If you do something enough times, and you start doing it well, and it begins to produce repeatable results, there's a danger of figuring that your way is the only way. That's true with painting a ceiling and it's true with tying fishing rigs. If you do it and it works to produce a beautiful and evenly colored ceiling or you do it and it produces big breeder reds, three-foot long snook, and a 50-lb. cobia once-in-a-while for the people on your boat, you figure that the way you do it is the way it's supposed to be done.
Maybe. People ask us questions every day. We get Private Messages, we get forum posts, and we get phone calls. To some extent every single person participating in any way on the site -- beyond just reading stuff, checking tides, moving FishySpot GPS numbers to their boat's on-deck devices -- helps answer questions. It was email questions coming into CapMel.com over the years that lead to our writing the book "Skinny: How to Fish in Shallow Saltwater". Simple questions like "I would like to use live shrimp, Captain Mel. But every time I put one on the hook, it dies."
Most of the questions we answered in the book Skinny had to do with where and how to avoid killing baits, and how to tie the few simple knots most of us use to successfully catch the species we chase. But at the same time, it's equally important that you don't assume your way is the only way.
Silly, right? Don't put the hook through the brain -- it's dark, directly above the creature's easy-to-see eyeballs, and the nerve center of the entire life form. Poke steel through it, and the thing dies.
What brought this subject to mind were fluke. Fluke are what we called "Summer Flounder" in New Jersey when I was a kid. When it got cold, we would move away from the huge flatties we caught on the beaches and moved into places like the Shark River, where wintertime produced a slightly smaller, but fatter version. This one had small rubbery lips -- not the gaping toothy mouth their summertime cousins had. And the winter fish ate works on small hooks. The summer variety were best caught on what we called "Fishfinder" rigs.
This is a rig we commonly use for Tarpon baits under the skyway with live and dead baits, or for Grouper in waters anywhere from 10 feet to 200 feet. Do you use it in skinny water? Rethink your plans if you're chasing flounder.
When I'm asked what rig I use, I commonly say that I use a simple rig -- a line tied to a leader, the leader to a hook, bait on the hook, and -- if weight seems the thing to do based on tide and/or wind, depth, or structure -- a split shot.
This rig -- the one 90% of the people fishing skinny water rely on, is flexible and presents baits in a very natural and normal way. The split shot changes the behavior of the bait, though, and alternative rigs -- in certain circumstances -- work better and will produce more hits, and more released fish.
Why use a fishfinder rig?
Flounder have always been a local species. That said, the last six-to-eight years has seen an increasing number of fish landed, and an equally increasing number of people targeting them. Only yesterday I was talking to a fellow forumite who said catching a dozen or more in a half-day trip wasn't at all unusual. Ten years ago I felt they were an accidental catch. Not so anymore.
In recent trips, where we intended on catching those delicious flatties (among the best of all on the table, in our opinion), we went back to an old and proven method of attracting the hit. Fishfinder rigs. Why? They bounce.
What do we mean they bounce? Just that. The lead bounces. When it bounces, it kicks up sand. When it kicks up sand, it kicks it up in the form of a little cloud. That little cloud gets noticed. If the business end of the rig holds a stinky bait -- especially a strip bait -- flounder will eat it. They'll eat a fishfinder rig twice as often as a typical "split shot" rig Try it for three or four trips, and you'll be convinced.
The egg sinker in these rigs bounces on the bottom. Strip baits for flounder can be replaced with live shrimp or even whitebait. Every species we fish will eat baits on these rigs. The loose leader provides room for the bait that is not available when you use split shot.
We use squid cut in strips for our rigs. It's inexpensive and produces fish as well as anything. Being bait people, we believe that fish are like humans. Given a choice of a piece of steak grilled to perfection or a cardboard representation of a steak, the dead meat works every time.There are excellent alternatives -- but flat sheets you can cut to appropriate sizes for specific species, as well as pre-cuts, which are more expensive but maybe easier to deal with.
When and Where?
Fishfinder rigs aren't limited to fishing flounder on sandy edges of channels, or near the drop offs of any of the hundreds of productive grassy flats you'll find in our beautiful waters. They're great for a variety of reasons.
First, like similar rigs used by professional grouper guides, they allow the live bait the freedom to move without the lead being directly attached to their bodies, as is the case when you squeeze a split shot onto your leader. Bait moves more naturally on a fishfinder, and as a result they draw more hits.
Another place you should consider using them is when you're dock fishing. Not only will an egg sinker keep a frightened (for good reason) whitebait exactly where you want it to be underneath a dock, but they're quieter and easier to place than the heavier split shot you would need for the situation.
Secondly, try putting a bait in the deep centers of those canals you fish where the big snook, puppy drum, redfish, and speckled trout that will grab those weighed-down-but-free-to-swim baits might just surprise you.
Try them. You'll like them.
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