How To Fish For Fluke With Light Tackle & Gulp
I am lucky enough to be able to fish year round on Long Island and SW Florida but fluking is by far my favorite and I look forward to fluke season every summer. I approach fluke fishing with the passion of the most die hard bass anglers. I never enjoyed fishing for fluke with heavy sinkers, rods & line so I started to experiment with soft plastics and jigheads on light tackle about 12 years ago. I had good success but things changed to the better when Berkley introduced the Gulp baits. I now out fish anyone who comes on my boat and fishes with bait and I have a lot more fun landing these fish on light tackle.
A 6 foot to 6 1/2 foot medium light to medium action rod with a 2000 to 3000 size reel spooled with 10 lb test braid and 2 feet of flourocarbon leader will work under most conditions when you can use a 1/4 to 1 oz jighead or bucktail. Baitcasting combos also work well. A heavier rod will be needed for bucktails and jigheads over 1 oz. I carry 5 rod and reel combos that cover everything from 1/4 oz to 4 oz jigheads.
Locating the fish
Fluke will bury themselves in the mud or sand with only their eyes exposed facing into the tide ready to ambush a their prey. You will usually find the fluke stacked up around structure. Locate drop offs, holes, sandbars or any other irregular bottom with your fishfinder. Position yourself uptide of the structure and drift over it. A drift anchor is very helpful, it slows down your drift and helps elimitate the effects of the wind. The longer you stay over the structure the more success you will have.
Techniques for catching fluke
I usually start with the lightest jig. I will tie on a 1/2 oz C&H Alien Jig with a loop knot and I put on a 4 inch Berkley Gulp Swimming Mulett. I will drift over the structure and send the jig down. Try to keep the jig as vertical to the bottom as possable and bounce the jig 2 to 4 inches off the bottom. When the line scopes out and you can't hold the bottom reel in and drop it back down. After you drifted over the structure and caught a few fish there don't continue to drift. Move the boat back over the same structure because there is probably more fish there. Fluke usually throw up their stomach contents when you bring them to the surface. Check this very carefully, if they're throwing up shrimp or crabs switch to a plain leadhead with a Berkley Gulp Shrimp, Ghost Shrimp, or Peeler crab. When there are dirty water conditions I made up my own jig. I use a 3/4 oz Sworming Hornet jig with a Strike King Perfect Skirt and I use a larger Gulp like a Ripple Mullet or the 5 inch Swimming Mullet. The flash of the willow blade on the Sworming Hornet jig combined with the Perfect Skirt and the larger Gulp creates a larger profile, more scent and more vibation. I basically stick with 3 colors of Gulp white, chatreuse and pink.
When the tide is ripping to hard or the wind is really gusting I have to go to heavier jigs. When using the heavier jigs I add a dropshot hook 12 inches above the jighead. One of the rods I use for bucktails from 1 to 2 ounces has a VMC 1/0 spinshot hook that I put a 4 inch swimming mullet on it. I had great success with the dropshot as a high hook. I wrote a blog for another website last year and I got highly criticized for using Spinshot hook. Believe me it works, the fluke gets hooked in the corner of the mouth and its sharp teeth never touch the line.
24 inch fluke caught on the Spinshot Hook
The other set up is for bucktails from 2 to 4 ounces. I tie a bucktail teaser dropshot style with a palomar knot 12 inches above the bucktail jig. I put a 4 inch Swimming Mullet on the teaser and use a 5 or 6 inch swimming mullet on the bucktail jig.
Bait stores and anglers that are set in their ways claim that you can't catch large fluke using light tackle, jigheads and Gulp baits couldn't be more wrong. I now catch more and larger fluke over the last few years.
8 pound fluke on a Gulp Ghost Shrimp
8 3/4 pound fluke on a Gulp 4 inch Swimming Mullet
Light tackle fluking with Gulp and jigheads is a blast, you wouldn't believe the rod bending reel screaming fight you get. It also saves you money on gas because your not going to the bait shop before each trip and from waisted bait that was defrosted and can't be re-frozen.