Dale Earnhardt was born to drive a race car, as was Peyton Manning to throw a football, and for Jimmy Crews, of Waycross, well his niche is to put flounder in the boat by the dozens.
Jimmy has spent the last 40-plus south Georgia summers chasing these tasty flatfish, and along the way, he has gotten pretty darn good at it.
For the last 35 years, he has kept written records of his catches and his yearly totals. His yearly goal is to put 600 in the boat, and during his worst of years, he still manages to sink his filet knife into more than 400 fish. Hard to believe right?
Well it gets better. A good majority of those fish he catches are caught on artificials, and often times, he uses a Bream Buster to do it. That’s right! I’m talking about a 12-foot telescopic rod. More on that later.
Jimmy was more than happy to take me out on the water this June and share some of his techniques for targeting flounder, and as I climbed into his 19-foot center console Carolina Skiff early one June morning, it was hard to contain my excitement.
After meeting his longtime friend Wayne Griffin, who would be fishing with us that day, Jimmy fired up the engine as we launched out of the Village Creek boat ramp on St. Simons Island.
After a 10-minute boat ride, we pulled up to our starting point, and Jimmy killed the engine.
“I always like to fish the last two hours of the outgoing tide and the first two hours of the incoming tide,” said Jimmy. “You can catch flounder all day, but my experience has shown that these are the most productive times. A big mistake some anglers make when targeting flounder is fishing right around the full moon or new moon. The tides are too strong, and the water is usually too dirty to get on a good flounder bite.”
Before Jimmy could finish talking about tides and moon phases, Wayne’s rod loaded up with the first fish of the day, a 16-inch speckled trout that put up quite the battle on the way to the ice box in the boat.
“That’s what I love about throwing a jig on the bottom for flounder, you will catch reds, trout, sharks and of course flounder,” Jimmy said.
When Jimmy goes after flounder, he prefers to use a 6-6 medium-action St. Croix rod with a Calcutta baitcasting reel spooled with 15-lb. test Berkley Big Game line. He mentioned that any medium-action rod would work, but to be sure it has a good soft-tip action to keep from ripping your hook out of a flounder’s tender mouth.
“A lot of folks fishing the salt have gone to braid and fluorocarbon, and that will get the job done, but the main priority when targeting flounder is to not rip the jig away from them. That’s where the stretch of monofilament is helpful,” Jimmy said.
Jimmy keeps it simple and cheap with jig selection, opting for 1/4-oz. Sea Striker Got-Cha Grub Heads in three main colors. He likes chartreuse for dirty water conditions, white for water that is pretty clear and red for anything in between. He did add that sometimes they bite one better than the other, so a little experimentation is key to get on a good bite.
To tip his jig heads, Jimmy serves up two basic offerings to the flounder. The first is a mud minnow hooked through the lips onto the jig head. The other is using a 3-inch Berkley Gulp! Swimming Mullet in chartreuse.
“It’s really a toss-up as to which is the best,” said Jimmy. “I’ve seen days when they eat the minnow, and I’ve seen days when the Gulp! tipped jig will out fish live bait five to one. It really comes down to personal preference and of course the price of bait. Sometimes, particularly during late summer, minnow prices skyrocket, and they are sometimes hard to find.”
His remedy is to use a cylinder minnow trap baited with chicken legs. These traps are available at Walmart for less than $15 bucks.
By throwing one into a small creek at low tide, and waiting 15 minutes, you will often be rewarded with enough bait for an all-day trip. If bait is scarce or hard to come by on a particular day, the Gulp! baits are a real lifesaver, and like Jimmy pointed out, they are equally effective in their own right.
As far as technique goes, Jimmy uses a simple but effective hopping action to trigger bites. It involves moving the rod tip from 10 o’clock to 12 o’clock, followed by a 5-second pause. This method closely mimicks the way a bass fisherman works a plastic worm.
“You can’t fish too slow for flounder. If you think you might be, then slow down some more,” Jimmy said with a grin.
Jimmy rarely uses an anchor when flounder fishing. Instead, he prefers to drift along the bank using his 80-lb. thrust Minn Kota trolling motor to hold the boat straight.
As we continued to work the shell-lined bank, I managed to break off my second jig head of the day.
“That lets you know you’re fishing the right place for flounder. They are structure-oriented fish, and hang-ups are part of the game,” Jimmy said.
For this reason, Jimmy spends 99 percent of his time jigging around shells, rocks, docks and whatever cover he can find.
After pitching my freshly tied on jig head to a protruding shell bed, my line gave a quick thump and went heavy. After a solid hookset, the fight was on. After several runs on my Abu Garcia Pro Max, Jimmy carefully netted the 16-inch flounder.
As we continued along the shell bank, the good fortune continued as we caught several more trout, flounder and even a pretty good-sized stingray that made things quite interesting for a few minutes.
As the tide reached dead low, Jimmy reached under the deck for his secret weapon. His smoking gun for flounder fishing was none other than a 12-foot B’n’M Bream Buster telescopic pole (available at www.basspro.com) rigged with 10 feet of 17-lb. test Berkley Big Game line with a 1/4-oz. jig head with a Gulp! Swimming Mullet threaded on. If the Swimming Mullet doesn’t get bit, he will resort to fishing the mud minnow on the same jig head.
Approaching a dock, it didn’t take long to see why this unusual tool for flounder fishing is so effective. Using a simple up-and-down jigging motion, Jimmy thoroughly worked each dock post, beginning in the front and working his way farther under the dock. Before he could finish working the first dock, a nice speckled trout interrupted his jigging by slamming the bait. After several line-singing runs, the Bream Buster won out, and I netted the fish.
“Years ago, I discovered the Bream Buster’s effectiveness for flounder by bank fishing around rocks and docks, and I have been using it ever since,” said Jimmy. “You can work a dock three or four times faster with a bream stick as you can with a rod and reel, and when you get an 18-inch flounder on it, you’re in for the fight of your life!”
Continuing to work docks as the tide started to rise, the action was nonstop. Jimmy used his telescopic pole to probe every nook and cranny he could find to catch fish, and Wayne along with myself managed to find some action, too. Jimmy noted that one of the best things about this tactic is it works anywhere along the Georgia coast you can find a dock.
“People ask me all the time where is the best place to go to catch flounder, and truthfully there are many great areas that are loaded with flounder that aren’t being targeted like trout and reds,” said Jimmy. “As long as you locate structure and fish it thoroughly, it won’t take long at all for a nice flat fish to be on the line.”
As we motored back to the launch, I thought about what a great morning it had been. Despite unusually windy conditions, we had managed to keep 20 flounder and nine nice trout. Along the way, we released around 15 more fish that came up on the short side of the measuring stick.
Jimmy said that during July and August, it’s common to catch more than 50 flounder in a day. There is a 12-inch (total length) minimum size limit, as well as a 15 fish per person limit. Make sure you keep a close count when the bite is hot. Jimmy noted that when the bite is on fire, two or three anglers in a boat can hit their limits rather quickly. When this happens, he normally switches gears and targets trout to top the cooler off before calling it quits for the day.
Hopefully, before summer gives way to the fall trout bite, you can set aside a day, or three, to target these tasty fish. Whether you catch 600 in a summer, or just six one morning, when you fry them up, it won’t make a difference.