Floats for Flatties
by Glenn Flowers
Step outside the box and try a float rig for flatheads.
The number of ways to target flatheads on rod and reel are finite. Lures are making their way into the flathead community but we are still basically left with bottom fishing rigs. They include Carolina rigs, Texas rigs, three-way rigs, knocker rigs, and so on.
Up until a few years ago, even float fishing was rather limited, but today there are many floats on the market that can increase your flathead catch ratio tremendously. Float fishing for flatheads is not new, it’s been around for years, however, I would like to think some of the tactics used today has evolved in many ways.
While fishing a tournament a while back a man by the name of Chad Lippoldt gave me a few of his homemade floats to try. They were basically pool noodles with end caps glued on and a tiny hole to your line to run through. I was intrigued by this design. I could easily see how this float could tackle some of the issues that I ran into in the past.
In my mind, the idea of floats for flathead fishing is not necessary to keep the bait far above the bottom. It is very much the opposite. I pictured keeping the bait as close to the bottom as I could while using the float as a vessel to keep my bait moving, covering ground, while intercepting active flatheads.
The floats that Chad had made were perfect for this application. They were big enough to keep a substantial amount of weight afloat, yet light enough to not feel over bulky when trying to strategically place baits.
The floats were a success. I mentioned little of the floats publicly. Selfishly I wanted all the action to myself, or at least until I perfected this method of bait presentation. I’m here to tell you, that just like with floats for bullheads, floats for flatheads absolutely do work, and they work well.
I rig my floats based on current speed and bait size. The idea is to find a flat where flatheads will be actively feeding, preferably with little current. Also, I use them in an area that has some sort of eddy or backwash.
Using a Team Catfish Mighty Wide Hook, I snell it to an 80-pound leader tied to a 2/0 swivel. The Mighty Wide hooks are similar in appearance to Kahle hooks which are basically a live bait hook. They have a wide gap that’s needed for increased hookups when live-bait fishing, especially when your bait is many yards behind the boat.
Above my swivel I use a sinker slide. The slide keeps my weight from scratching up my main line which consists of 80-pound Tug-o-War Line. My weights will range from 1/0 to 4/0. If I need anything more than that the current is too swift. Before setting up I determine the depth in which I’ll be working my floats. I use a bobber stopper to set my float to position the bait just inches off the bottom. This will allow for a sweeping action as the current consistently moves my bait around.
Another key to rigging up the float for flatheads adapts it to day or night fishing. This method can and will work during the day, but more often than not I’m flathead fishing at night. So, I attach a small glow tip atop the float. That light insures clear visibility at great distances. There is something very special about working that bait through a fishing hole and seeing that glow stick vanish beneath the surface of the water. It’s very exhilarating to witness.
I prefer bluegills or some other type of sunfish when fishing floats for flatheads. Call me old school, but I’m a believer in the gills. While many baits work well for flatheads, few produce consistently like gills. I have tried bullheads, large shiners, and shad with success. Bottom line, if it’s all you got, and it’s alive and kicking, run em’.
I have not tried fishing with floats in lakes. I’m certain, without a doubt, not only will it work, but it would and could possibly out fish other types of bottom fishing methods for flatheads.
Another tip is to avoid the timber. I know, this sounds unlike anything a flathead fishermen would say, right? But it’s true. Fallen timber will be detrimental to your float fishing success. The current, amplified by the kicking of your bait, will not end well. Your rig will find every snag laying on the bottom and it won’t be long before you are out of floats.
Anglers should spend a considerable amount of time finding and avoiding the flats, creek mouths, and eddies that have snags where your floats will be working. It’s okay to have piles of timber just behind the drift zones because the flatheads will leave those snags and start to work the flat in search of prey.
Catfish floats are available anywhere online or you can make your own. Make sure to keep them in your tackle box, and just like with your favorite lure, they will require practice. I won’t sit here and tell you that you will go out and slay flatheads with floats immediately. You must practice not only where you fish with the floats but how to work the floats properly.
I no longer go to the water without floats rigged on my rods for flatheads. In years past I would fish up to 12 rods at one time. Today, I actively fish fewer rods. By actively fishing, I mean holding the rod and working the bait. I’ll set my bottom rig out and then pick up my float rig (If the location calls for it). I’ll work the bait through the hole I’m fishing.
Using floats in this way has proven to be extremely effective on flatheads. Proper use of floats produces high numbers of fish and makes some very memorable flathead fishing experiences. Once mastered, you will have all of your fishing buddies asking how you are catching so many flatheads.
Good luck, and if you have any questions, find me on Facebook. I’ll be more than willing to help answer any that you may have.