As a Trophy Catfish guide, I field many of the same questions each year. Although I love talking Big Flatheads with anyone, I thought I would type out a "how to" on some of the more important portions of Flat Fishing that might help someone new to the sport get started.
Part One: Terminal Tackle for the fish of a life time...the Trophy Flathead Catfish!
First off, we have to keep in mind that we're talking about 30, 40 and even 50 pound fish that love the snarreled mess of tree roots and underwater logs. Getting a bite is only the first portioin of getting your photo taken with The Minnesota River Monster!
My terminal tackle starting from the hook end consists of a 8/0 Team Catfish Super J hook, 80-pound Team Catfish Tug O War braided line for a 8 inch leader, an 80-pound swivel, Team Catfish Sinker Bumper to protect the knot, a 4 oz no roll sinker and finally more 80 pound Team Catfish Tug O War Braided line in high vis Nuclear Yellow spooled on a winch type reel like a Garcia 7000 or a Shimano Tekota 600.
I typically will use a 4 oz weight all year, since a no-roll sinker is a flat sinker with the line runing through it's center, the fish isn't going to feel any extra weight. Plus the 4 ounces should keep the live bait from moving into unwanted places like the tree snags we often fish around.
I choose Team Catfish Tug O War 80 lb test because it's tough as cable which is needed for playing Tug O War with a big cat. Tug O War doesn't fray or loose it's Nuclear Yellow color as other lines I've tried do. Dragging a pig out of the woods requires a strong line…if the cat makes it back into a wooden snarly snag, we lost! I normally have a few wooden dowels along to break off the line when it becomes snagged and I can’t get it loose any other way. It’s impossible to break this stuff with your hands…you'll draw blood trying.
Remember to keep the leader short. Six to eight inches is pleanty. Flatheads like a livly bait...but the don't like to have to chase it down and a short leader gets tangled less! There is a school that believes you should go with a lighter test leader or even mono. The lighter leader will break saving you the cost of the swivel and the sinker. The mono does that and works as a shock absorber. They all work…take your pick.
I prefer a Berkeley swivel in the 80-pound test category…no weak links.
To tie this all together I use what is known as a Uni knot. Most folk use the Palomar, which is a good strong knot. I chose the Uni because I’ve used it on mono for years and can tie it with my eyes shut (this comes in handy in the dark). Use what you're most comfortable with.
By using the above, I can keep a very small, but heavy tackle box for chasing the big ones.
I should add that using the above rigging but changing the hook to a Team Catfish 3/0 Double Action hook works exceptionally well for using cut up sucker for channel cat or sturgeon fishing as well.
As prime time Trophy Flathead fishing approaches, I hope this answers a few of the rigging questions.
Next topic, Rods, Reels and locations for Trophy Cats.