Fishing the Weightless FlukeBy Steve Day
With all of the fishing lures that I own, I could probably fish a whole weekend switching lures every 5 minutes and never have to fish the same thing twice. And that doesn’t include the stuff I have stacked in my garage… What is surprising is how often I go back to one of my fishing basics: fishing weightless flukes. If you are a "Co-Angler" fishing behind a Pro using reaction baits, a fluke can be a good choice. You might pick up fish that want a slower, more subtle presentation and you will be able to fish it in spots that he can’t get a topwater, crankbait or jerkbait.
This technique works best for me when the bass are close to shore or in fairly shallow water. On a windy day the water is choppy enough that the bass feel comfortable staying a little shallower. Even in the hot summer months the fish will usually be close enough to shore to fish flukes in the early morning. A Texas rigged fluke works through rocks and brush without snagging better than a crankbait or hard jerkbait and you can work it slower than a spinnerbait and you can even deadstick it if the fish are really turned off. It is great follow-up bait for throwing to fish that blow up on a topwater but don’t take the bait. Throw the fluke in, twitch it once or twice and the fish will usually hammer it.
Rods & Reels
I like to fish weightless flukes in windy conditions and a spinning rod and reel work better for this than a baitcaster. A weightless fluke weighs enough that you can cast it a long ways even into the wind. A good fluke rod would be a medium power fast action rod 6' 6" or 7' long; if I am using no-stretch line I go with a moderate or moderate-fast action rod. The longer rod will get you increased casting distance and fish control; if you are skipping the flukes under trees and docks, a shorter rod works better. My normal fluke rods are a 6' 4" medium power moderate action St.Croix custom built by George Roth and a 7' Lamiglas XMG50 LP844 that I built. I use the shorter rod in close quarters and skipping flukes under trees and docks. The longer rod is used in open water where I might be casting further.
Here’s a trick I learned from a local pro: use the Flame Green Berkley FireLine for fishing weightless flukes or Senkos. The line is no stretch and much more sensitive than monofilament, plus you can see the line jump or tighten up when you get a light bite. I use a small swivel and a fluorocarbon leader about 24" long at the end of the FireLine. The swivel reduces line twist and adds a little weight when you allow the fluke to sink. Some anglers prefer to tie a longer fluorocarbon leader straight to the FireLine.
I usually Texas rig the flukes on a 3/0 wide gap worm hook when I am fishing around cover. A couple years ago I started assembling some specialty hooks for fishing toads/frogs and flukes and did very well fishing with them. They are a Mustad extra wide gap UltraPoint hook with a stainless steel spring connected to the hook eye. You screw the spring into the nose of the fluke and then insert the hook point into the fluke like a normal worm hook. With a regular worm hook you can only catch a few fish before the nose of the fluke is torn and it slides down the hook on every cast or dink nibble. With the Fluke Hooks, the flukes last much longer and they don’t slide down the hook. I have caught hard fighting smallmouths that actually turned the fluke inside out; the spring still held the nose and I just popped the fluke body back and continued fishing.
If I am fishing open water, I will sometimes use a thin wire straight worm hook or my Sickle Dropshot hook in size #1 or 1/0 and nose-hook the flukes. You get a little more action out of the fluke and very good hook-ups, but they do snag a lot more if you fish around rocks or brush.
I like baitfish colors in flukes: white, pearl, salt & pepper, alewife, albino, shiner, baby bass, golden bream or Zoom Glimmer Blue (my favorite). Sometimes the bass want a darker color and I will throw watermelon, green pumpkin or smoke pepper. If you are fishing off-colored water you might try bright colors like bubblegum, chartreuse or lemon shad.
I fish the fluke like a hard jerkbait, but with more subtle jerks; more of a twitch than a jerk. Start your jerk with a little slack in your line and end it by giving the bait a little slack; this helps the fluke "walk" and the erratic direction changes help trigger bites. Throw the fluke towards cover and reel up most of the slack, give it two twitches and enough slack line to let it sink. Watch your line for twitches or movement and feel for strikes; the bites usually come on the glide as the fluke “dies” after the twitches. Repeat. You need to vary the speed of the retrieve, the intensity of the jerks and the length of the pauses until you find what the fish want on a given day. Be aware that fish activity changes throughout the day, so you might need to change your technique too. Some days that will be a fast retrieve with aggressive jerks; other days it will be two subtle twitches, letting it sink to the bottom and dead sticking the fluke for 30 seconds.
If you are fishing clear water you will actually see some of the strikes; a dark shape appears and sucks in your fluke or you see a big boil and your fluke is gone. Whether you see the strike or not, wait a second or two before setting the hook to make sure the fish has the bait in its mouth. I usually work flukes with the rod at about 10:00 o'clock; if I feel or see a bite I slowly reel down to around 9:00 o'clock and set. Sometimes you will lose fish because they ball the bait up in their mouths and you set the hook back into the bait instead of the fish; the only thing that I have found to help with this is the sharp extra wide gap hooks and healthy hooksets. Sometimes you can get the hook point through the fluke and into the fish.