Big catfish are remarkable just for surviving many years in a world where it is eat or be eaten.

Big catfish are remarkable just for surviving many years in a world where it is eat or be eaten.

Their fighting abilities are just as remarkable.

I once watched a 160-pound man almost get pulled in Truman Lake by a 40-pound white cat. Granted he was slightly off balance, but that was one powerful fish and he had quite a handful landing the big female. The state record flathead is 77 pounds, 8 ounces. Imagine that fight!

The first key to fishing for flatheads is understanding two important characteristics. This hearty fish mainly eats live bait, and flatheads prefer running water like river current.

So this brings us to finding flatheads. Bigger waters like the Missouri River hold excellent places for finding flatheads. For example, L-dikes and wing dikes generally have scour holes found at the very end in the heaviest current. Locks on the Mississippi River have similar scour holes.

Flatheads love these areas because they can escape the heavy current while finding a natural oxygen content in the hole – in other words, a resting area where they can feel better. Brushpiles that touch the current are other likely spots.

Many are caught annually from the Missouri River, but that current is tough to fish and requires extra heavy tackle. Most fishermen use deep sea or snagging tackle in the Missouri or rivers equal its size.

But don’t be discouraged. Flatheads prefer a deep pool with a slow to moderate current. So this brings us to smaller rivers where you might have a chance of catching the big flathead you seek.

You can sometimes determine a deep hole on smaller rivers like the Osage or Platte by the steep-sloping bank that runs down to the water. Problem is, the constant running river water will carry mud, sand or brush into these holes and the hole may be filled.

But find such a spot that is deep, maybe because of the current, and you might have found your honey hole for big cats. Try fishing crawfish with pinchers removed around these holes with just enough slip weight to hold the bait in place. The current will still stretch your line out tight.

Rocky shorelines barely out of the current or in light current where rocks slip down into the water may be another possibility. Flatheads are famous for visiting such areas late at night for crawfish, small fish or the occasional nightcrawler that is struggling on the bottom. Dead bait is generally ignored.

Channel catfish and white cats are slightly different. You can fish lakes or ponds for these less particular species who will eat live or dead bait – generally the more stinky, the better.

I like to cast into spots where deep water is close to shallow. This could mean a submerged creek channel or simply a drop-off. Rocks on the lake bottom are good spots to try crawfish.

Shad sides or prepared stink baits are good too, but very stinky. But this nasty smell will bring Mr. Whiskers to your location in search of that nasty smelling meal. You can use medium to heavy tackle for both species, and I recommend the latter. You never know what is nibbling at your bait. I have watched 50-pounders nibble lightly like a bluegill.

I don’t have enough space to cover all aspects of fishing for big cats, but hopefully this will get you started. The first time you catch one, you will be just as hooked as the catfish.