Targeting Flathead Catfish With Ty Konkle
By Phillip Gentry
Depending on where you’re from, you might refer to Ty Konkle’s favorite fish as a yellow catfish, a mottled catfish or even just a Mud cat. As a part time fishing guide with full on flathead catfish fever, Konkle doesn’t mind what you call them.
Speaking of calling, Konkle’s guide service phone is ringing off the hook from calls from angler’s wanting to get in on the action.
“Flathead fishing is almost at its peak right now,” said Konkle, a B’n’M catfish pro-staffer who operates FV Catfish guide service. “”It’s prime time right before the spawn and we’ve really been catching some good ones.”
Konkle’s home waters are along the Tennessee/Alabama border, fishing Lakes Chickamauga and Nickajack in Tennessee and Lake Guntersville in Alabama. He said flatheads in the waters of the Tennessee River are getting shallow this time of year preparing for the spawn.
“The first of May in this area these fish will be in 15 – 20 feet of water moving shallow to get ready for the spawn,” he said. “Once they start spawning, they’ll be in really shallow water, like 4 or 5 feet deep.”
Massive flatheads will move into water as little as 4 feet deep preparing for the spawning season.
While most catfish tend to get lumped into the category of bottom dwellers, Konkle said the flathead is not only a bottom dweller, but a highly structure oriented fish as well. During the pre-spawn, flatheads tend to roam a little more because they are feeding up, but during and after the spawn, they’re going to hug tight to cover.
“Blue catfish will roam and even suspend up in the water and so will channel catfish, but it’s very important to find structure and fish tight to it if you’re after flatheads,” he said.
Konkle rigs the new B’n’M Silver Cat Magnum 1 piece bait casting rod with a standard Carolina rig when he’s fishing before and during the spawn. He pairs the rod with a Team Catfish Gold Baitcast reel spooled with 30 pound Slime Line mono.
The rig uses a 4/0 – 6/0 no roll sinker and an 8/0 Team Catfish Double Action circle hook on either end of a 3 foot length of 60 pound leader. The heavy weight is needed to keep the bait in place in current. He’ll spread 6 of these out, fan-casting around the boat so he’s covering multiple depths.
Konkle uses a standard Carolina rig with a no-roll sinker during the pre-spawn and spawning seasons for flathead catfish.
“Technically, I am fishing in the reservoir, but I’m in the upper ends where there good current coming out of whatever dam is above where I’m fishing,” he said.
Konkle’s bait of choice for pre and spawn flathead catfishing is a tossup between cut skipjack herring and cut white bass. While flatheads have a well-known reputation for eating whole live baits later in the year, he said cut bait is the best choice now.
“I’m looking for sections of water that have deeper water in the area of secondary structure – blow downs and laydowns and stumps,” said Konkle. “When spawning season arrives, then I’m looking for steep muddy banks with structure I can see. That’s where they’ll back in there and hollow out a nest.”
After the spawn, Konkle will vary his fishing methods for flatheads between suspend drifting, using the same rods and the same set-up he uses for anchored out fishing. Instead of anchoring, he’ll let the boat go with the flow and keep his baits about a turn or two off the bottom.
Once the spawn is over, Konkle fishes either by suspended drifting with the current or by bumping.
The guide said suspend drifting works best in areas that have sections of isolated cover. In heavier cover he will bump for flatheads.
“Bumping for flatheads is very similar to the bumping or back bouncing techniques the blue catfish guys use,” he said. “I use the B’n’M Bumping rods and a three way rig which give me a lot better feel for the bottom because I’m going to be bumping in really heavy cover and need to stay in contact with the bait and the bottom.”
For more information or to plan a trip with Ty Konkle at FV Catfish Guide Service, he can be reached at 423-307-2983 or via his website at fv-catfish.com/
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