my Youtube Channel to stay in touch with all my ongoing adventures!

2 thoughts on “How to Catch Flathead Catfish From Shore”

  1. Georgia Fisherman

    Great article, very well put together and broken down if that makes sense. I will definitely be coming back to read….and reread this and other articles.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.