Severns is shown here admiring the catch of the day. A nice flattie caught on an artificial presentation. (Keith Severns Photo)
Tips for Catching Flatheads from Float Tubes Part 1
by Ron Presley
Using artificial baits for flatheads adds a challenge to catching them.
Note: Keith Severns has a passion for flatheads. That passion has led him to study their behavior and use what he learned to catch them. This is the first of a two-part series where he shares his tips and techniques. Part 2 follows in the April 2021 issue of CatfishNOW.
Flatheads are his favorite fish to target and Severns is known for his ability to chase them down in his float tube and fool them with artificial baits near his Kansas stomping grounds around Wichita. Fortunately for the rest of us, he enjoys sharing what he’s learned so others can catch flatheads too.
Like any angler who has fished with tandem lures, Keith Severns has caught many doubles in his time on the water. But one time his double turned out to be special and it demonstrates how well his tactics work.
“I was vertical jigging a double jig rig,” recalled Severns. “I had a 4-inch Gulp minnow on the bottom jig chasing a 3-inch Gulp minnow about 15 inches above it. One day, on a flutter-fall drop, I felt the tale-tale super-thump of a flathead.”
He said the fish felt huge, but the fight felt strange as if the fish was pulling in all directions at the same time. After about 10 minutes he found out why as he rebuked the solitary behavior theory that biologists often affix to flatheads.
“I had caught two 14-pound flatheads at the same time,” he said! “I had previously caught many doubles of different species with this rig, but this was special to me because they were flatheads.”
That experience proved what he already knew. Flatheads often hunt together in small packs. This is just one more flathead “myth” that has been shattered by hardcore anglers that live and breathe fishing for flatties.
“It is very challenging to find and catch flatheads with any kind of consistency,” advised Severns. “But the challenges are what makes it so rewarding. Well, that, and the insane float tube rides while barely hanging on to the tube with one leg and getting pulled around in 360-degree circles. When a big flatty is ready to do battle the float tube rides are out of this world!”
Why Float Tubes
According to Severns, there is something special about being halfway in the water and almost totally in the fish’s elements while chasing flatheads. It definitely increases the challenge, but the use of a float tube also benefits the angler.
“I can’t imagine a more stealthy and maneuverable method for presenting my false offerings of lures,” noted Severns. “It helps me create an intimate understanding of the flathead’s behaviors and subtle nuances. I imagine myself as a flathead while I am hunting them. My ultimate goal is to be able to think exactly like a flathead.”
Another benefit of float tube fishing is the amount of water that becomes reachable to anglers. Severns often treks in long distances to get to wooly and wild creeks that are skinny and heavy-laden with timber. A float tube is lightweight for the walk and great for exploring any hard-to-reach or hard-to-navigate places that you simply can’t reach in a boat.
Float Tube Strategy
Severns uses a strategy that keeps him on the move most of the time. He feels that he is upping his odds by simply covering more water and covering more likely hotspots. In turn, it means that he is putting his offerings in front of more fish than if he was just fishing one small area with live bait.
“Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy a variety of methods for catching big cats,” admitted Severns. “The float tubing is hard work, so sometimes I enjoy sitting on a bank with a fire and few brews and just relaxing while I wait for fish to come to me. But there is something inside me that just finds it more challenging and rewarding to hunt these fish down and fool them with artificial offerings.”
Sometimes it may take several hours, and several miles of water covered, but he can usually find an active fish or two. If not, he usually gets one to commit to a reaction or impulse bite.
“I fish all manner of waterways from tiny creeks to large reservoirs,” said Severns. “But no matter what water I am on, I try to cruise along feeding routes. This usually means edge lines. This could be a weed-edge, a ditch, a ledge, a break line, the edges and tips of points, a bridge abutment, the edges of riprap or any rocky outcroppings, or even just good-looking shoreline edges.”
He prefers edges that are in proximity to both shallow and deep water. These are the perfect feeding routes. He also pays special attention to pinch-points or funnel areas, seawalls, or any other likely areas where a predator would find it easy to trap bait to feed.
“Of course, anglers should always stop to fish any cover they run across,” advised Severns. “If I run into a logjam on the river I will slowly and methodically dissect it. I circumvent the outside edges and then work my way to the middle. If I come upon a bridge, I will do the same thing with every column or piling.”
Severns’s strategy revolves around where to go and how deep to fish while always thinking about where the most bait would be at any given time.
Editor’s Note: This series continues in April 2021 where Severns describes tactics, lures, presentations, scents, and rattles in Part 2 of Float Tube Flatties.