Seven Tips for Hooking Fluke

Practice the do's and don'ts of hooking fluke to put more keepers on ice this season.

Fluke fishing has changed dramatically over the years due to synthetic baits like Berkley Gulp and the increased popularity of jigheads and bucktails over traditional rigs.  With this new paradigm, hook-setting has become increasingly important to effectively catch more of them.  As a charter captain, I’ve identified a couple tips for hooking fluke, as well as the five most common hook-setting mistakes many anglers make when hoping to hook a doormat.

The Don’ts of Hooking Fluke

DO NOT: Set the hook like a Bass Pro

Some anglers have watched too many professional bass tournaments. They bring their Mike Iaconelli lip-ripping swings to the fluke scene, but ultimately miss many more fish than they catch.  

The worst offenders make their big hooksets off to the side. The issue with “side-setting” involves the anatomy and structure of a fluke’s mouth, which is vastly different than a smallmouth or largemouth bass.  A fluke has both eyes on one side of its head, so it lies on its side and its mouth is oriented as such.  These fish are ambush predators that surprise prey swimming by them.  As a fluke attempts to bite the bait, its mouth is oriented sideways and a hookset from the side usually pulls the bait away from it.  If the hookset is vertical (up and down), the hook of the lure will drive into the fluke’s cheek for a secure hookset.  

DO NOT: Shoot for the Moon

tips for hooking fluke
In bottom fishing, the penalty for high sticking is usually a lost fluke.

“Houston, we have a problem!”  Some anglers jig the lure with the rod tip pointed toward the sky.  When setting the hook on an unwary fluke, the rod tip travels well behind the angler, hooking the fish for an instant, but due to the rod’s extreme skyward angle, a slight belly or slack in the line develops.  At this point, the fluke gets the slack and shakes free to live a happy life on the ocean floor.  Since slack is the enemy of any hookset (and the time fighting a fish), it’s imperative to maintain contact with the fish throughout the hookset and the fight. 

The rod tip should travel roughly 45 degrees, stopping when the rod-holding hand reaches eye level. This makes it easy to maintain continuous tension when you begin reeling in the fish. 

DO NOT: “Crank Set” 

Some anglers continue to reel after getting a bite, hoping to set the hook that way. The “crank set” is the proper way to engage a circle hook in species like striped bass, but when jigging for fluke, this fails to plant the barb.  It’s a crank and miss every time.

DO NOT: Set the Hook More than Once

tips for hooking fluke
Use steady pressure on the reel and avoid pumping the rod when fighting fluke.

Some anglers have the right idea with a vertical hookset but like to double or triple set to be sure their fluke has no chance of being landed.  The double and triple hooksets have two-fold detrimental effects on the fish. 

First, multiple swings of the rod works a large hole in the fish’s mouth.  The second thing that goes wrong is a slight moment of slack in the line between the hooksets, which can dislodge the hook.  Ron Popeil’s infomercial tagline said it best: “Set it and forget it!”

DO NOT: Give the Fish Too Much Time 

Some fishermen give the fish too much time to decide on the offering, which usually means that the fish spits out the bait and leaves the scene or swallows the hook to its gut.  

Tips for Hooking Fluke

DO: Keep the Rod Low 

When you’re jigging bucktails, rigs, or jigs for fluke, it’s best to keep the rod tip low and pointed in a downward direction to the water.  However, keep the rod tip out of the water because the water’s contact on the rod will create drag and reduce sensitivity. 

Keep your rod tip as close to the water as possible and avoid long sweeps of the bait.

As you’re bouncing the lure on and off the bottom, get to the know the feel so that once additional weight is felt, you’re ready for the hookset.

DO: “Jig Through the Bite” 

Some fishermen set the hook too early, swinging at the first bump they feel. This leads to missed fish that have only nipped the tail of the trailer. Instead, “jig through the bite;” that is, keep working the lure or rig until you feel the unmistakable weight of the fish on the line.  At that moment, make a quick upward lift in an uninterrupted, smooth motion, then call for the net. 

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