Flatheads and Log Jams
A new technique for catching trophy Flathead Cats on the Trinity River has evolved after years of fishing for the wary sport fish. Almost by accident I began targeting Flatheads and log jams. While fishing for Black Bass in log jams off of the Trinity river last summer I caught several big Ops in the 10 -20lb. Class. While it is not uncommon to take a big cat on artificial lure a pattern seemed to develop. I f Flatheads would occasionally take a plastic crawfish dropped in a opening in a log jam what would happen using the same technique with a live crawfish or live perch. Carolina rigging the bottom with live bait in cut banks and sand bars produces fish, however dropping a live bait in a log jam , I thought has got to be effective. I began to refine the technique specifically geared to hauling a big cat out of the submerged tangle of a log jam.
Big cats will hold tight to log jams using the wood for shade and cover lying in ambush waiting for unsuspected prey. The log jams big cats prefer are always over deep water 14-30ft. on cut banks. Find a log jam that extends out away from the bank over a deep hole and it will hold Flatheads. The elusive fish will suspend from 4-10ft. down depending on oxygen levels and water temperature. The warmer the water in the spring the more aggressive the fish will be.
Similar to fishing for Black Bass the technique involves silently easing the bow of the boat into a log jam and dropping a live bait into openings in the jam. Try several spots in the jam, fishing quietly and methodically before moving. Keep your rod tip low to the water level and line tight. Strikes are often sudden, aggressive and powerful. A strong quick hook set is needed to turn a fish and hoarse him out of the brush. Any slack line and a big cat will surge through the jam tangling and cutting monofilament line.
Fishing vertically in log jams calls for heavy tackle. A good quality bait casting reel with a tight drag set is a must. Rig it on a 5 ˝’ heavy action rod. The short rod will give you better control of your bait making it easier to drop a bait vertically into a small hole and provide a quick strong hook set. Corks are not necessary although a cigar type float with a preset depth can be helpful to some anglers. Spool your reel with 40lb. Mono or 20lb braided line. Rig for the big cats with a Carolina rig using a 3/16th oz bullet weight with the weight turned backwards the pointed end up sliding above a black barrel swivel. You want the concave end of the bullet weight to ride snugly on the swivel. Peg the weight with a tooth pick to prevent it from slipping. This will help minimize getting hung up in the brush. Make your leader 8-10” in length, no longer using 20lb.flourocarbon leader line. The short leader will enable you to control the rig better and prevent live bait from tangling in limbs. Fluorocarbon leader line is less visible providing a more natural presentation of live bait. Tie on a #2 or #3 khale or “stinger hook”. Baits that have worked best for me in log jams are live perch and live crawfish. Size is important, use a bait in the 3-4” class . Fresh bait is imperative. Flat Head Cats will rarely take a dead bait. Hook a perch in the middle of the back, never in the tail. This keeps the bait perpendicular in the water and more natural looking. Hook a crawfish in the horn avoiding his brain to prevent killing the bait. Remove the pinchers on crawfish so they cannot grab and hold on to limbs. The strike of a Flathead in a log jam is powerful and heart stopping. A fish hooked on short line in a log jam is what we call “green and on a short leash”.
Heavy tackle is a must to prevent a fish from going deep in the jam, tangling and cutting mono. A trophy fish hung up can be trouble, you have to put pressure on them and get them out quick.
