Soft-Plastic Flattys

Keith Severns - Soft Plastic Flattys
Hello, fellow fishing brethren!  Spring is almost upon us and I hope you are as fired up as me about tusseling with some mammoth Flatties!  I have been chasing fish my whole life, but my world has been turned upside-down when I met the Flathead, and I’ve been addicted solid for the last 7 yrs. I have lived with one in my living room aquarium the past 2 yrs. Her name is Baby Girl, and she is family. What I want to do today is perhaps open a few minds to some different techniques and methods for targeting and fooling these amazing creatures with artificials.
     You see,  Flatheads are the top apex predators in most freshwater systems.  There is no reason to believe that they won’t smash a well presented artificial, just like any other big predator, such as Stripers, Muskies, Pike, etc.    You just have to try, and you have to have confidence, and you have to have a patient mind-set.  This is like Bass fishing on steroids with more of Musky man’s mind preparation to have only 0-4 bites on an outing.  Many are not cut out for this and simply give up too easily, but once you begin to think like a Flathead, it can become a huge part of the arsenal.
Soft Plastic Flats
    I will begin our journey with what I like to call my 1-2 Soft Plastic Punch!  These 2 presentations have caught me more Flatheads than any other artificials, so I am saving the best for first!  Tie on your favorite jig (1/2oz to 2oz, depending on depth, current, etc.)  Tie a  smaller jig in line about 18-24″ above your first. Now you basically have a drop-shot rig.  Adorn these jigheads with any combination of Gulp products.  The Scents released by the Gulp is a serious factor to sucess, and ALL species love them, and NO, I am not a Berkely Gulp Rep! Lol. This stuff just flat works, Jack!  I naturally put a bigger offering on the bottom (such as a 10″
Berkley Saltwater Gulp Eel
…. the Eel doubles as a big baitfish)  “chasing” the smaller offering on the top jig (such as a 5 or 6″ Berkley Gulp Saltwater Jerk Shad).  One major misconception about Flatheads,,, is that they are mostly bottom dwellers. Well, hear ye, hear ye,,,,, When Flatties are on the hunt, they will most definately use the ENTIRE water column, and this double jig rig will follow suit!
    This beauty of this rig is the versatility.   You can simply cast it and retreive it at various speeds. You can count it down to various depths, all the while throwing in erratic twitches, pauses, or yo-yo’s You can pitch it and let it “flutter-fall on semi-slack line next to all likely hangouts and ambush spots.  You can do vertical jigging techniques, (sometimes aggressive, sometimes subtle), You can work the bottom over by slow-hopping or dragging.  You can even just kill it and dead-stick it for a bit, and then just shake, shake, shake, in place to make the top bait quiver in place. On windy days, I even like to put a float above the jigs and let the wind and waves go to work for me and “drift” and dance and undulate these offerings parallel along edge highways such as a stump row, bridge abutment, riprap, weedlines, etc.   This presentation is also great because it catches actively feeding (positive) fish and neutral fish alike.    A neutral fish will not chase nor travel over to a bait, but a neutral fish can sometimes not resist these Gulp offerings suspended over their heads!
       The 2nd part of the 1-2 punch is the venerable Crawdad!  The Flatty-Crayfish connection begins early in a Flattie’s life.  A baby Flatty must hide well for the first couple years of it’s life.  It usually does so under rocks or boulders. After it reaches a few inches in length, a big part of its diet is crawdads.  Flatheads naturally need to start dining on bigger meals as they get bigger, but they never lose their flavor for their favorite crustacean.  Think if of them like candy to a Flatty,  or dessert!  Even if a Flatty has already fed himself full for the night, they find it hard to resist a fat crawdad crawling by.
    Once again, SCENT plays a major factor in all my Flatty presentations, whether hardbaits or softbaits.  Yes, you can catch a Flatty on unscented artificials, but come on,,, play the odds,,,, a Flatty is one big swimming sensory organ!  I soak all my soft plastic Crawdads in Crayfish oils until they are infused!  Some plastic formulations take months to infuse, so I always have different batches soaking. I will sometimes add some garlic salt with the crayfish oils.
    Also, you need the biggest soft-plastic crawdads you can find! I have caught plenty on some 5″ classics like the Berkley PowerBait Chigger Craw (already scented)and NetBait Paca Craws, but these arn’t big enough to Grab the attention of the big girls.  I had to find a custom guy in town, and he made me some 7.5in beauties with some giant flappin’ pincers for that ever-important water displacement and vibrations to sound off to the Flathead’s ultimate hunting tool……It’s incredible lateral line!
     I either fish these solo and Texas rigged, or I put them on the back of a big, skirted, weedless jig for an even bigger profile, and even though my plastics are infused with the crayfish oils, I still give them re-freshers every 10min or rub them down with the crawfish flavored smelly jelly.  That is how important I believe in the scent factor.
     Either rigging can be pitched or dropped into the gnarliest of cover without much fear of snagging.  What a great method to work over a big brush pile or log jam.  Simply dop your “dad” into an opening. Let it settle to bottom, pause,  Give it  couple of hops or a shake and pause on bottom again.  NO thunderous THUMP?? Simply pitch or drop it into the next opening and systematically pic it apart.   Need stout gear for this method. Get their head up quick and get them outta there fast before they realize what is going on and they wrap you!! Easier said than done.  Now, while this can work good in wood, I have had my best sucess in the rocks.  After all, that is a crawdad’s main habitat. Riprap, Boulders, concrete chunks and slabs,,,,, any rocky outcroppings-the bigger, the better.  I follow these rock edges and slow-hop or crawl the crawdads all over,  every once in a while sweeping or ripping the crawdad. These sweeps really gets those pincers flapping(send out good vibes) and can cause reaction strikes from the escaspe mechanism, or just grab the attention of a nearby fish.
       Well, that’s just a couple of things to think about if you want to expand your Flathead Arsenal.  It is basically Odds fishing. And by that, I mean I am playing the odds.  I am not sitting in one or two spots all night waiting for countless hours for a fish to come to me.  I am stealthily cruising in my float tube, covering 20x the water, covering 20x the feeding flats, covering 20x  the edge highways and ambush points,,,,, thus putting my offerings in front of way more Flatheads.
      These methods have worked in many diverse waterways. This has worked in shallow, murky creeks and this has worked in big, deep, crystal-clear Sandpits, and everything in between–streams, rivers, canals, and lakes. I sincerely hope some of you will give artificials a shot.  Its not easy and no guarantee, but the rewards are great.  And who knows, if this catches on,  maybe one day there will be artificial-only Flathead tournaments, sponsorships, etc.
But I hope the main thing would be that it would open up the general public’s minds and people could gain respect for this species seen by many as a bottom dwelling “trash” fish.   Maybe this true “sportfish” status would open many eyes to importance of the conservation of this majestic creature and people would more often catch&release and there would be a lot more fish in that elusive 80-100lb class swimming in our waterways.  If there is any interest,  I could do some more write-ups about different lure categories and presentations or Flathead observations and behaviors.

