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April 14, 2014

How-To Find Gulf of Mexico Flounder

Use advanced tactics to score big on Gulf of Mexico flounder.

Flounder are some of the most quirky fish on Earth. Jigs catch more flounder than any other lure — that’s a fact. But live baits, like shrimp, mud minnows and finger mullet, catch them as well. And small crankbaits fished along bottom prove deadly. It’s all about being in the right place on the right tide.

A classic example is fishing a drain that feeds into a bay. Here’s the situation: Not long ago, I pulled up on a drain that was no wider than 5 feet, but it fed into a bay from a sprawling backwater estuary lake. The drain had formed a washout the size of a small cabin, and it was flat-loaded with flounder.

I idled my 22-foot center console into position, put the Power Pole down, and staked out the bow to position us in a way that allowed us to toss out soft plastics dressed to catch flounder. It didn’t take long to realize we were in the right place at the right time. Our little curly-tail jigs were drawing solid thumps on just about every cast.

One day this past spring, I was at a boat ramp in Sabine Pass, located on the Texas-Louisiana border. Two guys had just put their boat on the trailer, and I asked how they had done. One of them reached over and opened the lid of the fish box. “Check this out,” he said, and held up a 61⁄2-pounder. “Loaded up on big flatties today.”

Their tactics were simple, he explained. They fished white curly-tail jigs on 1⁄8-ounce jig heads on a single point ­jutting out into the pass on an outgoing tide. The go-to tactic was to cast the bait out, let it settle to the bottom, and bump it in while the current moved it across the point.

Jig Enhancement

Jigs catch flounder just about anywhere. But there are some tricks you can incorporate into your game to increase your success. Applying spray-on liquid scent to your jig or tipping your jig with a piece of shrimp works great. The best flounder fishermen I know refuse to cast without using some sort of spray-on scent. One of the best is the Yum F2 Ferocity in either garlic or shrimp. Squirt a dose on the jig about every three or four casts.

Another scent option is to use a dime-size piece of table shrimp to tip a jig. Note that I said table shrimp, as in fresh — flounder turn up their nose at rotten shrimp. Flounder find the clean aroma that fresh shrimp emit ­irresistible. Pinch the tail section off, peel it and slip it over the bend of the hook. That way it will ride on top of the jigs as it bumps along the bottom. When the shrimp teaser becomes soggy, switch it out.  

Jig bodies vary in shape and size. A curly-tail is popular because it delivers vibration similar to a spinner bait. A paddle-tail delivers more of a thump, thump, thump vibration.

At times it’s best to match the hatch with a jig, especially on a clear to sandy-green tide. In that situation, ­flounder have good visibility and can see what they are about to eat. That’s when you show them something they’re familiar with. Mud minnows and finger mullet make up the majority of the flounder’s diet. The Yum Mud ­Minnow ranks as one of the best match-the-hatch jigs for flounder. It looks like the real deal, and it’s built with a ­paddle tail. 

Pitching jigs for flounder is not a specialty, but it’s deadly and dead simple. It’s the same drill that freshwater anglers use to target bass: You move along the shoreline, and pitch jigs to spots that have the potential to hold fish. This works best when fishing along a shoreline with a sharp drop. It’s especially good in bayous and drains that feed into bays. Use your trolling motor to stay in position while easing down the bank. Pitch jigs to small pockets that flounder use for ambush spots. It’s usually best to do this on a high tide when you’ve got lots of water and the fish are up in the pockets.