Tuning Flatfish for Maximum Efficiency 

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Eyelet off center

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Eyelet Parallel

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Front Eyelet

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Tuning Pliers

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Color Selection

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Flatfish is generally considered a slow speed crankbait that runs shallow, which is a mistaken myth.  With proper tuning this banana shaped lure can easily run speeds to about 3 miles an hour.  The T-4 Flatfish can reach depths to at least 10 feet on 20 pound test Ande mono, which has a thickness akin to goat rope.

The size I'm going to concentrate on is the T-4 and it's slightly larger than the popular U-20.  Flatfish will give you maximum action if the following tips are adhered to.  There's nothing to tuning any crankbait a little patience can't cure.  Reaping the benefits of a correctly swimming lure in the river will soon become obvious, a bent fishing rod with a rampaging Steelhead cavorting all over the surface.  Want to learn more?  If you think you might want to venture further, then read the following below.

History of the Flatfish

The Flatfish was marketed by the Charles Helin Tackle Company in Detroit, Michigan during the 1930's, and was originally constructed of wood.  In the 1940's they switched from wood to plastic as the lure gained popularity.  The original design included what I call, "nibbler hooks," meaning 2 sets of trebles running off 1 spreader bar.  Now, with 2 eyelets we've got 4 treble hooks on the T-4, making it one mean, awesome fish catching machine.  Or, at least that's the way it's been lately (11/24/01).

Factoids: My very first Coho Salmon I ever caught was in Platte Bay, October 1, 1968 and that fish hit a M-2 fluorescent red Flatfish.  My adopted father, Warren Knapp who is 77 years young, caught Steelhead in the Big Manistee River way back in the late 1940's on them too.  So, the Flatfish time tested lure known for catching fish! 
    Click here for a photo of Warren & his Big Manistee River Steelhead on 11/13/01

Tuning Process

This is where your magnificent plan comes together to lay waste to Mr. Steelhead, and it sounds a whole lot easier than it actually is.  All the eyelets on the lure MUST BE perfectly inline or parallel to an imaginary centerline of the bait.  If they're offline or crooked, that's exactly what the lure will do, RUN CROOKED!  So, please pay attention to the reel fact of centering up those screw-in eyes!  This fact is compounded by the spreader bars the carry the outboard double set of treble hooks.  Now, you're ready to move on to the next important step.

The front eyelet on a Flatfish is the magic tow point that centers the water flow past the lip and either makes the lure run true or off to the side.  If your lure is running sideways in a diverging river current it seldom produces like a properly tuning one does.  Not catching fish with an improperly tuned Flatfish is not the only grief it will cause you, tangled and snarled up monofilament fishing line is the next major pain in the butt you'll suffer.  OK, let's now factor in the lost water or lure action time that might cause you to loose that opportunity to do battle with Mr. S. Head too!

Here's the part that sounds easier than it really is.  If the lure is visually running off or towards the left, with minor pressure bend that front eyelet to towards the right.  As the front lip digs into the water sometimes only a .010 movement is required, so don't and I repeat don't over bend the eye or you'll just have to bend it back.  The easiest way to impart the slight movement on the front eye is to put one jaw of the needle nose pliers in the eye and the other jaw on the plastic nose section of the T-4.  

This part that I always get messed up is, when I turn around to grab the needle nose pliers my conception or right and left become confused, then I have to re-splash the lure to get my bearings re-orientated.  Having your tuning pliers in hand can save the re-splashing it and making minor adjustments is the way to go.  If the lure is absolutely "in tune" you'll see it dig straight down and not try to pull to one side or the other.

These principals should be applied to the entire family of all crankbaits.  Bass pros have been known to intentionally cause the lure to run to one side if they're casting parallel  to a vertical sea wall or riprap to keep the bait in contact with the structure.  That way the lure will keep banging off the wall, triggering strikes, but this is only for bass pros.

Tips:  Make sure the front eyelet is 100% vertical and be sure to retest the lure after recovery from a fishes chops or pulling it off of a snag. Tune the T-4 on about 8 feet of line from the tip of the rod and you'll be able to see which way it running.

If your lines become tangled, and believe me they will, remove the lures from the snap before trying to untangle the mess.  Be patient here and more than likely you'll be able to pull the lines apart as they spin off each other.

Use a small strong snap to attach you lure and about 4 feet up install a inline barrel swivel with a small bead on top to stop debris.  The barrel will keep the tanglies or twist-up to a bare minimum, Flatfish like all crankbait style lures will spin when tangled or fouled, so remember the barrel swivel.

Spreader Bars or Nibbler Hooks

The outboard hooking capacity of the additional hooks the spreader bars offer will make a dramatic difference in your hook-up to land ratio.  When a Steelhead makes a swipe at the lure he's got 12 hook points and hook barbs to deal with, not 6 as on a conventional 2 hook model.  So, this one is easily understood, more is definitely better.

In my case I deal with inexperienced anglers where excitement and the adrenalin rush can cause a multitude of serious tribulations with lost fish.  The consequence of lost fish, is the loss of potential repeat business.  Therefore, the better to hook-up and landing ratio I can show my guests, the more Mr. Franklins and Pres. Grants I'll have safely residing in my billfold, before I recycle them.

Tip:  The spreader bars that separate the hooks will become uselessly bent out of shape after a few fish, so have extra on hand to replace.  You replace the spreader bars by gently turning the eyelet sideways to open it up, then turning it back to closed, after the new one has been installed.  Be extra careful not to ruin the eyelet.

Since I've changed over to fishing the T-4 my guests have had only one fish become unhook or "get off" and the hook-up ratio has increased by 40%.

Going Down?

In case you're wondering how deep the Flatfish will dive, at a multitude of dynamics will affect the capacity of any lure that dives to attain depth.  Density of the water due to water temperature, speed of the current past the lure and the amount of line let off the reel all come into play.  So answering, the above equation is almost an impossibility.  This I can tell you though, with 40 feet of line off my SG47LC Diawa Line Counter reels 10 to 12 feet down is no problem for the T-4 sized Flatfish on 20 pound test Ande monofilament fishing line.  I know this to be a fact, because I've had to dig them off the bottom or snags with my "plug plucker."