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13 Responses to “Soft-Plastic Flattys”

  1. mike nation
    February 23, 2014 at 2:43 pm #

    I love that kind of thinking always looking for new ways to catch fish.I have caught several channel cat’s using crank baits,but never thought of trying that for flatheads.

  2. Craig
    February 23, 2014 at 4:50 pm #

    Hey thanks for the tips! I really enjoy catfishing because of thier size and the tremendous power but I often get board waiting for them to come to me. I don’t know how to find them like I do bass. I have caught channels on black spinnerbaits not sure why but never flatties. It’s good to know that I can move about to spots and fish it with big plastics and not have to get out the bait and the rigging that goes with it.

  3. Michael Dawson
    February 23, 2014 at 5:14 pm #

    I have fished side by side this Mr. Keith and can assure you that he speaks the truth.

  4. Chad Ferguson
    February 23, 2014 at 8:20 pm #

    Good article Matt.

    It’s interesting very few people talk about anything other then traditional live baits for flatheads but given the right location and time artificials can be deadly.

    My favorite technique involves crankbaits. I can catch more flatheads using crankbaits during a short period of the year than that I can any other time using any other technique.

    Greta work. Thanks for sharing!

    • Catfishadmin
      February 24, 2014 at 9:42 pm #

      Thanks Chad. Keith did a great job on this! I am excited to have him write for me again.

  5. dee-jayy
    March 4, 2014 at 10:53 pm #

    I’ve caught several flatheads on soft plastic rubber worms while bass fishing! I love catfishing and they definitely dnt get the respect they deserve!!

  6. Mr. Whiskers
    April 1, 2014 at 2:12 pm #

    There are no flatheads here in Calif. but I am going to try this on the monster channels I catch here the lake I fish is mostly large rocky bottom and is full of crayfish the really big ones I catch are with a fresh dead 5″ to 6″ bluegill sprayed with dead red scent went last Thursday night and I caught 25 fish between 15 and 30lbs and broke off two I never saw I night fish and never use any weight just cast it out let it settle to the bottom and stand by the action is about to begin.

    • Catfishadmin
      July 23, 2014 at 8:11 pm #

      Keith, that wrote this article is a pro with plastics and catches quite a few really nice channels on them. I have caught several over the years on plastics, spinners, and hard baits…just never on purpose lol.

  7. Alyssa Miller
    July 25, 2014 at 10:33 pm #

    Awesome article very descriptive and educational!!!… I can’t wait to try out some artificals!!!…. Flatheads definitely do not get the respect they deserve hope this helps people see they are more of a sport fish than people think!!!… You did great Keith!!!.. Hopefully we get to stretch a line together sometime soon!!!

  8. Randall Scott
    September 24, 2014 at 3:37 pm #

    I find this article quite amazing. Through the years I have landed numerous blues and many channels on artificial baits by accident(pleasantly surprising accidents I might add) while bass fishing. But I never dreamed of intentionally targeting cats with artificials! Crankbaits have yielded many but by far the most effective has been a soft plastic crawdad. And as Keith Severns stated, they just don’t make ’em “big enough to Grab the attention of the big girls.” Below is a link to the Most Effective artificial bait that I have ever used for bass or the “accidental” cat. In most all reviews you will see nothing but 5* ratings. Although it is a good bait for big large and smallmouth bass, it doesn’t seem to produce cats over the 10-15lb. class. A 6-7in. would bring in “the big girls.”
    Thanks for a most informative article on a little known technique!

  9. roy
    December 7, 2014 at 2:22 am #

    didn’t have enough sense to keep going, when i caught a 10lb apaloosa on a black jig…sure was good eating

  10. Tony
    June 9, 2015 at 9:44 pm #

    I have used gulp for years and never caught anything to brag about. I use 7-10 inch squid and saltwater shrimp under a float
    and nothing will bite. Maybe it’s a river bite because I only fish pay
    lakes and big lakes with flatheads and blues. I have bought this
    stuff in buckets of Gulp so I know it has soaked long enough.
    I fished Gulp last week for six hours all over the lake and caught
    nothing. My other pole fished in the same area with salmon and
    garlic hotdogs caught a 25 lb blue.

    • Catfishadmin
      June 24, 2015 at 9:42 pm #

      You may want to try adding them to a jig head and drag and bounce them along the bottom. Rocky areas are usually good places to try. They need movement to be effective.

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