Not only is a fluke extremely easy to use, but it is deadly in countless situations and water conditions, making it a perfect tournament bait. On the 2014 River Bassin’ Tournament Trail, I had a fluke tied on one of my rods probably 90% of the time, and it played a huge part in collecting a win, two second place finishes, and four top ten finishes.
It is a bait that can produce both big fish and numbers of fish, and much like a trick worm or Yamamoto “Senko” it gets call when all else fails. Although it is a very simple setup - thread some plastic on a hook - there are several nuances that allow you to tweak the bait for any situation.
Scenario A: Warm water, moderate current, shallow water, and light cover or open water when the bass are aggressively chasing down lures.
Rigging: Nose hook the bait, weightless, on a 3/0-#1 wide gap finesse hook
Cadence: Stop-and-go retrieve, generated by long sweeps of the rod tip, gives the tail an erratic swimming action. Gently pause at the end of each sweep and point the rod tip back at the lure. This causes the bait to stop, turn, and flutter, usually eliciting strikes from following bass.
Scenario B: Warm, shallow water around heavy cover, overhanging foliage, docks, or grass, or in fall when bass are chasing baitfish.
Rigging: Texas rigged weightless on a traditional 3/0-5/0 offset worm hook.
Cadence: For fall fishing, retrieve this bait quickly with erratic pops and twitches of the rod tip, to create the look of a fleeing baitfish skipping across the surface, struggling to escape a predator. For warm, shallow water, use the typical “twitch-twitch-pause” retrieve to give the appearance of a wounded baitfish. This should look similar to a walk-the-dog retrieve with a topwater lure. Vary the timing of your twitches and the lengths of your pauses to find the cadence the fish want. This is great for skipping under overhanging trees and foliage when bass seek shade lines in the warm months. It does well around timber cover and grass, because it can be rigged “Tex-posed” to bury the hook point for a weedless presentation.
Scenario C: Cooler water periods, high water stages in rivers, deep water pools in warm water.
Rigging: Weighted extra wide gap hook 3/0-5/0 and 1/8 oz to 3/8 oz, depending on depth
Cadence: This is a do-nothing technique, similar to drifting a Senko, that requires sensitive line and diligent line watching for the strike. This technique is under a wide variety of water and weather conditions, but the cadence stays relatively the same. You are targeting bass that are positioned outside and near current “seams” (where fast moving water collides with slower moving water) by cold or high water conditions. These fish are not feeding up towards the surface or chasing bait higher in the water column, either due to lethargy or reduced vision in turbulent water. The current positions these fish in current breaks below shoals on in slower seams. Bass riding out these tough conditions keep their noses pointed upstream, and feed on prey that tumbles through their narrowed strike zone. A screw-lock weighted swimbait hook is best, as you can bury the hook point into the back of the fluke to keep it from snagging on rocks, snags, muck, and debris as it tumbles downstream towards feeding bass.
Position yourself perpendicular to the current flow, and make casts quartering upstream that can be drifted through areas with eddies, and current breaks and seams. Maintain a semi-slack line so the lure can drift freely and naturally downstream through the prime current breaks. You will need to either free spool to let out line, or reel up slack to keep a constant “feel” of the lure to detect strikes by either touch or by seeing the line path change. Also, you don’t want so much line out that you can’t quickly take up the slack and set the hook. Multiple casts are drifts are usually required for this scenario, depending on the water temperature and clarity. Consider that lower temperature, higher volume of flow, and high sediment in the water all reduce the strike zone and the fish’s willingness to move for a lure.
Tackle Considerations: In my opinion, braided line is a must for strike detection and long-distance hooksets. A fluorocarbon or monofilament leader can be tied on if bass appear shy of the braid. I typically fish flukes on fast or extra-fast action spinning gear with 20-30 lb braided line. Always connect your hook with a loop knot. This gives the lure a more natural action, and allows much more movement on twitches and pauses, which typically generates more strikes.