Flats Breakdown

Read the signs, find the fish

Story and photos by David A. Brown

Published Spring 2014

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Live baits such as sardines, pinfish and shrimp can be highly productive when you locate an active area, but when you need to cover water and locate fish, artificials are the way to go. Most agree that the weedless gold spoon tops the list of “search” baits, as its aerodynamic design casts well in the wind, while the enticing wobble and constant flash create a solid baitfish ruse.

For other subsurface presentations, try slow-sinking or suspending twitchbaits like the MirrOlure MirrOdine or Bomber’s Badonk-A-Donk SS that will tempt fish over deeper grass flats, while fluke style plastics rigged on wide gap worm hooks can be deadly in the shallow spots.

Lead-head jigs are standard equipment for most flats-fishing efforts because they allow you to quickly change the tail size, shape and color to offer the fish different looks. Jigs, of course, inherently sink, but hang one below a popping cork or a clacking cork rig and you’ll combine the fish-attracting commotion of a surface action – tug the cork for blooping, splashing displays – and the vulnerable appearance of a bait hoping below. Synthetic shrimp like the DOA baits we threw on the Indian River Lagoon flat also work great under a cork.

Topwater plugs are always a good bet for flats fishing because they’ll typically appeal to the most aggressive fish. Walking style baits like a MirrOlure She Dog or MirrOmullet, Rapala Skitterwalk or Heddon Saltwater Spook, or poppers like the Storm Chug Bug are usually best in low-light conditions, but don’t hesitate to go topside anytime you find a large mullet school. The commotion makes tag-along predators more tolerant of sudden surface splashes.

With any of these baits, take note of when and where your flurries of activity occur. Even if you don’t connect, boils, followers and short strikes can tell you much about where the fish are positioning and what piques their interest. Soak it all in and before long replicable patterns will emerge.

Photo of an angler with a redfish caught while fishing the Florida flats

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