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DoorGunner

Early morning strip baits.

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What makes food look appetizing to us? Plate appearance and packaging are two ways that can trigger a strike from people but what about fish? How many times have we hung a bait on a hook then looked at it and said, Now that looks good? We think but fish react and that means two different sets of table manners. Go out one day and we catch fish. Same spot the next day and we end up scratching our heads. I always believe they are still down there but they just aren't reacting to what we are dropping. It's a puzzle we need to figure out if we want to score each time out. A good assortment of baits for me is usually the key to most problems.

When I go summer flounder fishing I always have four choices to offer. Live minnows, frozen shiners (spearing) strip baits and a pack of gulp or something like it in the tackle bag. The only one of those four that I have any control over is the strip baits and this can be critical especially early morning before the sun is up. Most of us use squid strips or flounder belly or ribbons for strip baits. My favorite is herring, mackerel or bluefish fillet strips and everyone mentioned are great baits and produce most of the time. But what about when they don't ? Why don't they? COLOR.

I have always said that no rule in fishing applies every day but this one comes as close to an every day rule as I have ever seen. Hit me like a bolt of lightening about thirty years ago and very early in the morning. I was out by myself and just knew I was going to wack the flat fish fast and early. First boat out and predawn to the point that my running lights were on. It was low tide and my starting point was a short distance away right at the end of the outgoing tide. The section of water was very wide, about  seven or eight hundred yards but almost all of it was shallow. The only water deep enough for flounder was the intercoastal and this section was only about a hundred and fifty feet wide. All the flounder that had been up on the flats at high tide had to be down in the channel. In my mind it was two drifts and in for breakfast and the limit back then was I believe eight fish. Set up for my first drift and made sure the net was right next to me and even had the cooler lid off to make room for company. Was rigged up with a single bucktail tipped with the prettiest strip of salted mackerel that I had stripped out the night before. So silvery and white that I was sure the flounder would fight to be first. Made a beautiful drift on glass flat water about two hundred yards long and a big fat nothing. Not to make any big disturbance I idled back up and made the same drift and an even fatter nothing. I would have bet my life on fish in the cooler already but i didn't even have a single tap or anything that I could lie to myself that was a bite. No give up and move so I idled back up for another drift. The jigging motion I was using had made a decent size hole in the mackerel strip so I replaced it and reaching into the bag of strips I came out with a dark strip from the top of the mackerel. Was ready to drop it back in and pick out a belly strip because to me that looked the most appealing but then I'm not a fish. I stopped and thought about it and decided to use the dark strip. Wasn't down there for more than five seconds and it got wacked. Another dark strip and another instant strike. Put on a bright belly strip and nothing. Replaced with a dark strip and again almost an instant strike. This continued until the sun finally came up and then it stopped. Another slow long drift and not a tap so I tried the bright belly strip and it was game on again. 

In very low light almost dark conditions and down twenty feet that day it had to be very dark they only keyed on dark strip baits. Think about what they feed on all day. Any small fish, crabs and grass shrimp and none of them are very bright in color so I don't think they are very able to react to a bright strip bait. It just may not register as a possible food. Once the sun rises and the bottom brightens then they will react to brighter baits. Just about every animal down there can lighten or darken their colors to help blend in. Take a look at live minnows in a white bucket and compare them to minnows kept in a cooler in the dark. Almost look like two different species just because of their color change. I doubt if a flounder has ever seen anything bright down on the bottom predawn so why would they think of something like that being food. They are hard wired to react to their food sources and until the sun comes up it ain't bright white. 

I know everyone of us has caught early morning flounder on bright baits but I believe they are the exception to the rule. When it's just past dark and the sun still has almost an hour before rising do the experiment and see for yourself if a darker bait doesn't draw a lot more attention than a bright strip. When you cut flounder ribbons take a bunch of the dark side strips and the same with macks and blues. Yoda may not agree but sometimes the dark side is good.     

 

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Nice read    lots of info for us to think about    Tons of info for Novices 

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I wonder if them keying in on the darker strips could have anything to do with the consistent use of gulp?  I know in my area just about every boat on the water flounder fishing has a bag of gulp with them.  That means that the flounder must see A LOT of gulp.  That is not to say that it doesn't work, but maybe they are sometimes looking for a more neutral not so bright colored presentation.  like you said, who knows what they are really thinking... It's just a thought.  Thanks for the advice though, maybe i'll try it out this year.  

Salty

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I guess if you were eating steak five nights in a row and you had a chance to have a lobster dinner , you would jump on it ? 

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