Some of these expert tips may surprise you
In several south Louisiana kayak tournaments, the big prizes go to the Cajun Slam category. Contestants must weigh in one speckled trout, one slot-size redfish and one flounder. More often than not, the flounder gives participants the most trouble. Sure, flounder can be caught accidentally, but specifically targeting them and having regular success is an art.
We caught up with a few flounder pounders that consistently bring flatfish to their kayaks. While several of their overall strategies are similar, they have little differences unique to their fishing styles. By following their advice, you can increase your success rate and actually target flounder rather than stumbling into one.
Mike Malone lives near Lake Charles and mostly fishes the Big Lake area. Malone recently took first place in the Elite Kayak Club’s “Hunting Doormats” tournament. Anchored by a 201/2-inch bruiser, Malone clinched the win with 83 total inches.
“My big-picture strategy is to find points or cuts with water moving either in or out. I decide what to throw depending on the bait I’m seeing,” Malone said.
To make changing lures quickly, he uses a Norton Lure Quick Twist clip. “The clip lets me easily go between shrimp or baitfish imitations,” he said.
“Last week I was seeing small pogies, so I fished a white swimming mullet. However, the next day I saw lots of shrimp popping so I threw a Vudu shrimp.”
Malone’s strategy is a mixture of location, awareness and technology. “I actually saw the big flounder I caught on my side-scan image. There was a point that went from 6 inches down to 4 feet. There were rocks all around, but the point was a smooth mudflat. Looking at the screen, I saw something and zoomed in. I could see the fish lying on the bottom and pitched nearby and got the thump,” he added.
Pitching a Gulp or plastic tail on a 1/8-ounce jighead or Vudu shrimp, Malone tries to keep the bait in the strike zone as long as possible, slowly bouncing it off the bottom. He prefers to tight-line using braid and a fluorocarbon leader.
Brock Miller made his mark on the kayak tournament scene in 2016 by winning the Ride the Bull Tournament at only 16 years old. Although that tournament targeted only bull redfish, Miller has proven he knows how to catch flounder and took fifth place in this year’s Cajun Slam category at Paddle Palooza.
“My go-to flounder bait is a chartreuse, 4-inch Gulp swimming mullet rigged on a ¼-ounce jighead. I use 20-pound braid and a 15-pound fluorocarbon leader.” Miller said. “If I’m fishing shallow water, I’ll use a popping cork with only 12 to 18 inches of leader to make sure the bait is hitting the bottom. For deeper areas, I’ll simply tight-line the lure.”
Miller looks for obvious ambush points, either cuts, coves or pilings.
“If there are docks around, I use the advantage of the kayak to get up close and shallow where boats cannot go and pitch to all of the pilings,” he said.
Being aware of his surroundings is one of Miller’s keys to locating flounder. For Paddle Palooza, he noticed several glass minnows scattering along the bank. He put his bait in the zone and came away with two nice flounder in only a few casts. In addition to the swimming mullet, Miller also catches flounder using Vudu shrimp and Matrix Shad.
Benton Parrott is from Navarre, Fla., but he fishes Louisiana so often that he can almost be considered a resident. A regular at the winners’ podium in various kayak tournaments, Parrot finished ninth at Paddle Palooza.
“Flounder are flounder, and the biggest difference fishing them in Louisiana versus Florida waters is clarity,” he said. “For Louisiana, I love fishing either paddletail or curlytail baits in either white or predominantly white. Something about that white just makes the bait almost glow in Louisiana waters. Paired with either a red or black jighead, I just find that color contrast to make the lure more attractive.”
While some anglers prefer lighter jigheads, Parrott likes a ¼-ounce to make sure his lure is contacting the bottom.
“I like to stay tight against the grassline to keep my lure in the zone as much as possible. If I come to a small channel, I hit both sides as well as the middle before leaving,” he said. “I like to do what I call a ‘flutter bounce,’ I lift and drop, making sure to take up slack each time so I’m in direct contact when the strike happens.”
Parrott’s go-to set up is a spinning rod with braid and a 15- pound fluorocarbon leader.
“Do not overlook any structure be it pilings, piers or natural features of the bank,” he added.
Parrott’s key element is flowing water.
“I look for running water with an eddy flowing around or across a point,” he said. “Flounder are ambush predators and lie in wait for a meal to come to them,” he said.
In just a few months, Devon Beltz of Ama has taken first place in Louisiana’s two largest Cajun Slam kayak tournaments: Fall ‘N Tide and Paddle Palooza. To say he knows how to catch flounder is an understatement.
“The day before a tournament, I look at the weather and tide forecasts and also Google Earth to get a look at the area I’ll be fishing,” Beltz said. “I’m looking for areas where water will be pushed up a canal or broken marsh and looking for eddies on the back side.”
When allowed by tournament rules, Beltz always carries live shrimp; however, it’s not always a sure bet. For Paddle Palooza, Beltz worked a promising washout with a live shrimp to no avail.
“I just couldn’t believe there were no flounder in that spot, but my live shrimp went untouched,” he said. “I was about to leave and decided to toss a chartreuse and white plastic just to be sure. I caught three flounder in three casts. The moral of the story is to try several different baits before you give up on a spot.”
Beltz’s favorite technique is finesse fishing with his trusty 3-inch, chartreuse Gulp swimming mullet on a 1/8-ounce jighead. He keeps his bait up against the grass and in the strike zone as long as possible.
“I use a slow, pop-and-drop movement that only moves the bait about one foot in 30 seconds,” he said.
Next time you are searching for flounder, take a cue from these guys and give their techniques a try, You will be glad you did.