Then he went back three days later and caught an even bigger one – a 42-pound, five-ounce bruiser that took over eight minutes to land.
“It was something to catch two cats that big so close together,” says Cash, who wasn’t even fishing for catfish – he was casting for bass.
He caught the first flathead on a Senko soft plastic and the other on a Strike King lure. He was using a standard bass outfit with 17-pound-test line.
“I’ve caught a lot of catfish – my boys and I enjoy jug-fishing for them -- but none anywhere this size,” Cash says. “They really fought on that light tackle.”
As big as Cash’s cats were, he says they are nowhere the lake record for flatheads, which is around 80 pounds. The state record flathead caught on sporting tackle is an 85-pounder hauled from the Hiwassee River in 1993.
Blue cats grow even bigger. A 92-pound blue was caught in Old Hickory Lake a couple of years ago, and the state-record blue cat weighed 112 pounds. It came from the Cumberland River Lock C area.
Cash, who teaches special education at Lillard Elementary School in Nashville, is a veteran angler who fishes almost daily.
“I keep my boat on the lake and I try to get in a little time every day, including after work,” he says. “I seldom miss a day.”
Cash fishes primarily for bass. His biggest Old Hickory largemouths are a couple of six-pounders.
He caught a spotted bass that weighed 5.22 pounds, which is close to the state record (6.1 pounds).
He releases all the fish he catches, expect for some smaller catfish taken while jug-fishing.
Cash was casting his Senko plastic lure along a rocky rip-rap bank near some submerged trees when he hooked the 31-pound flathead. Flatheads are known to lurk around submerged timber.
The second one caught three days later was about 500 yards from where the first one came from. That means the fish could have been a pair, which is not unusual for flatheads.
Flatheads are hard fighters, but their flesh is softer than the flesh of channel cats and blue cats and generally considered not as delectable.
Also, the bigger the catfish of all species, the more contaminates accumulate in their flesh over the years. For that reason, large cats are seldom kept for food.
“The fun is in the catching,” Cash says.
Cash says he likes knowing that the two big flatheads he released are still finning around in lake.
“Maybe I or someone else will catch them again,” he says.
By then they’ll be rested up and ready for another battle.