While North Carolina’s High Rock Lake is noted for its bass fishing, its flathead catfish population flourishes without much fanfare.

“The Rock is loaded with flatheads.... I accidentally catch them while slow-trolling in the summer for channels cats,” said guide Maynard Edwards of Lexington, N.C. (336-249-6782). “Slow-trolling isn’t the best way to catch flatheads, nor do they prefer the cut shad I use for channel cats; flatheads want live bait.” 

When Edwards wants to target flatheads specifically, he changes tactics and baits.

“Flatheads linger in deep holes near the upper end of the lake,” he said. “There are deep holes at the mouths of Second and Crane creeks and at the mouths of what are locally known as the Doctor’s Neck and Sailboat Neck.” 

Instead of trolling, Edwards anchors and sets out Carolina-rigged outfits sampling depths 12 feet or shallower.

Edwards equips himself with stout tackle, knowing that the next bite might come from a belligerent cat weighing 20 pounds or more. He uses medium-heavy, 7-foot baitcasting rods and matching reels filled with 20-pound monofilament. A 3-ounce no-roll weight and a 4-foot leader of 20-pound monofilament with a circle hook completes the Carolina rig.

He hooks the biggest live perch, bream or shad he can get behind the dorsal fin to serve as bait.

While they can be caught during the heat of the day, Edwards said the best flathead bite occurs just before dark.

The N.C. Catfish Tournament Series holds summer events at High Rock at night, and angler Kevin Custer of Statesville arrives early to catch bream and white perch for bait.

“The best bait is fresh and lively,” said Custer, who hooks bream and white perch through the forehead with a No. 8/0 Gamakatsu Octopus circle hook at the end of an 18- to 22-inch double line leader of 30-pound Stren High Impact line. A 3-inch in-line float attached to the leader keeps the bait off the bottom. The leader is connected to his 35-pound test main line via a barrel swivel with a tear-drop sinker and bead added Carolina style.

Night-fishing gear includes a head lamp to see around the boat, glow sticks adhered to rod tips with zip ties and mosquito repellent.

Custer favors Abbotts Creek and fishes in 12 feet of water or less, anchoring within casting distance of the bank.

In August NCCATS tournaments, fishermen have frequently caught 3-fish stringers topping 100 pounds.