Floats for Flatheads
Suspended baits for big shovelheads
Want to see a grown man get more worked up than a junior high school kid going to his first slow dance? Watch his reaction when the bobber with a two pound bullhead for bait gets yanked under the surface. There is a certain magic that flows around the sight of a bobber going under the water. Even better than that, there are times where it is the best way to tangle with some of the biggest catfish that call the river home.
In all honesty, there is no wrong time to use bobbers for big cats. Take anything that is buoyant enough to hold the size of bait you're using, attach it to your line, and you have a great way to catch cats. I know guys who use old pop bottles. I've seen some guys who shove a straw into a snow cone cup and fill it with expandable insulation. Dude, I'm telling you, the fish don't care. All they care about is how much that bait is kickin', 'cus that's what draws 'em in! A suspended bait kicks more than any other bait out there, I'm tellin' ya!
With all of that being said, the basic concept of your typical slip bobber is to slide a bobber stop on your line, followed by a bead and the slip bobber. After that, slide a sinker that will hold your bait down, slide on another bead and tie on a barrel swivel. Tie your leader on next and attach a hook to the end. Slide the hook through the back of a big, lively baitfish and you have an offering that will call catfish in from a long, long ways. The bigger the bait, the bigger the float you need. If you don't want to make your own, most tackle stores in catfish country carry bobbers sized for all but the biggest baits.
As always, there is more than one way to skin a cat(fish). One problem I've ran into, and maybe a few of you have too, is while shore fishing. Sure, if you're in a boat, all you have to do is rig up a basic slip float rig like described above, and toss it out the back of the boat. If you're fishing on the bank of a river and try to do that, the current is going to push your bait on shore. This is where the Float Paternoster Rig shines.
Sure it sounds fancy, but its actually quite simple. Instead of setting your sinker above your bait, you set it below the bait. There are a variety of ways to accomplish this. The easiest is to take a regular slip float rig that has already been discussed, put on a heavier sinker, and set the bobber stop so your bait is setting on the bottom. The bobber tugs on the bait constantly, causing it to struggle more and call in more catfish. The heavier sinker keeps the bait in the spot you want. If you want your bait off the bottom, there are other options.
This time, don't slide a sinker on to your line. Tie a length of line to your swivel and attach a sinker at the bottom of the line. The float keeps the bait above the bottom, and the sinker keeps your rig in the spot you want it. The length of your line is how high the bait will be off the bottom.
Now this rig isn't perfect, and I'm not here to fool you. It can be a real pain in the you-know-what while trying to cast, especially if you have a big bait on. If there is much current, it can still push your bait to the bank. When you're using large live baits, that will happen no matter what rig you have though. I still think it helps catch more flatheads. Heck, even if it doesn't, it is still fun watching that bobber take off when you get a bite.
I know I keep talking about watching the bobber take off. You may be wondering how in the world I see it. Doesn't this guy fish at night for these things? Yes I do, and thanks to modern technology that I have located at the dollar store, I still get to keep an eye on my float. Glow sticks! They are cheap and effective. I usually get 10 to 15 packs every spring and I'm set for the year. Bring a roll of electrical tape and wrap them on your bobber. Watching a float with a glowstick dance in the water as a bait fish gets skittish is better than T.V. if you ask me.
Fishing for flatheads with bobbers is great fun, and can often result in fish that you may have never caught otherwise. Get out there and give it a try. There are few things that will get your blood flowing like seeing that enormous bobber disappear.