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Publication: Bass Matters
How to Fish Flats

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><> ><>        BASS MATTERS - July 26, 2006          ><> ><> 

Comment The Post Below...

Hello Anglers,

Throughout most of the summer you can fin bass suspended 
over brushpiles and other structure. Man-made brushpiles are 
common on most reservoirs. Crappie guides like to sink them 
so they can attract crappie, but along with the crappie comes 
the bass. If you can find these brushpiles next to a creek 
channel in the hot summer months there should be tons of big 
bucketmouths suspending above them.

Remember you can comment on any story or read comments   
by visiting: http://blog.gophercentral.com/bass.html
Bass Matters Blog

Enjoy a week of fishing!
email Brock

How to Fish Flats
From Extreme Bass Lures

Knowing how to fish flats is a basic requirement in most 
lakes. Flats are preferred feeding areas most of the year, 
and this holds true from Florida to Minnesota, and points 
east and west. So serious anglers need to learn about flats 
and then check them out whenever they're out on the water. 
Following are methods for fishing these overlooked places.

When To Fish Flats: When is the best time to fish flats? 
Flats are worth fishing all the time except in the dead of 
winter, when the fish school up and hold in deep water. But 
from early spring through late fall, flats are prime fishing 
spots. Fall is the very best time to fish flats, followed by 
spring, then summer. In the spring, shallower flats toward 
the backs of the creeks are best, places that are good 
spawning areas. In summer, deeper flats on the main lake or 
lower creek areas are better. And in the fall, the bass 
tend to migrate back to the medium to shallow flats, again 
in the creeks.

Attractive Flats: Flats may seem similar, but some have 
certain features that make them a lot more attractive to 
bass. Savvy flat fishermen recognize these features and 
understand how to judge flats for bass holding potential. 
Following are guidelines foe making such appraisals: First, 
water depth. The productive flats are the ones that are 8 
feet deep and shallower. That's not to say flats deeper than 
8 feet won't produce fish. Sometimes they will. But overall, 
the deeper flats aren't as consistent as the shallower ones. 
Many anglers believe most bass spend most of their lives in 
shallow water. 

Fishing shallow flats just increases your odds of running 
into fish. Second, substructure features. Good flats are the 
ones that have extra features like stumps, brushpiles,
grassbeds or some other type cover. On flats, these objects 
are like magnets to bass. The fish are naturally drawn to 
them. They'll even orient to a stick, anything they can get 
their eye behind so they feel hidden. Other bass attracting 
features on flats may include shallow ditches or humps, 
anything that breaks the uniformity of the bottom. A little 
run in might be as little as 6 inches deep, but that's 
enough of a change to draw the fish. 

That's the key word, change. Flats have these extra objects 
or features that stand out from a plain bottom are more 
attractive to bass than flats that are just monotonous 
nothings. Third, presence of baitfish. This is probably the 
biggest of all. If a flat has baitfish, it'll probably have
bass. But if the bait isn't there, the bass won't be either. 
Don't spend too much time on a flat that doesn't have bait-
fish. Baitfish (such as shad) probably won't use a flat that 
doesn't meet the first two conditions. If a flat is just a 
featureless bottom, the baitfish won't be attracted to it, 
and neither will the bass. 

You need to bypass these places. Several other temporary 
conditions add to a flat's appeal to baitfish and bass. One 
is the presence of wind. A flat's more likely to have feed-
ing bass on it if there's some wind blowing across it. The 
wind 'pushes' the baitfish in. It also ripples the surface 
and makes the fish feel more secure than they are in calm 
water. Another temporary condition is a rising or falling 
water level. If the lake is dropping, bass pull back off 
the shallow flats into the channels. 

But if the lake is stable or rising, the fish will move up 
on the flats and feed. Water clarity is another temporary 
condition worthy of notice. In stained or off colored water, 
the fish feel safer than they do in clear water, but there's 
still enough clarity for them to feed. Also, since they can't 
see the angler as easily, they're not as spooky. One more 
temporary condition is current. If current is washing over 
a flat, it's usually a plus. Current moves baitfish, and 
this turns bass on. 

Running and Gunning: Learning how to judge a flat and 
actually using that knowledge to put bass in the boat are 
two different matters. It's one thing to understand that 
bass hold around scattered stumps or ditches. It's another 
thing to locate these objects under 8 feet of water on a 50 
to 100 acre flat. You've got to know how to cover a lot of 
water and maximize your time. The idea is to test fish what 
you think are the best parts of a flat. Hit them quickly, 
and if you don't find anything, move on to the next spot. 
Check several flats, and eventually you'll find some bass. 
This is the fishing strategy for which the term "run and
gun" was coined. 


