From the outset of my early forays with LRF, flounder quickly became one of my favourite species to target on the lure. I was surprised at just how predatory they can be. I used to think of flounder as a sluggish fish who lay on the bottom, took an age to swallow a bait and lacked any form of fighting quality. However when I started to catch them on LRF gear my preconceptions were smashed to smithereens, they chase and harry a lure with vengeance and when you do hook them they fight powerfully, kiting and diving for cover and putting a big dumb grin on my face every time I hook one! Since I have been using lures to target them I have caught more flounder than I ever did on bait to the extent they are now my “blanksaver” fish, if fishing is tough for other species I can always turn to the flounder to give me excellent sport!
So what Tackle do we need to get these brilliant fish to bite?
Firstly an LRF rod around 7 -8ft either solid tipped or tube tipped with a casting range of 1-8grams.
A proper LRF rod will allow you to fish tiny jigheads as well as giving you the versatility to use heavier dropshot techniques and tipped mini metals. It will also give you the sensitivity to feel what ground you are working the lure over as well as being able to feel delicate bites at range.
Even though the rods are very lightweight they still contain more than enough power to land even the largest of specimens, I regularly catch flounder on LRF gear up to 2lb and my current PB stands at 3lb, so expect specimen sized fish when targeting them!
Reel: A fixed spool reel from 1000 – 3000 size will do the job; I favour a 2500 size front drag model and ideally with good line lay for using light braid.
Line I use a high quality Japanese braid and when choosing braid I use the Japanese PE measurement system instead of breaking strain. I have used braid from PE.0.4 to PE0.8 and favour a PE0.6 for the majority of my LRF work. Light Lines are a necessity as you will not be able to cast a 1g jighead on 20lb braid, let alone work the lure effectively!
The advantages of braid is that due to its lack of stretch it transmits feeling very easily, from being able to tell what type of sea bed you are working a lure to having the ability to feel bites instantly. I always use a fluro leader as it gives abrasion resistance and a more subtle presentation due to it being almost invisible to fish.
Lures. Small soft plastics are your friends! From 1” paddle tails to 4” straight worm type lures flounder will attack most if you can present it to them properly.
Jigheads from 1gram to 5 gram with a hook size of#4 to #8 will do the job.
Polarised glasses are extremely helpful and in shallow water will allow you to see how your lure is working as well as seeing the flatties chasing and harrying your lure!
Lastly a drop net for harbour work is a must as you can expect some specimen size fish when LRF ing for flounders and it is much easier to guide them into a net rather than risk snapping your light rod whilst trying to deadlift a 2lb fish!
My top 3 lures would be 4”Berkley Gulp! Sandworm in natural colour, Marukyu Power Isome in pink and Aquawave Straight Lures in pink . These work well for me all over the country but it pays to experiment with size, colour and lure type to suit the flounders in your area.
LRF Flounder Lure techniques
Jig Head rig
Rig your chosen jig head with a soft plastic lure and cast out. Allow the lure to sink to the bottom, and then with a slow retrieve gently hop the lure back across the sea bed. Ideally you want to be able to feel your jighead trundling along the sea bed at all times. If you are fishing anywhere with a flow try casting up flow and working the lure back along the sea bed with the flow. A strong current can lift your lure off the seabed when working against it and while you may get some flounder in this way I have found it more effective to keep the lure on the sea bed. Bites can come at any time and can be sudden but more often than not you will feel a soft plucking at the lure. When you feel this pause for a couple of seconds to allow the bite to develop then strike to set the hook. Flounder more often than not will kite towards you when hooked followed by a powerful dive back down when you get them under the rod tip, so hang on to your hat and enjoy the fight!
Whilst the jighead rig was my sole technique for flounders in my early days of LRF, I soon discovered how effective dropshotting for them can be. I have found it tends to take the bigger flatties and can help when fishing in deeper water as you can use heavier weights. It would seem the bigger flatties are happier to come off the bottom to attack a lure as well as giving you the ability to work a lure whilst being almost stationary. Tying the rig is very simple I like to use a long shanked hook pattern for worm type lures from a #6-#8, I favour a slim wire offset worm hook but a small Aberdeen also works well. Using a 4ft fluorocarbon leader tie your hook using a Palomar knot 1ft from the bottom of the trace, then clip on a dropshot lead. Keep the weight of the lead within the casting range of the rod, I use anywhere from 3.5grams to 7grams depending on conditions. A purpose made dropshot lead will allow you to change the length of the drop, which means you can fish the lure at various distances from the sea bed. A dropshot lead will also come loose in the event of a snag and will allow you to retrieve your rig with the hook still in place.
The technique I use to work the rig is very similar to working the jig head rig. Simply cast out and allow it to sink to the bottom, and then with the rod tip pointing down begin a slow retrieve all the time keeping the lead in contact with the seabed. As the lead trundles along the bottom it will throw up puffs of sand which helps attract the flounder and they will quickly home in on the lure waving seductively just off the sea bed. Again when you feel a soft plucking at the lure drop the rod tip back toward the fish. This allows a little slack line which helps the flounder suck the lure into its mouth. Pause for a couple of seconds to let the bite develop. Then strike and set the hook.
Habitats and tactics
Harbours are a great place to find flounder, a harbour with a sandy sea bed will undoubtedly hold flatties and if it’s a working harbour there will also be a good supply of food items from the fishing boats in the form of discard and from the nets and decks of the boats. This food source will help draw the flatties in and give you a sheltered area to work the lures.
Target sandy patches and channels, the mouth of the harbour can be a good place to intercept the flounder as they move in and out with the tide.
Drop shot and jighead techniques work well.
Flounder love sandy beaches and really are one of the main species you can expect from these habitats. One bit of advice is to target shallow water, especially as the tide is flooding as flounder will follow in the tide in inches of water hoping to snap up food items as they emerge from the sand. Often casting along the beach instead of straight out can yield good results. Again jighead rigs and dropshotting work well.
Flounder will travel very far upstream and exist quite happily in freshwater. I prefer to fish these on a flooding tide as the flounder are actively moving inshore and are in full predatory mode. Casting upstream and bringing the lure back with the flow can be very effective and it helps keep your lure on or very close to the sea bed. Target freshly flooding channels and gullies as the fish use these to travel inshore.
So there you have it, Light lure fishing for flounders has been a revelation for me, ultimately incredibly effective and above all else, really good fun! The fish are very rarely deep hooked so you are able to release them if you are so inclined, and the fight of a 2lb flattie on LRF gear is positively exhilarating. So I hope you can get out and enjoy fishing for the humble flounder and once you start to catch them on light gear you will wonder why you didn’t do it sooner!