Bait / Natural & Artificial Strategies

doormat sized flatfish caught by an effective bait
Doormats aplenty in Louisiana. No “BP” spills, but don’t miss seeing the oil wells {left}.

The world of flatfish is vast, varied and confusing. There are 11 families, 500 species of flatfish and 130 of them are native to America. Soles, flounders and halibut are familiar to most of us, but there are also dabs, plaice, brill, tonguefish

toungefish
‘Tonguefish’ can reach a length of 66 cm (26 in), though most, only achieve half that size, or less. They are found in tropical and subtropical oceans, mainly in shallow waters and estuaries, and a few species of ‘Tonguefish’ are found on deep-sea floors and in rivers.

and turbot. One thing they all have in common are two eyes that will migrate soon after birth to one side of the head, while all other fish have one eye on each side of the head. Other fish swim upright, while Flatfish live and swim horizontally. Throughout their lives, flatfish hug the bottom disguised on one side looking like sand or gravel and their bottom half is white and appears to be ‘sky’ when seen from below. Thus they escape most predators. Flatfish feed by lying in disguise on the bottom, half embedded in the sand from where they ambush passing prey. Also they feed by scavenging ‘bits’ of food that remain after other fish have been attacked by predators. Alive or dead, the teeth of a flounder are razor-sharp. Dangerous to you, the angler, while the fish is alive and dangerous also, to the person who cleans the fish.

Your dilemma, do I match the hatch, or experiment by mixing and matching various baits, natural and artificial to enjoy more and very often fare better?

If you could see the way flatfish feed as they gracefully move along, invisible to predators, agile and fast, their bodies like one big fin capable of quick bursts of speed, if you’ll click the link in this paragraph you’ll see a perfectly adapted fish.

peacock flounder
The peacock flounder, also known as the flowery flounder, is a species of fish in the family Bothidae. The species is found widely in relatively shallow waters in the Indo-Pacific, also ranging into warmer parts of the east Pacific.

flatfish camouflaged
Flatfish are bottom dwellers and bottom feeders. They swim horizontally, look like the sand or gravel on the bottom while their obverse is white. So from below their white color makes them look like sky. Together this coloring effectively protects them from predators.

A man hooked a fish. The fish was still in the man’s landing net as he raised it dripping and shining in his hand. It was a fluke and the bait was a ‘cocktail.

cocktail bait
A ragworm & peeler crab cocktail bait.

different cocktail baits
Clam, Cockles and Ragworm to make a Cocktail Bait.

combo baits
‘Massive combo bait’ to tempt and catch big fish.

Match the hatch makes sense to theorizing anglers, but your prey simply reacts to movement, or a scent that seems familiar and says ‘Yum, Yum’, available and ‘Delicious Food’. What do jigs, spoons and spinners imitate? I say worry not about matching the hatch, worry more about learning to fish your baits perfectly and placing them where fish are. For sure you’ll catch more fish by doing that, than by fishing in the wrong place with perfectly painted crank baits or life-like soft plastic minnows.

huge doormat flatfish
This beauty is 25 inches long, weighs over 6 lbs and was caught off Flagler County in Florida, on a frozen Spanish Sardine.

frozen fishing bait
Guide’s Choice® frozen bait is the natural food that both fresh and salt-water fish find irresistible. Similar frozen bait can be purchased in individual packages, or in bulk. These baits are custom labeled and vacuum-sealed for maximum freshness.

The variety of frozen fishing baits includes anchovies, clams, coon striped shrimp, crab bait, crawfish, herring, octopus, prawns, sardines, shad, smelt, squid and more. Purveyors are easy to find on-line.

 

The advantage of a dropshot rig is that your bait will jiggle from
“I Used A Drop-Shot Rig, To Catch This Doormat.”
In saltwater, give the ‘drop-shot’ rig a try… and ‘double’ your chances of catching fluke. This 24 inch fluke hit my buck-tail jig and I didn’t even have to re-tie it, all day.

With a drop-shot rig your weight is attached to the very bottom of your line, while your hook lies horizontal and perpendicular to your leader,  about 10 inches above the sinker.   With a drop-shot rig your bait ‘automatically’ undulates, propelled by water movement, so you n-e-v-e-r have to jiggle anything, just lift to set the hook. 

I consider the following video to be an excellent tutorial. Although it fails to specify flatfish, the principle embodied here is valid for virtually all species that feed on the bottom.

For best results, your weight needs to bounce off the bottom.For best results, your weight needs to bounce off the bottom.

One hook or two may be similarly attached to your leaderOne hook or ‘two’ may be similarly attached to your leader

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BUCKTAILING BIG FLUKE (SUMMER FLOUNDER)

bucktail rig
Be it a ‘DOORMAT’, or throw it back, that’s the law! Bucktail Jigs + live bait can go deep to reach the ‘keepers’ strike zone.

live bait
Bucktail jig + live bait, fished deep will target and tempt BIG FLUKE keepers.

