Most Americans love anything that’s big: movies, cars, motors, meals and events – and fishermen are no different. Home to huge flathead catfish, High Rock Lake gives them the opportunity to hook a fish that might exceed 50 pounds and can really stretch their lines, and it’s happening right now.

This past Sunday, three fishermen from Lexington – Steven Cutting, Tyler Mayhew and Kolt Whitley – revealed the tactics and equipment needed to catch these whiskered giants. They certainly have the know-how; they won the N.C. Catfish Association Tournament Series event at High Rock with three flatheads totaling 83.66 pounds, a haul anchored with a 35.60-pound flathead, a “mid-sized” fish by their standards.

Mayhew, who began targeting catfish from a pier with chicken livers at the age of 8, said that stout tackle was essential for flathead fishing.

“We use 7-foot, medium-heavy rods and Ambassadeur 6500 and 7000 reels with 30-pound test line for the main line,” he said. “Our leaders consist of 50-pound test line. Even with that heavy stuff, we‘ve had fish break off.”

A large net is also necessary, as well as a pair of work gloves to prevent cuts and bruises while handling the cantankerous cats that are known for twisting, turning and biting when grabbed.

Mayhew and his buddies use a Carolina rig consisting of an 18-inch leader tied to the main line with a heavy-duty barrel swivel, an inline 2- to 3-ounce egg sinker and a No. 5/0 Gamakatsu shiner hook.

For bait, they favor live, 8- to 9-inch white perch more than live shad, goldfish, or bream. They must be caught by hook-and line before being used as bait.

“We catch bigger flatheads with white perch,” said Mayhew, who once caught a flathead that pushed a set of scales to its 50-pound limit. “No telling how much that fish weighed, but it was a BIG fish.”

The trio anchors while fishing and targets places in four to 15 feet of water. Their flathead holes include points at creek mouths and the sides and edges of boat ramps, where prop backwash from boats has undercut the bank.

“The ideal place is a boat ramp situated on a point at the mouth of a creek,” said Mayhew. “Those places are quite scarce.”

While most summer fishing for flatheads takes place at night, Mayhew said the prime time runs two hours before dark and two hours before daylight.