Fishing the Flats— For what and how.

Flats fishing is self-explanatory, and it’s just that. Flats fishing is a method of fishing where anglers target species of fish, specifically in shallow, saltwater bodies of water. A flat is basically any section of the bottom of a body of water that is a flat surface, and while flats fishing can be found at any depth, it is typically most successful in waters about 10-12 feet below the surface but also as shallow as five feet. 


While flats fishing, it is important to know the layout of the surface beneath you. Technology that helps detect where the rocks lay on the floor is useful because the rocks are an indicator that there will be fish in that area. If you’re fishing the flats without technology, it will be helpful to familiarize yourself with the location’s floor. 


If bass fishing is of interest to you, then you’ll find success in flats fishing. Bass migrate to flats for several reasons, but feeding ranks the highest, and while they initially will move there during pre-spawn, bass will often feed on the flats nearby their spawning flats. Additionally, bass only feed moderately during the winter months. Therefore, they revert to heavy feeding patterns once they enter pre-spawning mode. Flats with a healthy supply of vegetation are a prerequisite for successful fishing. With close access to deeper water, bass move up on a flat at will and have the option to retreat to safety again if the need be. This is an important factor, as these fish seldom spend all their time in skinny water— slang for shallow waters that most boats cannot access.


Your next variable for successful flats fishing is using a jerkbait. A jerkbait is a minnow-shaped lure that provides a horizontal presentation. A straight retrieve makes a jerkbait swim with a shimmying action. This catches fish, but where a jerkbait shines is on a snap-pause retrieve, which gives it an erratic, darting action that drives bass wild. 


Knowing the layout of the lake or seabed you are fishing will make a big difference in your fishing experience. When fishing flats, there are various floorplans comprised of different rock formations, vegetation patterns, and species, and knowing what to look for and where to navigate is key. Grass will be the most common floor covering you will see. On grassy waterbeds, you’ll find that anglers prefer to use a spinnerbait. A spinnerbait (also called a spinner) is any one of a family of hybrid fishing lures that combines the designs of a swimbait with one or more spoon lure blades and allows anglers to cover large areas of water. If you’re fishing a stage that is decorated in rockpiles, then consider using a crankbait or swimbait— those lures will provoke a few bits. And lastly, for the bigger lakes that have scattered beds across the flat, dragging a drop shot across the terrain will show you a favorable outcome. 


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