Party boat anglers can up their game by rethinking their approach when targeting fluke.
Many open boat anglers go through considerable trouble to ensure a prime location on the stern of their favorite party packet. When it comes to fluke fishing, however, I’ll take the bow every time. For one, it’s a much less desired position on most boats leaving you with some breathing room and the ability to cover more water by casting. While overhand casting is taboo on party boats, the bow allows you to make relatively long underhand casts thanks to the open space below the bow, and the less crowded conditions. Somedays, the stern can be shoulder to shoulder, leaving little room to get off effective casts and limiting the direction of those casts.
So why am I putting so much emphasis on the ability to cast from the deck of an open boat? The answer is simple – it will allow to you catch more fish in the long run. It’s no different than fishing from a private boat where casting and retrieving will almost always out fish an over-weighted bait or lure being dragged in the wake of a drifting boat. The angle of your casts can be adjusted according to the direction of the drift, allowing you to keep your lure down on the bottom. Being able to cast into the direction of your drift also allows you to fish smaller and lighter lures.
The other part of the equation is the use of light spinning tackle and braided lines of 10- to 15-pound test. The fine diameter of these lines alleviates much of the water resistance encountered by the much thicker diameter of monofilament. It’s taken a long time for the party boat crowd to realize the benefits of light tackle when targeting fluke, but in recent years captains have been encouraging fares to bring along light spinning tackle on fluke trips. Those who follow suit invariably wind up doing considerably better than those using heavier conventional tackle.
Being able to fire off casts in multiple directions at a substantial distance (another virtue of light, braided lines) provides other advantages as well. Depending on the positioning of the boat and its drift, you have the ability from the bow to cast and keep your lure, most often a bucktail tipped with Gulp, down in the strike zone. When you encounter wind against tide conditions or slack tide with little or no drift, casting and retrieving will allow you to catch fish while others on the boat take a lunch break waiting for the current to start moving again. Some of the best action during a trip can place just before, during and after slack water if you can keep your bait or lure moving.
Casting also allows you to cover water that those who drift their baits along with the boat are not able to get at. You eliminate much of the competition by working your lure a good distance from where most of the lures and baits are being fished. Picture 20 or more anglers on each side of a drifting boat and a wall of 40 or more lines and baits relatively close together being dragged along in its wake. Why would you want to compete with all of those other baits, as well as risk wasting time with tangled lines? Finally, casting from the bow puts you into position to take advantage of structure like sandbars, drop-offs and rip lines. You can direct your casts to work the edge of a sandbar, a drop-off, or reach a rip that others on the boat cannot get their baits to.
While most fluke anglers see this approach as only being effective in shallow bays, nothing can be further from the truth. Once you develop the “feel” required to keep your offering on the bottom, it is equally effective in as much as 60 or 70 feet of water, but it will take practice. Rarely will you need bucktails weighing more than an ounce, and if you would rather fish bait, a drail of 1 to 1-1/2 ounces will usually suffice. In shallow waters, 1/2- to 3-ounce payloads will get it done more times than not.
All of the advantages of this light tackle approach to fluking also apply to private boat anglers, many of whom are already aware of its effectiveness. So if you’re still dragging heavy leads on conventional gear, and trying to elbow your way into the stern, it might be time to reconsider your approach to the fluke game.