Flathead, or channel catfish, are a popular game fish. Capable of growing to well over 50 pounds, flathead cats are territorial and may be particularly aggressive during times of spawn. Typically, live or stink baits are used to attract and catch these tough fighters. However, artificial lures also can be quite effective, depending on the time of year, lure and manner of fishing. Selecting the right lure is important, because movement and action play a large role in attracting flathead catfish.
Jigs are hooks weighted with a lead head just below the eye of the hook. Often dressed with a skirt made of rubber or other similar material, jigs may be fished with plastic or pork trailers for added attraction. Although the skirt on the jig provides some resistance to snagging, it is advisable to choose a jig with a weed guard. Big cats often lie in or next to brush and other bottom debris,and the extra guard can help the jig work through and around branches and limbs without snagging.
Select blue, black, brown and green jigs, and use a medium-heavy rod in the 7-foot range with a matching reel. Cast the jig, and allow it to settle to the bottom. Raise the rod tip slightly, reel a short amount of line onto the spool, and allow the jig to drop again. After sitting for a few moments, raise the tip once again and repeat the process.
Soft plastics are often overlooked when it comes to flathead catfish. However, these cats are especially territorial during spawn and often attack anything they perceive as a threat. Soft plastics imitate a wide variety of fish and other aquatic life, including worms and crayfish. Rig a soft plastic bait such as a crayfish, trick worm, blue gill, swim bait, or creature on a 4/0 bait hook. Add a bullet weight of sufficient size to help the plastic lure go down and stay on the bottom. The bullet weight should be rigged on the line ahead of the hook. A split shot or sliding egg weight also can be used, depending on the type of plastic being used (fish or creature, for example) and your style of fishing.
Cast the soft plastic, and allow it to work down to the bottom, where the cats live. Work the bait slowly, allowing it to trigger a territorial response from the catfish. Choose a medium to medium-heavy rod with a matching reel. The line should be at least 10-pound-test monofilament.
Crank baits are a good switch-up bait for flathead catfish; the fish typically do not see these lures very often. Any crank bait chosen must be designed to dive down to the level where the cats live. Crank baits that wobble and imitate a wounded or injured fish such as a small bluegill are an excellent choice.
Cast the lure, and crank it down to the bottom. Work the bait along the bottom of the pond or lake, making sure to keep it low in the water. Vary the retrieve to further imitate a wounded bait fish. Select cranks in colors that match small bait fish, such as bluegill, large minnows, small crappie, and other smaller bait fish. A medium-heavy to heavy rod is a good choice for this type of fishing.