Best Bait for Flounder and How to Use It

Oct 11, 2023 | 5 minute read Comments
Reading Time: 5 minutes

Flounder are some of the most loved inshore fish out there. They’re fun to catch, great to eat, and reasonably easy to tempt onto the hook – as long as you’ve got the right bait. With that in mind, here’s a run-down of the best bait for Flounder. We’ve also thrown in some general tips to up your catch rate, whatever bait you’re using.

Flounder Bait Basics

A smiling young woman holding a Flounder on a boat with a baited fishing rod next to her

Keep your bait low and slow. This is the number one rule when fishing for Flounder. Whether you’re using live bait or lures, work them in slow, twitching movements, keeping them close to the bottom. This will alert nearby Flatfish without moving out of strike distance.

The best bait is what’s already there. Flounder are greedy eaters, but they tend to have a favorite food wherever they live. Because of this, it’s best to match the local forage – especially if you’re using live bait. Catch your bait from the spot you’re fishing in if you can. If not, at least survey the waters to see what’s swimming around.

Flounder are ambush hunters. They can and will chase down their prey on occasion; but most of the time, they wait on the edge of the current for it to come to them. This can lead to snags and hangups if they’re hiding in cover. To avoid this, gently pull the fish away from any snags before setting the hook – it won’t give up a meal without a fight.

Best Bait for Flounder

Finger Mullet

An angler holding a live finger mullet, the best bait for Flounder fishing

As we mentioned, the best bait for Flounder is whatever they’re already eating. In most places, though, that’s finger mullet. Mullet is a big part of a Flounder’s diet throughout the Gulf and along most of the East Coast. Fish them on a small jig head or a short Carolina rig to keep them low to the ground.

If there aren’t any mullet around, most small baitfish will do the job. Croakers, mud minnows, menhaden, and pinfish are all popular baits in their native habitat. Whatever you’re using, look for fish in the 2-3 inch range. Adjust this to the size and species of Flounder you’re after.


A live shrimp held out of a livewell, ready to use for fishing

Shrimp are a great all-rounder for pretty much any species. Flounder are no exception. They’re especially good for casting under docks and jetties, as their tough shells can take a knock or two without getting injured. They’re not strong swimmers, though, so rig them on a slider to make sure they can still move freely.

The main problem with shrimp is that they catch more than just Flounder. Every fish in the area will want a piece of them, especially pests like Catfish. There’s no real way to stop this. One thing you can do is go for quantity, using fresh, dead shrimp instead. That way, it doesn’t matter so much if a few shrimp get stolen.

Cut Bait

A man cutting up squid to use it as bait for fishing

Flounder may be predators, but they will happily scavenge an easy meal if one comes their way. You can use pretty much anything for this. However, strong-scented species like bluefish and squid tend to work best. Again, make sure you’re using something that exists naturally in your waters.

Cut bait won’t ever work as well as live bait, but it’s a great budget option, perfect for anglers on the move. You can get a lot out of one fish, and catch it on the go if you’re traveling light. Another advantage of cut bait is the fact that it’s so versatile. Cast through the surf, drift, or attach some to your lure for extra scent – you can’t go wrong!

Soft Plastics

A Flounder in a net with soft plastic and spoon lures hanging out of its mouth

Natural baits aren’t your only option when it comes to catching Flounder. Soft plastic lures also get great results. They aren’t as effective as the real thing, but they come with some real advantages: they’re cheap, durable, and much easier to store.

Curly grub, paddle tail, and shrimp shapes all work well, especially if they’re scented. Light colors like pinks and white tend to be pretty effective, although it depends on things like water clarity, the time of year, and local forage. Whatever you use, rig it on a jig head and bounce it through the shallows. It won’t take you long to get noticed.

Bucktail Jigs

A large summer Flounder on the floor of a boat with a bucktail jig lure in its mouth

We’ve mentioned jigs a couple of times already, and there’s a good reason for that: They’re an essential part of any inshore angler’s arsenal. You can use them on their own, but they’re best combined with one the other baits on our list. Bucktails add color and movement without restricting your bait – perfect for the small prey Flounder feed on.

The advantage of using jigs over something like a Carolina rig is that they don’t get caught as much. They also concentrate your weight right at the business end. This makes it easier to pull off that slow, twitching presentation that Flounder find irresistible. 

More than One Way to Bait a Bite

An angler holding a small Flounder with a live worm in its mouth caught during a winter season

These are the best baits for Flounder fishing, but they’re not the only ones. Whether you’re after Fluke or Blackbacks, they;ll gobble up just about anything you send their way, as long as it fits in their mouth.

The best part? Flounder vary as much in their habitat as their diet. You can find them in shallow waters all over the world. So what are you waiting for? Grab your rod, find a fishing spot near you, and start reeling in doormats!

We’ve chosen our favorites – how about yours? What’s the best bait for Flounder in your area? Do you prefer to use live bait or lures? Drop us your top tips and fish tales in the comments below – we’d love to hear from you!

Comments (3)

Vinny Dolan

Apr 30, 2023


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    Jul 2, 2023

    bru there the same thing

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    Aug 19, 2023

    Vinnie is correct. Fluke and flounder are completely different. The pictured fish are fluke and are ambush feeders with large mouths. Flounders are bottom feeders and have small mouths.

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