The flathead catfish bite at Lake Wylie has been strong the past couple of weeks, according to Rock Hill's Rodger Taylor of Catfish On Guide Service.
In fact, his son, Jeff, landed the biggest fish of his life on a recent after-dark excursion.
"We usually catch one to three flatheads per trip," Taylor said. "And while that doesn't seem like a lot, the size has been incredible. In general, I'd say you can catch one in the 15- to 30-pound range on any given night right now."
For bait, Taylor (www.catfishon.com) suggests using live white perch on an 8/0 hook with heavy tackle. While some people prefer to use cut bait, Taylor said that you cut down your bycatch of blues and channel cats if you stick with the live bait. He prefer a heavy-duty freshwater rod topped with an Ambassador 7000 series reel spooled with 30-pound test line.
"It seems the best time to catch those big flatheads has been about an hour to an hour-and-a-half after the sun goes down," he said. "And you can catch a flathead on cut bait – no doubt about it – but if you're really targeting the flatheads, I'd definitely recommend using the live perch."
Flatheads aren't the only game in town right now. Overall, blues and channel catfish have been on the bite and are producing some good numbers.
"In general, I'm fishing from about daylight until 11 a.m. and of course, some nighttime fishing," Taylor said. "I usually leave the mid-day to the skiers and recreational boaters and fish before and after traffic on the lake has died down some. I had a group out Saturday, and we caught a mixture of about 30 blues and channel cats. About two years ago, you might catch one blue, and yesterday I caught seven. They're really becoming established on Lake Wylie."
If you want to target the blues and channel catfish, Taylor recommends drifting the main channel. Recently, he said the best depth is between 10 to 17 feet, but that changes on a daily basis.
"The bait we use for drifting is cut gizzard shad cut into four different pieces," Taylor said. "Sometimes the gut piece works better than the head, but the head is easier to hook and seems to produce bigger fish. And sometimes, even bluegill works as bait. I usually like to carry two or three kinds of bait, because you just never know what'll work better."
Taylor prefers a lighter setup for the channel and blues and uses a 5000-series Ambassador topped with 20-pound test.
"It's a lighter setup, and the fish definitely play better on the lighter tackle," he said. "You're looking at catching a fish from 2 1/2 pounds to 10 to 12 pounds, and that's a nice fight on the lighter tackle."
One piece of advice Taylor has for those who use the circle hooks: Make sure you check how sharp your hook is periodically, especially if you get hung up and have to pull free.
"It's easy to want to get your bait back in the water, but a lot of times if you feel the hook it won't be sharp especially after a hang up," he said. "It doesn't take much to get a sharp point on it, but if you don't it'll cost you."