5 Best Baits for Catching Big Flounder

Flounder are an amazing fish both in the water and on the table, and if you're looking to catch the big ones, this article will show you the best baits for catching big flounder in any season.

Find the Bait, Find the Flounder

Flounder spend most of their time in bays, estuaries, bayous, and other inshore waters. They find a nice spot on the bottom to hunker down then wait for a meal to swim by.

In many ways, flounder are the ultimate ambush predator. They lay and wait — perfectly camouflaged with the sand and mud at the bottom — ready to strike with little or no structure hiding their presence.

Rarely will you find a flounder cruising around hunting baitfish. Instead, they make their living by choosing a home range with abundant bait that will sooner or later swim a little too close to the flounder's mouth.

So, if you want to find the flounder, you must first find the bait.

A flounder's forage can vary depending on the type of marine environment they've chosen as home, but their menu largely consists of small baitfish and shrimp.

To increase your odds of catching your limit of flounder, dress your hook with bait caught from the same water you plan to fish. That's right — catch your own bait.

Catching your own bait for flounder fishing accomplishes two things:

1. You obtain the best bait for flounder in that particular area.

2. You know if you were able to find bait there must be flounder nearby.

Cruise around the area you'd like to fish and look for schools of baitfish. Then, use a cast net to scoop them up. Rig up your rod with a live minnow in the 3- to 4-inch range and you're ready to fish.

Now, if you've never caught your own bait and aren't sure what to look for or if you would rather purchase your bait from a bait shop, use the following recommendations for the best bait for flounder as your guide for what to catch or buy.

Best Baits for Catching Big Flounder: Fresh Caught or Store Bought

1. Finger Mullet and Other Small Baitfish

Baitfish make up the majority of a flounder's diet. If you're fishing the right area and the right type of water, you won't drift far without seeing at least some schools of baitfish swimming around.

In most areas, finger mullet are readily available and widely consumed by flounder. These small greenish-silver fish are found all throughout the Gulf Coast as well as up and down the Atlantic Coast, and are easy to catch with a cast net. Mullet are relatively hardy fish and do well in a bucket as long as you use an aeration device to keep the water oxygenated.

For big flounder, use finger mullet that are 3 or 4 inches long rigged on a 1/8 ounce jig head. Thread the hook through the lips. You'll be bouncing your jig along the bottom and you want the mullet to be positioned as if it's swimming forward on its own.

If you can't find any finger mullet in the area you're fishing, go for whatever local baitfish is present. Maybe it's croakers, maybe it's mud minnows, maybe it's menhaden.

Don't sweat it if you can't find mullet. Chances are, if you use the baitfish that are present, you'll have better luck anyway.

Also, if you plan on purchasing bait from a bait shop or marina, don't worry if they don't have finger mullet. Buy the best looking live baitfish they have and give it a go. If they don't have any baitfish, use the next best thing, which is...

2. Live Shrimp

When baitfish are hard to come by, live shrimp save the day.

If you're lucky enough to find shrimp floating around in the water you're fishing, by all means, cast your net and haul them in. But if not, head to your local bait shop and pick up a few dozen live shrimp and be sure to keep them aerated.

To catch big flounder, you can rig live shrimp on a 1/8 jig head the same as you would a finger mullet. But for a slightly better presentation, you can use a Carolina rig or a sliding sinker rig. These rigs allow the live shrimp to move more freely rather than being pulled down to the bottom with every bounce of the jig head.

If you don't have a good source for live shrimp, plan on stopping by the seafood department of your local grocery store to pick up some shrimp that are…

3. Dead Shrimp

… not so alive.

Shrimp that are freshly dead or dead and frozen make excellent bait for flounder if that's what you have to work with. 2 or 3 pounds should be plenty for a day of flounder fishing. If you're using frozen shrimp, be sure to let it thaw before you rig up.

Dead shrimp can be fished either on a jig head or a sliding sinker rig. If you're feeling experimental, try tipping your dead shrimp with a small soft plastic curly tail grub for added flounder appeal.

4. Cut or Strip Bait

If live bait isn't an option, fresh cut bait from croakers, whiting, or any other small fish in the area can be very effective for catching big flounder.

To obtain cut bait or strip bait, you must first catch the fish you plan on cutting up. Fish that work well for cut bait are typically too big to use as whole live bait, but too small to consider eating yourself.

To catch fish for cut bait, use either a cast net or a sabiki. A sabiki is a rig made up of several hooks, sometimes five or six, that each have a small piece of foil attached to imitate a tiny baitfish. If you don't have a sabiki on hand, simply bait small-sized hooks and fish around structure. It shouldn't be too difficult to catch several small fish in a short amount of time.

Once you have your fish, take a sharp knife and cut them into 1- to 2-inch chunks. Larger fish can be filleted, then their fillets cut into strips for strip bait.

Rig your cut or strip bait on a jig head or a sliding sinker rig and cast away.

5. Soft Plastic Curlytail Grubs

Finally, if you don't want to bother with natural bait — live or dead — reach for your tackle box and pull out your soft plastics.

You can use any style of saltwater-specific soft plastic lures — paddle tails, stick baits, jerk baits, etc. — but 3- or 4-inch curly tail grubs work especially well when targeting big flounder.

Choose light-colored soft plastics like pink, white, yellow and silver which are effective for flounder in most waters. Rig them on a 1/8 jig head and you're ready to fish.


 Catching your own bait in the area you plan on fishing is a very effective way to appeal to the flounder you're trying to catch, but store-bought bait will work well too. Most would agree that the best part about catching flounder are the sweet, succulent fillets these peculiar fish provide, so enjoy the catch and eat up!

​Doormat-sized flounder can be challenging to catch, but if you use the best baits for flounder we've recommended, you'll be off to a great start.

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