Whether dropping to artificial reefs or into shallow backwater channels, most fluke hunters do so with a stout conventional outfit. But, when fluke fishing in 40 feet of water or less, trade the conventional setup and bait rig for a spinning rod and a handful of bucktails.
In the right hands, a small jig, tap-danced along the bottom, draws more strikes from shallow-water fluke than any other presentation.
The first step is casting out ahead of the boat as it drifts. This allows you to keep your bait on the bottom as you work it back to the boat. Let it hit bottom and begin twitching the rod as you slowly and steadily retrieve the jig. Fluke respond much better to a bucktail worked with short, steady hops than long, slow sweeps. Periodically check to make sure you are still on the bottom, and as soon as your jig sweeps under the boat, retrieve and cast again.
This is viable on party boats as well as private boats. In fact, on headboat trips in the shallower waters of Long Island Sound or Raritan Bay, this is a good strategy for winning the pool. By casting ahead of the drift, the fluke see your jig before those of the other anglers on board, giving you the first crack at a scale-tipping doormat.
To best achieve a “tap-dancing” presentation, a fast-action rod works best. This more responsive rod allows the fishermen to move a jig along the bottom in short hops rather than long sweeps.
Rods from 6 to 7 feet are perfect for this technique, and while 7-foot rods may provide a little extra casting distance, a 6-footer makes it easier to hop the jigs. Rods longer than 7 feet can feel cumbersome, especially on party boats.
Rod ratings vary based on the depth. In back bays when fishing in 10 feet of water or less, rods rated for ¼ to ¾ ounces will more effectively work the lighter jigs used in these waters. In waters of 30 feet with stronger currents, rods rated up to 2 or 3 ounces may be needed.
St. Croix Legend Inshore Tournament LTIS70MHF
7’ | 1/2- to 1 1/4-ounce lures | $299.99
G. Loomis Pro Green PGR824S
6’10” | 1/4- to 1-ounce lures | $270
Tsunami Slimwave SWSPS641-MH
6’4” | 1- to 4-ounce lures | $119.99
Shimano Teramar North East
7’ | 1- to 4-ounce lures | $169.99
The Reel & Line
Spinning reels in size 3000 to 5000 spooled with 15- to 30-pound-test braided line match well with the light- to medium-action rods used for this technique. The thin diameter (and therefore reduced water resistance) of a lighter braided line makes it easier to fish deeper water with lighter jigs.
Daiwa Saltist 3000
240 yards of 20-pound-test braid | $209.95
Shimano Spheros SW 5000
245 yards of 20-pound-test braid | $199.99
300 yards of 15-pound-test braid | $99.99
Penn Spinfisher V 3500
215 yards of 15-pound-test braid | $139.95
The lightest jig that maintains contact with the bottom is the one you should have tied on. In shallow backwaters, this could be a ¼-ounce jighead, while in deeper waters it could be a 2-ounce Spro. Though bucktails are still popular, bare jigheads dressed with a scented artificial like Berkley Gulp are very effective as well.
All jigs, bucktails and plain jigheads must be tipped with either a bait or scented artificial. Popular baits for tipping bucktails for shallow water fluke are spearing, squid strips, Berkley Gulp, and even a scented synthetic trailer like Fat Cow Jig Strips or Otter Tails.
Kalins Ultimate Jighead
3/8 ounce to 2 ounces | $3.99 to $7.49 (per 3)
Jigging World Power Ball Jighead
1/2 ounce to 3 ounces | $1.99 to $3.69
1/2 ounce to 3 ounces | $6.49 to $7.99 (per 2)
S and S Bucktails Big Eye Flukes
3/8 ounce to 3 ounces | $4.49 to $6.49
Spro Prime Bucktail
1/4 ounce to 3 ounces | $3.39 to $5.89