Why a Grass Flat?First and foremost, the reason they are on the grass flat is hunger. The water is shallow and the baitfish there can run left and right but not up and down, so the trout has an easier time catching its prey than in deeper water. By drifting over one of these flats, you can cover a lot of territory – actually eliminate a lot of unproductive territory – and locate the fish. I have caught trout in grass that was as shallow as two feet and as deep as ten or twelve feet. But ideally, in my experience, five to six feet is the depth where I try to concentrate my efforts,
Trout MudsA school of trout on a grass flat will do an amazing thing. Once they find a concentration of food – baitfish – they will start fanning the bottom with their tails and stirring up the water. This is how I learned it from my dad many, many years ago. Turtle grass grows in a soft muddy bottom and that mud can really cloud the water up when it’s stirred. These “muds” can be as small as fifty feet in diameter or I have seen some that were a hundred yards wide. The idea is that the baitfish have a hard time seeing in this murky water, and the trout have an easier time catching them for a meal.
Some of my friends tell me these are “mullet muds” and not seatrout. They say a school of mullet stir the bottom up feeding and the trout just move in and take advantage of the situation. Either way, where I find a mud, I find spotted seatrout!
The Drifting DilemmaIn almost every situation you are going to have tidal current and wind. Both play a role in your drift. Ideally the wind will be light and will be blowing the same direction as the tidal current, thereby easily moving your boat across the flat. Sometimes you have no wind, in which case the boat will still move with the current, but will be moving slower than the current. On other occasions, the wind may be the direct opposite direction to the current and can actually hold the boat in one place as the two opposing forces work against each other. There are variations of cross winds that affect the direction of your drift, and except for a wind that is directly opposed to the current, you can drift and catch fish.
The plan you need to make is to run the boat up current to the “head” of the flat and allow it to drift with the current and wind back across that flat. Once you get to the end of the flat or once you stop catching fish, crank the engine and run back. But, don’t run directly over the area you have just drifted across. Make a big half circle run to get back to your starting point.
Here is where you can use your noodle. I keep three or four plastic milk jugs on small lines ready. I paint them a fluorescent color so they are easy to see in the water. When I begin my drift, I drop a jug. When I get into some fish, I may drop another jug. Either way, about half way across the flat I drop another jug. So, when I run that half circle back to start another drift, I know exactly where I need to stop. You can do the same thing with a good GPS unit that has a trail history feature. My Lowrance HDS-10 has that feature, but it is a high end fish finder. Some low end models may not have the feature – hence the jugs.
This also helps you cover more territory. If you failed to find a fish on the first drift, you can run back and move over left or tight a hundred yards or so and drift again. These jugs either keep you on the fish or prevent you from re-covering unproductive territory.