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Throw Back Fishing Tactics

By: Mark Romanack

The FlatFish is one of those baits that has been around seemingly forever. The banana shape and wide wobble was the inspiration for other baits including the Luhr Jensen KwikFish and Yakima Bait Mag Lip.

​Everyone loves to look at “throw back” photos to remind them of times gone by. It occurs to me that some fishing presentations also fall into the category of being “throw backs” compared to the ways we fish these days.

​ When I first started cutting my teeth walleye fishing back in the mid 1980’s jigs and live bait rigs dominated the show. A few anglers were using crankbaits, but it was widely believed that crankbaits were only effective at catching walleye during the warmer months of the year.

​ Probably the first crankbait that found it’s way into my heart was the Yakima Bait FlatFish. One of the early “banana” baits, the FlatFish featured a wide and aggressive side-to-side wobble. What set this bait apart was that at the time there were not a lot of crankbaits on the market that had a pronounced action at slower trolling speeds.

​ Later on noteworthy lure designer Buzz Ramsey would design the Luhr Jensen KwikFish and eventually the Yakima Bait Mag Lip. All three of these lures share the banana shape and the noteworthy wide wobble.

​ Truth be told, none of these baits were designed with walleye fishing in mind. All came out of the Pacific west coast and all were built for trout and salmon fishing. At the time, walleye were not a popular species in the western states and even in walleye wonderland back home in the Great Lakes region, walleye anglers were just starting to explore new and better ways of catching these fish.

The FlatFish can be trolled, but only at slow to moderate speeds. Many anglers enhance this lure by tipping the back treble hook with a small piece of nightcrawler.


​ Slow trolling the FlatFish straight out the back of the boat was the primary way this bait was used to catch walleye. Trolling along shorelines or over shallow water shoals, the FlatFish did an excellent job at triggering walleye strikes.


​ Because the FlatFish doesn’t dive all that deep, many anglers would put split shot on the line a few feet ahead of the bait. Adding a few split shot helps this bait dive a little deeper, but just as importantly it prevents the bait from blowing out. ​​

​ The FlatFish is what I consider an unstable crankbait in that it has excellent action, but only at slow to moderate speeds. Once trolling speed is ramped up, the FlatFish tends to flip or blow out.  


​ The side-to-side wobbling action of the FlatFish is distinctive. When a one or two inch piece of nightcrawler is added to the back hook, that wobbling action is transferred to the worm, creating a very alluring presentation. Tipping not only helps create more fish catching action, it put a scent trail in the water that also seems to really help catch walleye that are notorious for following a bait and not biting.

The author’s experience with the FlatFish dates back to the mid 1980’s when he commonly used this bait to catch walleye slow trolling over shallow shoals. 


​ Because the FlatFish doesn’t dive very deep, many anglers fish this bait in combination with a bottom bouncer sinker. The smaller sizes of FlatFish such as the F7 fish nicely behind a bottom bouncer when a 40 to 48 inch leader is used.

​ This rig can be fished in deeper water, but is still limited to slower trolling speeds, similar to what would be common with a bottom bouncer. Tipping the FlatFish with a piece of nightcrawler further enhances this presentation.


​ Before Buzz Ramsey retired from Yakima Bait company he re-tooled the iconic U20 FlatFish. The tweaks Buzz built into the FlatFish U20 helped this bait enhance it’s wobbling action and allows it to troll a little faster than the original version.

​ The U20 FlatFish is similar in size to the Mag Lip 3.5, but it doesn’t dive as deep or have the wide range of trolling speeds the Mag Lip delivers.


​ The FlatFish is an iconic wobbling plug that has stood the test of time. Compared to modern baits like the Mag Lip, the FlatFish doesn’t offer all the bells and whistles. Still, used how it was used back in the day, the FlatFish is still a fish catching machine.


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