You want to hook into a mammoth black drum? Fish in the 80-pound class arenít all that uncommon, and you just know a 100-pounder is out there, somewhere, looking for your bait. So gear up, and prepare to get back in the black. Fishing for drum is a lot simpler than you might expect: first, rig up a 30-lb. to 50-lb. class conventional or spinning set-up. This isnít finesse fishingógo for beefy tackle that can take on a heavy load, like Shakespeareís Big Water Ugly Sticks, or Penn Mariner/GLDís or GTIís. Tie on a fishfinder rig attached to a four or five foot 60-lb. fluorocarbon leader, terminating in a 8/0 to 10/0 hook. Bait up the hook with a half of a fresh soft or peeler crab, and weight it with two to four ounces, how ever much you need to hold bottom close to the boat.
In some areas, drum fishing means searching the fish out using your depth finder. Black drum appear as large red triangular marks on a quality fishfinder, and these fish are so large that itís tough to mistake the readings for anything else. To find the fish, locate whatever edge or hotspot youíre fishing on and zig-zag back and forth across it at minimum speed. Do your search pattern into the wind and/or current, so if you spot the fish you can simply shift into neutral and drop the lines. If youíre going with the wind or current and you drop the baits when you see the fish, chances are youíll be off the school by the time your lines hit bottom. In this circumstance, circle back and see if you can drive over the school again, this time in the correct direction.
When you see giant red triangles on-screen, get ready.
Elastic thread can be used to help soft crab baits stay in on the hook.
As you circle around looking for the fish, every angler onboard should have a line baited up and ready to go. As soon as you spot the fish shift into neutral, call out and have your anglers drop immediately. Using these tactics, you can hope for hook-ups about half of the time you locate a school. When you get one fish on itís common to hook several at the same time, since these fish travel so tightly packed together.
Donít be afraid to meander around for hours without ever dropping. Good drum anglers spend 70 to 80-percent of their time looking, not fishing. Giving up after a half an hour and deciding to just drift around with your baits down, hoping to accidentally intersect with a school of fish, is the biggest mistake you can make.
When a drum takes the bait, give it a three-count with the reel in freespool before locking up the drag. The reason you use a fishfinder rig is that black drum have sensitive mouths, and will feel the tension of the weight if itís rigged in-line. If they feel it, theyíll spit the bait, so make sure thereís zero tension on the line when they initially run. Expect several blistering runs before the fish tires. Once it does, bring it up to boatside and use a very large netóone with at a hoop thatís at least three feet in diameteróto land the fish. Fish that are to be released should be un-hooked in the water if at all possible, to minimize stress.
In other places, drum fishing is considered a game of sit and wait. Instead of searching for the schools of fish anglers will anchor up in water between 15í and 25í deep, in areas drum are known to frequent, where there are sloughs or troughs with a steep drop-off of several feet or more. Baits are cast out to the sides and behind the boat, and are simply left to sit on bottom until a fish picks them up.
For both of these tactics, baits include halved soft or peeler crab, or whole clams. When fishing soft crab youíll want to wrap a piece of elastic thread (you can buy it at a craft store) around the crab a few times, to help secure it to the hook.
Remember that drum are considered fair eating fish, at best, and have large worms you will sometimes have to cut out of the meat. The worms canít hurt you and the meat (particularly on fish under 30-pounds) is actually fairly good to eat (my opinionómany will disagree) but a single fish will provide plenty of steaks, so thereís really no reason to kill more than one per boat per day. And donít forget to bring along a scale, so you know if youíve broken that magic 100-lb mark!
You want to catch a B-I-G one?
One... two... three... HEAVE!
Drum under 15 or 20 pounds can be eaten, but larger ones should be released unharmed.
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