Shovelheads after the Sun Rises
By Denny Ransom
If you're anything like I once was you've probably seen a picture or two of someone holding up a big monster flathead and thought, "MAN! I gotta get me one of those!" That inspired dream was quickly crushed once you started doing a little research and found out you'd have to spend countless sleepless nights on the river waiting to finally hook up.
Maybe your work or family doesn't afford you the opportunity to go sit in the dark and fish all night. Maybe your night vision stinks and you just don't feel safe. Or maybe, you are just a normal human being who likes to spend your nights sleeping in the comfort of your bed.
No matter, I'm here with some good news for you. Despite what you may have heard, it is possible to keep up on your sleep and still catch flathead catfish. It's true. You can catch them during the day. In some ways it's actually easier.
The first thing you have to do is dismiss the idea that flatheads sleep all day and spend all night out on some feeding frenzy. That model works just fine to help establish some successful nightfishing patterns, but to see it as a complete representation of their behavior would be a mistake. Thinking like that would likely ruin your confidence about catching daytime fish. The real truth is that these catfish eat whenever they want to, and that includes daytime meals.
There are some general differences in their daytime behavior though. These differences are important to consider in order to guide your approach.
Active fish at night might travel large distances from their home base, hitting major feeding spots. An active fish during the day is more likely to patrol a small zone around it's current home. A neutral fish may or may not be tight to their lair at night, but in the daytime they are typically holding in the prime spot on it. Additionally, while they may not be willing to go far to chase a meal, they can still be tempted, or at the very least provoked, by something that's put right in front of them. Finally, for whatever reason, they just don't seem to be nearly as spooky during the day as they're known for being at night.
Keeping these things in mind, we can put together a pretty solid strategy for daytime flathead fishing. The key difference between the day and night fishing is in the mentality of the approach. At night the standard method is to position baits along their migration routes to try and intercept them during their forays, like setting traps. During the day, the mindset is hunting, and the game-plan is to go after them on their home turf.
Seek out isolated holes with good cover and structure nearby and you're off to a good start. Look for any active fish first by targeting current seams and structure elements that patrolling fish will move along. You'll get bit in pretty short order if there's a hungry fish moving around. If this doesn't produce, then move in and start looking for those neutral fish.
This is where a small craft like a kayak can really shine. Between the stealthy nature of a yak and the relatively non-spooky disposition of the daytime fish, you can literally get right on top of them without shutting them down. I like to nestle in tight to big log jams and fish vertically, dropping live or cut bait straight down and keeping it just off the bottom. I'll feel my way around the bottom looking for ledges or underwater cover objects where I can hold my bait in position for a few minutes at a time. There's nothing more exciting that hooking up with a big fish next to a logjam on a short line. It's combat style fishing.
Not every hole will produce during every time of the season or during all the various river stages, so do your scouting. Find a variety of spots and fish them often. Over time you'll come to learn which ones to fish under which conditions.
So get your gear in order, wait for your next day off, and go after 'em! Until then... get some shut-eye and keep those big-cat dreams alive.