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Identify likely flats through map study. (On a topographical
map, flats are characterized by contour lines that are far 
apart and wavy.) One the water, begin checking these areas 
to see if bass are present. Run into a cove until you hit 
the right depth. Then throttle back and start idling and 
study the flat. Is there any visible cover? Is the wind blow-
ing over the flat? What's the water color like? And most 
important, do you see any any evidence of baitfish? Again, 
this is critical. If you don't see baitfish, don't waste 
time on that flat. Keep looking until you find one that has 
some bait. 

You can find baitfish two ways: visually and electronically. 
Sometimes you can see minnows flipping on the surface or 
cruising along a few inches under water, warming in the sun. 
Also, watch the wake behind your outboard. A lot of times 
shad get scared when the boat goes by, and they jump out of 
the water. Also you should monitor your depthfinder when 
motoring over a flat. Keep the unit's sensitivity set high 
enough to show schools of shad below the surface. If they're 
not close to the top, you can see the baitfish 2 to 3 feet 
down. If a flat passes this initial inspection, then it's 
time to get down to the actual fishing process. This is 
really the only true means of learning whether bass are 

Fish Flats Fast: Once you decide to test fish a flat, put 
the trolling motor down, turn it on high and never let up. 
Now your goal is to cover as much water as fast as possible. 
Bass don't scatter all over a flat. Instead, they concentrate 
on certain areas, and these are what your looking for. So 
continually move and cast while staying alert for any clues 
that will tip you off as to where they are. Search by casting 
to anything that offers any obvious attraction to the fish. 
Throw to any piece of cover, brush, logs whatever. And while 
moving from one such spot to the next, make random casts 
across the flat, hoping to find something that doesn't break 
the surface. 

A lot of times you might catch a fish right out in the 
middle of nowhere. But after you mark the spot and check it 
out, you may find stumps or a little hump or a change in the 
bottom content. It'll be something real subtle but different 
from the surrounding area. Approach a flat from a creek or 
river channel, if one exists. Look on the map for where the 
channel makes a sharp turn or horseshoe, some logical spot 
where fish migrating along the channel will move up onto the 
flat. From here, just pick a direction, maybe toward the 
bank or a brushpile or treetop that you can see. And then 
just roll toward it, casting on both sides of the boats as 
you go. Prospect flats by following what is called a Z 
pattern. Go in a straight line for 50 yards. 

Then turn at an angle for 25 yards, then straighten back out 
for 50 more yards. If you don't get a strike in this run, 
crank up the motor, idle back on the flats a couple of 
hundred yards and then run another stretch. While moving and 
casting monitor your depthfinder. Even in shallow water, 
it's very important to watch your depthfinder all the time. 
This is how you'll find a lot of little hidden objects. 
You'll be going along, and suddenly you'll see a little dip 
on the finder. Always turn and follow these subtle contours 
for a way to see if they're holding fish. Any change in the 
contour whatever can be important. 

A rise from 5 feet to 4 feet can be the key to finding fish. 
The same holds for little depressions. Again, the key word 
is "change". You've got to cover enough water on a flat to 
find the changes and see if the bass are present. You just 
move and cast and stay attuned to where the baitfish and 
the changes are. This is how you fish flats. When searching 
for bass, don't linger on a flat that doesn't produce quick 
action. When you try a flat, generally fish what looks like 
the best part, where the wind's blowing or where the bait-
fish or cover are most plentiful. If you don't catch anything
again, crank up and idle maybe another 200 yards, then fish
another stretch. 

If you don't catch anything this time, move on to another 
cove. When bass are located, slow down and fish thoroughly 
to see if a school is present. For example, you're going 
along and not getting any action then suddenly come to an 
area where you get two or three quick strikes. Now turn 
around and go back through that area, fishing slow and more 
thoroughly. Basically, you just stay with that area for a 
while and try to work it out and expand it. 

