flats fishing

Flats Fishing 101: How To Identify And Fish A Flat

This post was guest written by Will Hogan of The Indiana University Bass Fishing Team.

Although it may feel like winter will never end, spring fishing will be here before we know it. As the water temperatures start to increase in the coming months, bass will enter their pre-spawn stage and eventually the spawn. Arguably one of, if not, the best time of year to fish, and there is arguably no better place to target these fish than flats.

What Is Flats Fishing?

The best part about flats is they are pretty self explanatory. A flat is essentially any piece of bottom in a pond or lake that creates a flat surface, usually substantially above the lowest depth in the body of water. For example, if the average depth is in the range of 18-20 feet,you will find there are multiple flats that are only 10-12 feet below the surface. This is just one example of a flat, as fishing flats can be found in any depth of water. In smaller lakes, close to shore flats can be as shallow as 5 feet, whereas huge bodies of water like the Great Lakes will have flats as deep as 35-40 feet. Bass move to flats during the pre spawn to feed up, and oftentimes spawn on the same flats they will feed near.

What to Consider While Fishing Flats

Knowing the bottom composition of the flat is key as well. For those flats fishing anglers who have electronics on their boat or kayak, being able to identify rock formations or other hard sources of cover is a good sign there will be fish down there. If you don’t have electronics, be familiar with the bottom structure of the body of water you’re fishing. I.E muddy bottom vs sand, grass, rocks, etc.

Flats Fishing Strategies and Lures

Bass do not feed heavily during the winter, so once they enter pre-spawn mode they go right back up into heavy feeding patterns. Jerkbaits are the tried and true preferred method for pre spawn fish. I’ve had days of fishing flats where I don’t even have to pause the jerkbait, because fish are feeding so aggressively. Buzzbaits and poppers are fun to throw as well, if you have a significant shad population in your lake or pond.

Structure

Just like the pre-spawn, knowing the substance and makeup of the lake or pond you’re fishing makes a huge difference for fishing the spawn. Fishing flats can be full of many different types of structure, or only one. But, knowing what to look for is key when fishing a flat. Grass is the most common cover for flats, and many anglers will throw a spinnerbait or chatterbait, because it allows you to cover lots of water.

Another common type of structure you will find is rock piles or large rock on the floor of the flat. It is always safe to assume a crankbait or swimbait will produce a few bites there. In many of the bigger lakes, you will find scattered beds throughout the flat. A good strategy here is dragging a drop shot along the bottom, or maybe even a jig with a crawfish trailer.

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