Flats Fishing (aka Flats Fishing 101)
- the basics
This article is in response to a note I received from a visitor to
the site. Information on 'beginning flats fishing' was introduced
August '02 followed by articles on gear selection. This article will
not provide as much detail but maybe give a better overview and add
some new pointers gleaned from another year of fishing and lessons
learned from other anglers.
Flats Fishing, What is the Difference?
A good place to start is a look at what makes 'flats fishing' or 'shallow
water angling' unique compared to other fishing. Whether you have
fished a neighborhood pond, creek or a saltwater pier you have different
considerations on the flats. You can go to the lake and fish most
any day or time. Streams and creeks can flow fast or slow depending
on rainfall. If you go out on the pier you can wet a line but you
do have some of the same concerns with tide as you do on the flats.
Probably the most important factor for fishing the flats is that in
many places the tide changes the environment drastically. In some
coastal areas a low tide makes vast areas too shallow for fish and
a foot path for anglers who have not planned well. A paraphrase of
a cliche, it is ALL about the tides. I personally do not know near
as much as I need or want about the tides. The better an angler knows
the tides the more successful they will be. This may sound obvious
but I stress it because it is more than whether the flow is in or
out, high or low.
Working together with the tides is the topography of the bottom on
the flat. This can change subtlety over time and with major weather
events. Similar to streams, water can be forced through narrow cuts
that cause increased flow. This in turn will shape the underwater
habitat. Add to the various potholes, table flat or cuts in the bottom
what it is or is not covered with. Whether sand, various grasses,
in small or large patches it will determine which species frequent
the flat and where you can find them.
I mention this last but it is still significant, the wind. It can
push water in or keep it out completely changing the expected tides.
Wind can also push grasses around making retrieval of your lure difficult.
Different Fishing, Different Gear?
As noted, there are past articles covering many questions regarding
gear. Future articles will add more detailed information. You can
use almost anything to catch fish (and I have seen it done) you increase
your chances though by using better quality equipment. You don't need
to go the top of the line but you are likely to get better results
than fishing with a low end department store combo. Following are
the basic guidelines I would suggest.
The rod can be made of either a graphite compound or fiberglass. Fiberglass
rods are having a resurgence. There is much better feel the the whippy
rods of the 60's and 70's. No matter the material you want a rod that
has some 'backbone' or resistance to bending but also enough flex
that a big or fast running fish does not end your day early. The flex
of the rod tip can be important depending on your terminal tackle.
Some high end rods note the tip flex. If not noted you should look
for a tip that has a slight spring to it. Some rods very stiff all
the way to the tip.
You should also make note of the line strength and lure weight the
rod is rated at. Sure you can use heavier or lighter line and exceed
the lure weight. You will not get optimal results though. Over lining
a rod can cause it to fail. As a general rule you will want to use
the lightest line possible for the game you target. Heavier line may
reduce the likelihood of you breaking off but it will restrict your
casting distance and possible alter your lure action. More about line
later in the article.
The next consideration for your rod are the eyelets. They should be
of good quality. That is, a material that reduces line drag, heat
build up and is durable. A 'Fuji' guide is usually of a good quality.
The technical term for the 'mount' which holds the guide ring eludes
me and I will correct it later. The main point here is that if possible
it resists corrosion, is durable and provides good support. No point
going any deeper on that for an overview. As you can see, your equipment
can be important. Right down to the smallest component.
There is a point to this discussion on equipment. Not only does your
equipment need to be capable of handling the large or fast running
fish you are after but it must be efficient to allow you the best
opportunity to put your lure in front of a fish initially.
Get out and fish. Wherever you go,
whatever you use make it a point to enjoy yourself.
Let me know what you think.