How is the value of a gamefish measured?
If accessibility, fighting ability, and palatability deserve any merit, the freshwater drum must rank near the top of the list. How accessible? Drum have the largest latitudinal range of any freshwater fish in North America — from the Nelson River in Manitoba to the Rio Usumacinto system in Guatemala, a span of over 2,500 miles. How sporting? They readily take natural and artificial baits and fight harder than largemouth bass. How tasty? Some prefer the drum’s firm, white, and boneless fillets to walleye.
Rod: 6 1/2- to 7 1/2-foot medium- or medium-heavy-power spinning or casting rod.
Reel: medium-capacity spinning or baitcasting reel.
Line: 10- to 20-pound-test mono.
Natural baits and artificial lures presented on the bottom are most effective. Drum feed primarily on insect larvae, crayfish, clams, and other organisms that live on the bottom of lakes and rivers, and therefore are accustomed to foraging down. Drifting float rigs or swimming jigs a foot or two off the bottom often fails to trigger neutral fish. Natural baits like crayfish tails, night crawlers, and cutbait will catch drum, but artificials trigger more strikes when fish are active. Deep-diving crankbaits, jigging spoons, bladebaits, and other lures scuffed along the bottom are most effective.
The drum’s widespread distribution is due in part to its sophisticated sensory system. Large earbones enhance hearing and allow for orienting in dark or turbid water. The long lateral line, which extends from the gill to the tip of the tail, also increases the fish’s ability to locate and attack prey where vision is limited. So while drum prefer clear water, they’re obviously equipped to thrive in adverse conditions. In rivers, drum prefer a hard bottom with moderate current-the edge of flats and the base of riprap shorelines are ideal locations. In lakes, they prefer shallow flats with little weedgrowth.
Cast bladebaits upstream of your target to allow it to reach bottom. Reel in slack line as you raise your rod tip to a 30-degree angle. Slowly raise your rod to 45 degrees so the lure almost drags across the bottom, then move your rod tip back down as you retrieve slack line. Dig crankbaits down to the bottom, then adjust your retrieve speed to maintain contact. Set rigs are easier for drum to locate in fast or murky water, but drift rigs cover more water in moderate current.