Missouri's BIG Game FISH
shank. I space them at 6-foot intervals on 18-inch drop lines made with #36, 280-pound test, nylon braid. I use a double figure-8 knot at each point on the main line for the staging. Each of these is attached to an 8/0 or larger brass barrel swivel.
The swivel is important because big catfish tend to spin and roll on the line. The large barrel swivel makes it simple to attach a pre-made stage line and hook with a simple loop rather than a knot. This makes it easy to remove the stage lines.
Each trotline has about six to eight stages with hooks. The main lines are weighted in the center, with the weight just touching the bottom of the lake. Old window sashes make perfect weights. I also use the weights from a barbell set that my kids used when they played high school football.
The two most important aspects of trotline fishing for big flatheads are setting the lines in the best habitat and tying knots that will hold a big fish. I was a Boy Scout leader in Moniteau County for 10 years. Each year I took the Scouts on an overnight float trip on the Lamine River, putting in at the Highway 50 access. I took live bait, usually goldfish or green sunfish, in a cooler with a battery powered aerator. We camped on a gravel bar and then tied up new trotlines.
Each Scout had to learn three knots. We used two halfhitches with a loop in the second hitch to tie the line to a tree stump, rock or some other sturdy object. The loop is important because it is easy to undo, especially in a heavy wind or other adverse conditions that seem to pop up whenever it's time to take the lines out of the water.
We used a square knot to join two lines of equal size together. It is easy to tie in a hurry as you set the lines. Trees and other suitable anchors never seem to space themselves at the perfect interval for a prefabricated trotline.
Finally, they learned the palomar knot for tying the hook to the stage line. Scout leaders are supposed to intuitively know how to tie knots. This is false. I learned knots by typing the keywords "fishing knots" into an Internet search engine. There are many good web sites with excellent diagrams for tying the knots I routinely