Sport fishing for flathead catfish using either rod and reel, limb lines, or bare hands (noodling) can be an exciting pastime. Anglers target this species in a variety of waterways, including small rivers (barely large enough for a canoe), large rivers (such as the Missouri, Mississippi, Ohio, and Colorado Rivers), and reservoirs. A common element of flathead catfish location is submerged wood cover such as logs and rootwads which often collect at bends in rivers. A good flathead spot usually also includes relatively deep water compared to the rest of a particular section of river, a moderate amount of current, and access to plentiful baitfish such as river herring, shad, carp, drum, panfish, or suckers. Anglers targeting large flathead catfish usually use stout tackle such as medium-heavy or heavy action rods from 6–10 ft (1. 8–3. 0 m) in length with large line-capacity reels and line ranging from 20–80 pounds-force (89–356 N) test breaking strength. Generally large live baits are preferred such as river herring, shad, sunfish (such as bluegill), suckers, carp, goldfish, drum, and bullheads ranging from 5–12 in (13–30 cm) in length.
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