Here are a few tips to catch Big Fluke with Bucktails….

Bucktail Selection: Everyone asks what size bucktail works best. Bigger is better, when conditions warrant. Think 4oz and 8oz., because fluke (all flatfish) feed on the bottom and of course you need to go down to their ‘strike zone’. Deeper water and faster drifts require heavier jigs. We recommend combining  lures and live bait. All jig colors produce, but you can’t go wrong with Green/Chartreuse or white/glow.

The recommended 20-30 lb. test braid. Braid cuts through water like a knife with little resistance, letting you hold the bottom better. Braid also lets you feel the structure of the bottom better than mono, in addition because it doesn’t stretch you’ll feel the bites better and then you’ll easily set the hook by simply lifting. A 12 lb. mono shock ‘leader’ should be used.

New Lures Stack the Odds In Your Favor. Over the last few years many new types of lures have come along and a lot of them are ‘real fluke killers’ when combined with bucktails. First one that comes to mind is “GULP”. Gulp Swimming Mullet, Shrimp, Twister tails, and the new belly strip, are what anglers have had the most success with – consistently. Use them right on the bucktail or above, as  teasers.

LIVE BAIT – The ‘best’ baits are always changing. What they want today they won’t sniff tomorrow. So if possible take a big selections of fresh baits aboard. Try Big Smelts, Sandeels, Sardines, Whole Squid and Big Strip baits. Some of our favorite strip baits are Bluefish, Mackerel and Squid but the hottest strip baits last year were False Albie, tuna and mahi skins.

false albie skins make good bait
False Albie skins make good bait, along with tuna and mahi skins. The shine of these baits drives fluke crazy!

The most important tip is KEEP IT BOUNCING, most of the time you will be fishing rough bottom such as rocks and reefs, where there is a higher concentration of keeper fluke. If you just drag your bucktail on the bottom you will spend most of your day stuck and re-rigging. The second essential tip is be in the strike zone. You should feel your bucktail making contact with the bottom as you bounce it.

Go Deeper!!! With higher size restrictions you may have to go deeper than in the past in order to put keeper fluke on ice. In deeper waters from 45-75 ft. around rocks and reefs fluke average a lot bigger. The fish always have been in these areas but when the size limit was smaller we rarely had to go that far to put together a nice catch of keepers. Nobody is happy about the regulations, but we’ll learn to make the best of it. So if next time you’re out and the ‘catchin’ is good, but the keepin’ is slow head, a little deeper, fish around some structure and try bouncing some Bucktails – you won’t be disappointed!

“The Kayoss Rig”

Amazingly simple and very effective

1.- Fin Strike 557 Fluke Rig (With two tied hooks)

full package bait
The Package Includes… Shinny Spinner, Red Beads, tri-connector with sinker connector, a 36-inch Leader and two Hi-Lo tied hooks. Simple to use, just tie on to the end of your line and attach a sinker to the connector, then add bait to the 2 hooks and send your rig down to the bottom.

full rig package
The entire rig is in the package. Simply attach your bait, snap on your sinker and start fishing!

berkley gulp
Berkley Gulp Swimming Mullet, 4”/10 cm. Chartreuse (this color works well). A scented bait that looks, feels and tastes alive. You attached it to the top hook, threaded through the mouth. Here your ‘Gulp’ serves as an effective teaser while it remains ‘horizontal’ in the water, all the time.

spearing
Spearing for the lower hook or, use sardines.

The Package Includes…

Shinny Spinner, Red Beads, tri-connector with sinker connector, a 36 inch Leader and two Hi-Lo tied hooks. Simple to use, just tie on to the end of your line and attach a sinker to the connector, then add bait to the 2 hooks and send your rig down to the bottom.

The Fin Strike 557 Fluke Rig is available on-line @ $2.39 – $2.90

2.- Berkley Gulp Swimming Mullet, 4”/10cm chartreuse (this color works well). This is a scented bait that looks, feels and tastes alive. You attach it to the top hook and thread it through the mouth. On the upper hook, your ‘Gulp’ serves as an effective teaser, because it always remains ‘horizontal’ in the water on your line.

3.- Two little ‘spearings’ or ‘sardines’ need to be treaded right through the eye onto the rig’s lower hook.

The weight you attach will vary with conditions and depth. You need to reach the ‘strike zone’ on the bottom which is where flounder feed.

MOVEMENT

One more thing: whether you fish this rig from a boat or from the shore, to be successful you need MOVEMENT. Either natural MOVEMENT induced by drifting, fostered by REELING or produced by JIGGING.

Now you’re good to go, with a setup fluke just can’t resist, which is your “Kayoss Rig“.

Watch the video (above).

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