All the Secret You Should Know About Log-Jam Flatheads – TruWild Life


Introduction of Flathead-the River Monster 

The term river monster is used to describe big game fish throughout the globe. Here in the Midwest, the Flathead Catfish is our river monster. Generally, fishermen in the Midwest are after walleye, salmon, panfish, bass, etc. Catfish and sturgeon are labeled as "less then traditional" despite their size. However, this trend is headed in the other direction.  

Flatheads are extremely difficult to target. Something that has always astonished me is avid and enthusiastic anglers persistently target Muskies due to their size and how hard they are to catch. But flatheads are huge and equally as hard to target. Northerners have biased opinions on them and often refer to them as "bottom feeders," even though Flatheads are mostly predatory. The funny thing is more than half our country renders them as elusive game fish. As a kid, I drew pictures of Catfish. That's how fascinated I was by them.  

Tips to Catch Flatheads 

Targeting Flatheads is less about the gear and more about locating them and being persistent. They absolutely cling to structure. Far more than most other species of fish. Granted, this is not always the case, but high-quantity spots are usually spots you get snagged in often. Although the type of structure doesn't matter too much, I generally am fishing tight on log jams in rivers. I get snagged plenty of times every outing. But you can also find them around undercut banks, creek mouths, dams, bridges, construction areas, etc. Using side imaging or 2D sonar, I look for stacked timber, anchor up, fan multiple baits around the timber, set rods in the holders, and you wait. I often spend 30 minutes to an hour on the spot; if I get no bites, I pick up and go find more timber.  

Trevor Slifka holds the flathead catfish on his hands
Trevor Slifka puts the flatheads catfish on his arms

Prepare Fishing Gear for Flatheads

Rods and Reels for Flatheads

To get started on fishing for flatheads, you should prepare any glass rod capable of lobbing 8 oz or more. That includes bait and lead. The benefit of glass rods is they are cheap. More rods equals more opportunities for fish. Obviously, follow your state's law as far as rod limits. I am currently running 6 Piscifun Lumicat rods (with three anglers in a boat) paired with 6 Piscifun Chaos 50/60s. I spool these fishing reels with a 60 or more-pound test braid. You need to be able to wrench these fish from whatever structure you are fishing. The rig of choice is the standard Carolina rig that consists of a 4-5 Oz no roll sinker and an 8/0 big game river hook. Although for every other whiskered fish, I run circle hooks, and I do not for Flatheads. I personally lost a tournament due to circles for flatheads but have won sturgeon tournaments with circles. I also generally run a short leader between hook and sinker to keep my bait on a short leash. Some individuals run rattles and such, and I'm sure it helps, but I snag too much in an evening to run extra tackle like that. How much it helps is debatable, too. 

the angler is organizing the fishing line on the piscifun chaos fishing reel

Bait for Flatheads

As far as bait goes, any legal, sizeable baitfish will do. You can use suckers, bluegills, crappies, bullheads, freshwater drum, etc. Every avid cat angler has a bait tank in their garage. My tank is filled with bullheads and occasionally small drums. Here in Minnesota, we can't use Bluegills for bait unless we are on the Wisconsin side of the river. And bullheads are the hardest bait to kill. I can keep 75 in a tank all summer. Flatheads are generally not picky, either. They are opportunistic feeders, meaning they'll grab what they can take. And there is no bait too big for them. They are extremely predatory. Most types of catfishing involve cut baits, bumping, or dragging. Flatheads, however, want their prey alive a majority of the time. Bullheads are great bait because they will not die on a hook.  

Suggested Time for Catching Flatheads

Timing for flatheads is also important. Here in the Midwest, half of our year is snow and ice. Flatheads are very indifferent to other species of Catfish because they are the only species that hibernates. Once winter comes, they gather up in deep holes in the current and lay on the bottom with their face up current. They will sit there on top of each other in a slumber all winter. Some anglers were lucky enough to hook them through the ice, but the fish wasn't feeding. In these situations, the hook miraculously just found its way into a giant open mouth in the current.  

Once spring arrives and temps warm, they wake up and go on a heavy feeding binge while scouting for areas to spawn. I generally don't go out until water temperatures are at 58 degrees. I start by looking for timber in relation to undercut banks. They dig holes in the mud or look for crevices to do their thing. The bite is usually pretty heavy until it starts spawning, which is around 72 degrees. This is the time period cat anglers dread in the summer months. Most traditional anglers flock to their fishing grounds when their targeted species of fish is spawning. Not catfishermen, however. Catfish will still feed in the spawn, but they will not leave their nest to search for food. Not all cats spawn at the same time, though. It's just that catch rates decrease during this 3-4 week time frame. Once the spawn is over, they return to feeding heavily again.  

Well, there you have it. Go find a muddy river near you and go get snagged up. Best of luck and tight lines! 


Trevor Slifka

Trevor Slifka


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