How To Drift Fish

January 14, 2020

There are so many different techniques and approaches to fishing, it can be confusing to many anglers, especially those with little or no experiences. When planning a fishing trip, it’s obviously valuable to know the lake and area you will be fishing as well as the species you will target. But the techniques that you will be using are important, too. That’s especially true when using a guide for several reasons. First, you need to know you will be comfortable fishing a certain way and second, the more you know about the technique, the easier your fishing trip will be. And that usually means you’ll have more fun because you’ll catch more fish.

Drift Fishing

One of the techniques that are used for a whole host of fishing trips is drift fishing. It can help you catch shallow fish or deep fish. It is used for big fish and little fish species. It is practiced in both salt and freshwater, from coast to coast. And you can fish either live and cut bait or artificial lures to successfully land fish. The variations in the technique basically evolve around what species you are going after.

First of all, don’t confuse drift fishing with bottom fishing. Drift fishing actually keeps your bait moving, covering much more area than still fishing techniques. And you don’t always have to fish deep. You can vary your baits depths by using various equipment, including a bobber or popping cork when fish are feeding shallow, but located in deep water.

Drift fishing is mainly used for larger species of fish and in large bodies of water. Drift fishing can be done under power of an outboard motor or by just harnessing the power of the wind. What’s important — and your guide will know this — is the speed. Drifting too fast or too slow will change your bait’s presentation and keep you from catching fish. Drifting just the right speed is critical to keeping your bait at just the right depth. Sometimes when drifting with the wind and it is a little too brisk, anglers will put out “drift socks”, large umbrella type equipment that actually slows down the boat’s drift and speed of the lures.

If the fish are near the bottom, you will want to rig up your lures with dropline at the bottom holding a heavy weight. The weight can bounce along the bottom and your lure (or lures) can be tied on swivels several feet above the weight.  When fishing shallow, it’s common practice to let the lure or bait slowly be attached under a bobber or slip cork, keeping it from going too deep.

What Can You Catch Drift Fishing?

In saltwater, some of the top species include King Mackerel, Amberjack, Dolphin and Redfish when fishing close to the shore.  As you head off to deeper water, you can still catch those fish plus wahoo, tuna and even swordfish.

Common freshwater fish caught by drift fishing include catfish and crappie. Catfish are usually bottom feeders and anglers drag stinkbaits along the bottom for them. For crappie, they normally suspend at different depths and can be caught by matching speed, size of lure and length of line out behind the boat to keep the lure at the right level. This is also sometimes called long-lining for crappie.

Anglers also catch Trout, Walleye, Northern Pike and bass using the drift technique in lakes and rivers. In some areas, especially the northwest, you can even catch Sturgeon, Salmon and Steelhead by drift fishing. Basically, if it swims and there isn’t anything to snag your lure on too often where the fish are hanging out, you can catch fish by using drift fishing techniques.

Any type of fish that you target will be relating to either some sort of structure or some type of food. It’s important to know what the favorites are in both of those categories for the species you are after.

Important to Note

Drift fishing can work over underground grass beds and along the contours of riverbeds, sloughs or other changes in water bottoms. Experienced anglers don’t just drift aimlessly across the lake. They plan out their path, follow markings on electronics and know what bottoms are productive on a regular basis. Then they stick to those areas when the fish are biting.

There are common types of equipment for fishing each depth and species. They are too lengthy to list, but you can find information on the best gear for the species and type water you are fishing by looking online and from sporting goods dealers. If you hire a guide, they’ll have everything you need and that won’t be a concern.

There’s another thing to consider when drift fishing. If it is working, you probably won’t be the only boat in a given area trying it. It’s important to work with others using the same technique and make sure you don’t cut them off or disturb their fishing path with your boat or motor. Courtesy, as in all types of fishing, is of utmost importance.

When you’re ready to book your next drift fishing adventure, let FishAnywhere connect you to a guide in your area. Reserve your trip today!

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