Sometimes, it pays to led Rodney do the work!
Some of the largest fluke taken by private boat anglers each year occurs when an angler places their fishing stick in a gunnel mounted rod holder and reaches into their cooler for a turkey sandwich and a frosty drink.
As the angler is munching on their culinary delight, a sizeable fluke will swim up to the unattended baited rod, give the strip bait a sniff, and open its large mouth to engulf the baited hook.
Between bites of the sandwich, an angler may notice that the deadsticked rod is bent over almost double to the point where the second rod guide is touching the water. At this point, the sandwich is tossed one way, the drink in another, as the angler leaps to retrieve their dead sticked rod from the holder.
So the question is, when is it appropriate to manually jig a bucktail along the bottom as opposed to placing your rod in a rod holder – affectionately known as Rodney – to let the gentle rocking of your boat coax any resident fluke to your baited hook?
If you opt to deadstick one or two rods in a gunnel mount, here’s a few don’ts that you may want to consider.
Do’s & Don’ts
If wave heights on the body of water you’re fishing are more than 3 feet, don’t bother using a deadstick rod. The higher waves will impart more up and down action to the baits of your dead stick from your rocking boat. However, when the water’s surface is like glass or just has a rippled wave action, it’s the ideal time to use a dead stick rod.
Since you’re likely not to be watching the gunnel-mounted rod, don’t tighten the reel’s drag to full strike. Rather the drag should be set light to the point where a sizeable fluke won’t snap the rod should she decide to head for the horizon.
If you’re drifting for fluke, don’t set your gunnel deadstick rods downwind of your boat’s drift. This will result in your baited hooks drifting under the boat and make seeing the fluke ingest the bait a lot harder.
If you are using both a jigging rod and a deadstick rod, don’t drop the baited hook of the gunnel mounted deadstick rod next to the boat. Ideally, you want to be jigging your bait straight up and down next to your boat with the dead stick baits tossed 20 to 30 feet away from the boat. The theory here is that the jigged bait will act as a teaser as the dead stick bait will actually act as your primary large fluke offering. I don’t know if this theory is true, but it works on my boat.
When selecting a rod for dead sticking, don’t select one which might be found at your local billiard hall on a Saturday night. Rather, opt for a rod with a light tip but with plenty of backbone to control a sizeable fluke. The light tip should be a good indicator that a fluke is interested in your bait, while a sturdy mid-section should allow you to land the biggest fluke of the day.
Since this article addresses both jigging and deadsticking baits for fluke, you don’t want to incur a severe case of tennis neck as you look back and forth between your jigging stick and your deadstick rod. Since most boats have multiple rod holders along their gunnels, ideally you want to place your deadstick rod in a gunnel mount so that your eyeballs can see both rod tips at the same time without moving your neck or reaching for a tube of pain reliever after the trip is over.
Which comes first?
So what happens when you feel a tap on the bucktail lure you’re jigging and hear the drag of the dead tick rod going click-click-click? Further to complicate the matter, you’re fishing alone in that your angling partners have opted to do household chores, or found other excuses resulting in you standing at the gunnel with two fluke on at the same time. Which fluke garners your attention? Decisions, decisions, decisions!
If faced with this situation, my first choice would be to address the fluke furthest from the boat (a.k.a.) the rod in the gunnel mount. The farther the targeted fluke is away from your net, the more opportunity the fish has to toss the baited hook.
So calmly (yeah right) place your jigging rod into a vertical rod holder after setting the hook, and slip the deadstick rod out of its holder. If the drag is slowly clicking and the line is exiting the reel, place the reel in free spool to allow the fluke to munch its way further forward up your strip bait. Engage the reel and hope that your net is big enough to slip this fluke head first into the net bag.
As an aside, I used to fish with an angler from the southern part of the state, who fished six bucktail rods at the same time, three in his right hand and three in his left hand. His only problem was when multiple fish hit different bucktails at the same time. Which rod should he address? This angler would mentally evaluate which rod was attached to the heaviest fluke. That is the rod he would address putting the other five rods in gunnel mounts or against the side of his boat.
A word of caution, as I have seen one of his extra non-attended rods become airborne as a stray bluefish, weakfish, striped bass strike the bucktail dangling from one of the rods laid up against the gunnel.
There will be days when the rod you’re jigging will produce the most fluke. However, the likelihood is great that the dead stick rod will produce the biggest fluke of the day. So use a combination of a jigging stick and a dead stick rod to add both quantity and quality to your fluke cooler.