If you asked anglers about the first few species that come to mind when they think about fishing with floats, the answers would be exceptionally diverse. Flathead catfish probably would not rank high on many lists, but in fact a certain type of float (specifically a large Thill Weighted Pole Float) can be exceptionally helpful for effectively presenting baits to flatheads.

Unlike other popular kinds of catfish, flatheads are predators, not scavengers. They hunt live meals instead of just following their whiskers to find dead stuff. That means live bait tends to work best and that it is best presented just off the bottom.

When it’s practical to position a boat directly over flatheads that have been marked with a graph or a structure that should hold fish, the most effective way to suspend baits is with the rods in holders and the lines going straight down to sliding-sinker rigs weighted with an once or so of weight and with a live baitfish hooked on a big circle hook at the end of an 18-inch leader.

Several situations prohibit setting up directly over the fish, though. Many of the best night-fishing spots are too shallow and would put the boat too close to the fish, and in many river spots, current or cover are prohibitive to this approach. Meanwhile, bank fishermen cannot set up directly over the fish in most places.

That’s where a 9- or 12-inch Weighted Pole Float comes into play. Because these are slip floats, they can be set to suspend a rig at any depth and can still be cast or allowed to drift downstream to a spot, and the 12-inch model will suspend up to 1 3/4 ounces of weight. Getting the depth right can take a bit of experimentation, but once it is set, you can place live bait exactly where it needs to be, and then it just becomes a waiting game.

When the float suddenly shoots out of sight, it means the same thing as it does when you are panfishing. The only difference is that instead of a 1-pound crappie, there might be a 50-pound flathead at the business end of the line!