This is your goal: Find that little part of the flat where 
the fish are concentrated and feeding, then stay with them 
and catch them. If bass like a particular set of conditions 
on flats in one cove, anglers should look for duplicate 
conditions in other coves: same side of the cove, same water 
depth, same type cover, etc. This pattern may hold throughout
the lake, and if it does, vastly expand one's fish catching 


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Baits For Flats: Since your moving constantly, you want 
baits you can fish quickly to cover the water. Spinnerbaits, 
buzzbaits and lipless crankbaits fill the bill. You can just 
throw them out and reel them back in. Sometimes you might 
also diving crankbaits, and if you find fish on cover and 
want to work slower, switch to a worm or a jig. But while 
you're running and looking, stay pretty much with the faster 
baits. Frequently change lures to see which one the fish 

If you fish a good looking log or brushpile with a spinner-
bait and don't get a strike, pick up the buzzbait rod and 
make a few casts. Sometimes the fish will hit on top of the 
water but not underneath, or vise versa. You've just got to 
try the different options to see what they want. Using a 
Rat-L-Trap you can employ a special retrieve. 

Pump the bait, letting it sink down to the bottom, then 
pulling it back up. This is like yo-yoing a spinnerbait. 
Move it around 3 feet at a time. When you pick the bait up 
off the bottom, it kicks up mud, and this excites the bass 
and causes them to strike. For whatever reason, this 
technique is especially effective in the fall.

Special Flats Situations: Fishing flats requires a special 
technique during the spawning season. Look for shallow flats 
toward the backs of the creeks or pockets that are protected 
from the northwest wind. These flats warm faster than wind 
exposed area, and the bass will move onto them sooner. You 
can still troll and cast randomly through these spawning 
areas. It's a lot like fishing other flats. Look for cover 
and isolated objects. But you should also watch for beds. 
They look like little circles in a dark bottom. (Polarized 
sunglasses help you spot spawning beds.) 

If you find a flat where you can see the beds, then switch 
over to a lizard or tube or a minnow type bait, and fish the 
bait right in the bed. In spring, you can alter your run and 
gun technique. You can pitch to objects that bass would 
orient to when nesting.  If there are bushes or logs on the 
flat, flip a jig around them. This approach is more likely 
to make a bedding bass strike. Another condition worth extra 
scrutiny is when aquatic vegetation is thick on the flat. 
Vegetation is one of the best things a flat can offer bass. 
The vegetation draws bait. It hides the bass. It gives off 
oxygen, and it helps clean the water. 

So a flat with grass or weeds on it is an ideal flat to fish. 
You can scour heavy matted vegetation with a surface spoon 
or a rubber frog. You can also cast spinnerbaits along the 
edges of weedlines, paying attention to point and holes in 
the greenery. A lot of times weed growth stops where the 
bottom composition changes, or where a little drop-off 
begins. In either case, this is an ideal place for bass to 
collect. A third special flats fishing circumstance is found 
in tidal waters. Basically, whether the tide's coming in or 
going out determines where the fish will hold and feed. 

When the tide is rising, bass move up onto flats and feed. 
If lily pads or aquatic weeds are on the flat, when the 
water's high, bass get back in those weeds. Then flipping is 
the best way to catch them. When the tide starts falling, 
the bass pull back off the flats into ditches and the last 
outside cover adjacent to the flats. These become the best 
ambush sites. Generally you can fish spinnerbaits in these 
locations. Regardless of prevailing conditions, flats fish-
ing involves a lot of trial and error. 

There's no substitute for covering water and casting 
continually. A lot of times there's nothing visual to help 
you find the good spots. You just have to keep going until 
you run into them. Fish fast and hopscotch around. Then when 
you hit bass, slow down and ring the register. This is the 
master plan for fishing flats, and smart anglers who follow 
it almost always go home happy.

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        GopherCentral's Question of the Week
Do you think we are either in or headed toward WW III?

Question of the Week

                  FISHING JOKES CORNER

A couple of young guys were fishing at their special pond 
off the beaten track when out of the bushes jumped the game 
warden! Immediately, one of the boys threw his rod down and 
started running through the woods and hot on his heels came 
the game warden. After about a half mile, the guy stopped 
and stooped over with his hands on his thighs to catch his 
breath and the game warden finally caught up to him. 

"Let's see yer fishin license, boy!" the warden gasped. 
With that, the guy pulled out his wallet and gave the game 
warden a valid fishing license. "Well, son," said the Game 
Warden. "You must be about as dumb as a box of rocks! You 
don't have to run from me if you have a valid license!" 
"Yes sir," replied the young feller. "But my friend back 
there, well, he don't have one..."

Questions? Comments? email: mailto:brock@gophercentral.com
Email brock
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