Inshore: Strip Bait Magic - The Fisherman

Inshore: Strip Bait Magic

Don’t be afraid to put in a little extra effort on your next fluke trip.

Sometimes we become so accustomed to the ease and availability of using packaged soft baits for fluke these days that we forget about those tried and tested classics that have been slaying doormats for decades and continue to do so to this day.

There is a time and place for everything, and while some of these soft plastics have accounted for spectacular catches so far this fluke season, there comes a time when a fluke wants the real thing, and when these scenarios arise, employing these fresh bait strips will outperform a soft plastic bait every time.

One scenario I can think of was fishing some of the deeper waters off Montauk with Fisherman staff artist Captain Savio Mizzi. I was sure to pack some of my favorite soft plastic baits for the trip in hopes of dropping them down and landing a genuine doormat fluke by the end of the day. On the steam out, Savio stopped along a cove close to the harbor and started plugging for bluefish. Without really saying much, I assumed he wanted to bend the rod before the tide got right on the fluke grounds, so I proceeded to join him. The blues were complying well also, and we had one on within a few casts. Savio reeled his fish in and immediately threw it in the cooler. I knew he liked to eat fish, but then I thought he must really like to eat fish since these big, oily blues would not make the best table fare.

After we had a few double-digit blues in the boat, we headed out another 30 minutes to the fluke grounds, where Savio proceeded to fillet the big blues on the boat. Then I put it all together. The captain was turning these blues into strip baits for a big fluke. The one thing to remember when using blues for this purpose is that a single bluefish can give you a ton of strips, and remember how oily those big blues are? They leave a strong scent trail in the water when you drop them down, and fluke will stay right behind it. This is key in certain areas with a faster drift because the scent of the bait will make it harder for the fluke to just watch it go by, and you will have more of a chance of them committing to it.

The strips themselves are sliced anywhere from 4 to 9 inches long, coming to a point at one end. It’s also important that you leave a little meat attached to the skin so that when you hook the strip on, you have a little extra substance for them to grab onto. I used a hi-lo bucktail rig and found that using the longer strips on the bottom bucktail and smaller strips on the top seemed to work best. One other thing I discovered is that the longer strips draw some short hits from fluke, especially when the tide was cranking. You can fix this by adding a stinger hook to your rig and placing it further back in the bait, turning those short strikes into solid hooksets.

Keep in mind bluefish strips are not super durable, and they will be torn to shreds after a few fish, so change them out every so often to keep that scent fresh and the bait looking enticing. You can also substitute fresh fluke belly, sea robin strips or even mackerel strips if you can get ahold of them. Keep in mind that some states do have rules when using fluke strips though. You must retain the carcass of a filleted fluke if you wish to reuse the strips for bait on that same trip.

One other tip I can add is that if you do miss a fish, don’t be afraid to drop the rig back and let it sit in free spool for a bit. Fluke will come back to a missed bait, and once you engage the bail or spool again, there might be some life at the end of the rig, which most times is a fluke chewing on the bait. Just set the hook and you should be able to connect.

Don’t be afraid to put in a little extra effort on your next fluke trip. Catching the bait could be just as much fun as catching the target fish and could lead to a fantastic outcome.

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