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  • Dave LeGear

Flats Fishing Primer - Florida


Since this subject seems to come from time to time, this or I get sent a note on the subject asking about such... I thought it would be smart and combine a few past chats and emails into one article on this subject. This way we can update this one as we find new "basic" tips to pass on to everybody, or when one of our Guide's on Flats Nation would like to update this list to help our newer members to the sport become more successful in less time ๐Ÿ˜Š


Topics related to Situational Awareness (SA) while you are on or surveying any body of water...

  • Nothing effects a fish more than water temperatures and they can detect tiny changes and react as needed for their survival. At one time I had a water temperature gauge on my console running all the time, now it is always showing on my SIMRAD screen. In summer, I am looking for cooler water and in winter naturally, warmer water even if just a few degrees. Warmer water like that which is located on, or the tide has moved onto dark grass patches or bottom that is holding up the surrounding water temperatures, even if just a few degrees attract more fish. They are cold blooded animals so think of water temperature like you would a throttle for an engine.


  • I am not all hung up on Tides as many are... I fish when I can and just look for water movement that will help bring a meal to the fish. Does not matter if it a Rainbow Trout in a clear mountain stream, or a Sea Trout setting in wait along the edge of a grass flat for dinner to come to them, they will usually have their heads pointed into the current (tide) waiting to make a strike! I do like to use low tide conditions for slow visual scouting since I can see the bottom structure (grass, oyster beds, or small channels) and incoming tides to float into such areas when possible. An awesome tool (TidesPro) that will help with reading the Tides and Trip planning can be found by clicking Here


  • Goggle Earth saves me time and fuel in finding new flats to fish for sure. I look for Points, Oyster beds, and tidal creeks in areas I am looking to go fish in. Since it has Lat and Long numbers I can either zero in on such spots or print off a picture to look at as drift or run in on the trolling motor in those new areas.



  • Remember to look for Ambush Points this includes docks and points. Many Flats fish are ambush feeders with Reds being notes as the ones that "actively" search out food and follow Mullet schools much more than the others.


  • A good pair of Polarized sunglasses and a "Buff" as well as a cool ball cap or visor to help stop any light leaking into the top and sides of your face is critical. This also saves from getting sun-fried even in the winter. We are big fans of Bajio Sunglasses and can read and hear more about them by clicking Here


  • Birds feeding or just standing in certain locations tells me a lot! I have watched Fish and Birds work in tandem to press the bait towards each other and feed. What is that old saying when the Man was asked โ€œHow did you catch all those fish? His reply was simple โ€œA little Bird told meโ€ฆโ€


  • Some way to get Elevated on your front casting deck to see better.

  • This or you could use a quality cooler with rubber feet on the bottom to help prevent it from sliding around on the deck.

This viewing from the High Ground concept also applies to Kayaks and other Paddle Craft when it comes to being to stand up without landing in the water yourself! More on those vessel's for Flats and Back-county fishing soon for they can get into places the Skiff guys wished that they could!


Speaking of being elevated much less, moving around much... It always helps to blend into the background color wise be it dressed in Sky Blue or White / Grey shirt when Cloudy. Some may try and argue that aspect and that is Okay! But have you ever stopped and thought about wading bird colors? You think the white on that Egret or Heron helps them blend into the background / clouds above them?


How about a quick visual lesson / reminder on the use of Camouflage on the subject! And yes, side on and from our viewing angle, they can stand out like a Bull walking through Mid-Town NYC ๐Ÿ˜Š To the fish looking up, which they can do extremely well and more on that subject by clicking Here They see something totally different which hardly even moves...


What is that old saying "To understand the Owl, study the Mouse!" also applies in this use case ๐Ÿ˜Š

  • Stealth is the key and measures taken towards such helps! One must shut down and pole or wind drift onto many spots. Fish in skinny clear water are extremely nervous fish. Those dudes above have been thumping fish since they were little fry... You can talk all you want, but open music playing (why I use ear buds) dropping or falling over things on the deck, changing trolling motor speeds, dropping an anchor over the side, bilge pumps that cycle along with sonar transducers that buzz (which do no good in a foot of water anyway) all can flush out fish like a covey of Quail.



Topics related to Tackle...

  • Fluorocarbon leaders and I use about three feet along with loop knots will increase your hook ups below the surface. Mono line or leader material for all my surface walkers since they can stretch, which this helps take the shock of the crash as well as help keep them from throwing the bait during the fight...


  • Many of your Freshwater / Bass lures will work fine on the flats, here again a fish is a fish. Match the look of local forage (both bait fish, shrimp & crabs) and you will get strikes! I have several bass crankbaits that I have modified (if needed) with hook upgrades that work very well in these conditions like these Mann's Baby 1-'s. Many times, I remove the front hook so I can slow roll them around oyster bars and if they do manage to get snagged, just stop reeling and allow it the time and ability to float up and off the Oyster shell that it just hung up on, then start reeling again ๐Ÿ˜Š

In my experience the 3D effect and appearance of crankbaits will out preform the use of the typical gold or silver spoon rolled though the same locations. They also give you the option to reel them in slower than many spoons will allow when needed to keep them out of several types of cover like grass.


Another unique hard bait modification for top water (sneak peek below) can be found by clinking Here

The beauty of either one is in the ability to cover more water quicker, and with more effectiveness than other presentations on most days... Swim baits also work very well in many instances in covering a wide range of cover be it grass flats or other structure and you can find out more about that tactic by clicking Here


Again, this one is really only intended to be Primer on Flats Fishing, and most do not start out by chasing after Tarpon with a Fly Rod. We will get to those topics soon!


Naturally, the Flats Nation Team will add to these basics as needed, but wanted to give one a good starting point for most Flats Fishing in Florida (other areas planned) without having to "Fish on the Dark Side" using Live Bait ๐Ÿ˜Š


Tight Lines and God Bless!



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