Recently, fishing the Trinity River I dropped a live crawfish into a log jam. The bait never stopped as a fish grabbed it and headed deep. I engaged the reel and hammered a hook set on the heavy action rod. The water boiled, my line stretched but I was to slow. The fish, in a instant had buried deep into the brush and was hung up. I could tell it was a good fish as I tried to give him slack in dim hopes of the fish untangling himself. We see sawed back in forth for what seemed like an eternity. I could feel him thumping when I put pressure on. I just new my line was going to break as I could feel it chaffing on a log. There was only one thing left to try as sweat was now running down my forehead. I applied all the pressure I could muster, a limb broke the fish freed and the battle was on. However, nearing the surface the fish hung again. My heart dropped, so close but yet so far. I rested as the see saw battle resumed. The fish was now only a few feet from the surface. Frustrated I sat the rod down, I’M GOING IN AFTER HIM, I told my partner. Just grab me by the belt of my pants I instructed as I slid head first over the side of the boat holding my breath. Under water, I found my line and followed it to a limb. Reaching the limb I went deeper, grabbed it and pulled. The limb broke and the fish freed. My partner pulled me back into the boat by my britches. I grabbed the rod and cranked. Now, the exhausted fish came to the surface, I eased my hand under his gills and heaved him into the boat.
Finley I had won the battle, admiring the 15lb. Flat head Cat.
Reflecting on this experience I am certain. Log Jamming for Flat Head Cat Fish is a exciting fun way to fish and is a technique that works for me on the Trinity River in east Tx. and will work on similar river systems throughout the country.
Proper river conditions, good technique, equipment, tackle and fresh live bait will produce Flatheads in the Log Jams for you like it has for me. This is one of the most exciting and productive ways to catch a giant cat.
Palmetto Guide Service
|Dave Cox of Palmetto Guide Service is a regular contributor to the Lake Livingston edition of the Texas Sportsguide. This article has previously appeared in that publication.|
Dave Cox/Palmetto Guide Service
He’s got it!” I spoke excitedly as I watched the 20lb. line move off through the flooded vegetation. “ Give -em a good hook set,” I coached. Then, with the power of the Falcon Lowrider Casting rod a solid hook was set and the battle was on. “ Let off the drag that’s a good fish, play him down, keep steady pressure I encouraged.” The water boiled near the Ranger boat and tense moments played out as I finely lipped the 4.3/4lb. Black Bass for my excited client. There were hugs of joy as we took pictures of the trophy fish. “Thank you Dave,” the gentlemen spoke, “this is the largest fish of my career.”
Later that day as we headed back to Bethy Creek Resort spirits were high and I felt that I had done my job as a Black Bass fishing guide on Lake Livingston. I recalled earlier that morning at day light when I spoke about technique, equipment and lure choices. It had all come together for a successful trip.
“Bass fishing is about specifics and good equipment is essential for success,” as I spoke to the gentlemen and his young son. “Today we will be fishing Texas rigged Bear Paws Plastic Creature Baits and using Falcon Graphite rods. Confidence is a major part of fishing and that is what you get with Bear Paws and Falcon rods.”
Bear Paws, the secret of the pros for years is finely out. www.BEARPAWSHANDPOUREDBAITS.com has splashed into Lake Livingston grabbing fish for myself and my clients. Over 85% of professional Bass fishermen fish with hand poured baits and do a lot of damage when it comes to fishing big tournaments. These baits are on the cutting edge and very secretive among the pros. Bear Paws are poured one bait at a time, not mass-produced for your benefit of a consistent pour every time. Bear Paws are durable with a life like natural texture and a chance to catch multiple fish on one bait. Bear Paws plastic is made with different types of salt and spices added to the mix and are now fortified with Mega Strike, the best amino acids (proteins) in the world. Proteins are necessity for fish to survive and the introduction of Mega Strike (www.megastrike.com) in Bear Paws baits allows the fish to not only accept the presentation of the bait but also, accept the the smell of the amino acids in the baits for the fish to hold on to the bait longer for a proper hook set. Bear Paws not only catch fish but they are an experience and they come with a personnel touch. Bear Paws will customize baits to your specifications.
Successful Bass fishing is about specifics and attention to details. Technique, quality equipment and lure choices all came together for success on this recent guided trip on Lake Livingston. Falcon Rods and Bear Paws hand poured baits will be grabbing Black Bass for me on my guide trips and tournament fishing from now on.
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