The Flathead Mindset
Trophy Fish Take Grit
Flatheads are a unique fish. They rule nearly all waterways they call home. The largest specimens do what they want, when they want. They do not account for early morning work meetings, soccer practice, or overtime hours to pay to get your truck fixed. They are on flathead time, not people time. To chase a fish like this, and catch the largest of them on a consistent basis, requires a peculiar mindset. This mindset is unique not only to flathead fisherman, but also to fisherman who chase trophy fish of all species.
According to the Cambridge Dictionary, grit is defined as "courage and determination despite difficulty." If there was ever a description that outlined the characteristics of the best flathead fisherman I know, that is it. Some of you may be thinking I'm crazy. Flatheads are easy to catch, you might think. If you live on a river like this, don't take it for granted. On the small rivers I fish in central Iowa, this is hardly the case. Trophy flatheads do not come by everyday, or even every week for the matter.
It takes time on the water to land a trophy fish. For many anglers this time is at night. Even more daunting is the time on the water with no success. Time on the water with endless thoughts of doubt pacing a permanent trail into your brain. You second guess the spot, the bait, and the time of year you're fishing. As your drought increases, so do the feelings of uncertainty, and the anxiety continues to build. You keep fishing anyway.
You keep catching bait. You keep your rods and reels in top shape. You keep your hooks sharp. You keep line on your reels fresh. You lose sleep you will never get back. Your thoughts become fuzzy. Your caffeine intake grows and grows. But you keep fishing anyway.
Then it happens, when you least expect it. Zzzzzt. A short burst from the reel punctures the night. The kind of short burst caused by a monstrous fish inhaling the bait at the end of the line. Zzzzzzzzzzzt...zzzzzzzzzzzzzt...zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz. The sound of your clicker is what you have been hoping for, praying for, wishing for. You slowly pick up the rod, engage the reel, and pull back with all the might you have, splitting the flesh of the whiskered titan in the dark muddy water.
With all your strength, you hang on as the fish struggles to return to the wood-piled den it calls home. Each turn of the reel is a victory. In the back of your mind you are hoping that all your knots are well tied and the fishing pole can handle the abuse you are putting it through. As the fish comes to the boat, you reach into the enormous muzzle your hook is stuck into and pull the monster into the boat. You did it. Everything leading up to this moment was worth it. You snap a picture and let the beast go to grow into an even larger terror than it is now. You are glad you kept fishing.
When I think of flathead fishing, this is the scenario that often comes to mind. Flatheads will push an angler to great lengths. I once went six weeks without a catch, fishing three to five days a week. I just kept fishing.
Some may call me a bad angler. Some may call me stupid. None will say I lack grit.