I still remember the first Freshwater Drum I ever caught. I brought it to shore on the muddy banks of the Red River while bottom fishing. “What kind of fish is this?” I had asked as I began to remove the hook. “A Drum, and they can get way bigger” was the response from my friend. With droopy eyes and subtle hints of turquoise and pink shimmering on its side, I thought it was pretty cool looking. As I went to release the fish, it croaked almost like a frog before making contact with the murky water. What a neat fish, I had thought to myself as the desire to catch a bigger one kicked in.
The Freshwater Drum is the only freshwater member in its genus and has the greatest latitudinal range of any freshwater fish in North America. Their diet varies by location and size but common food sources are crayfish, minnows, insects and mollusks. They have molar like teeth almost in their throat that are capable of cracking shells, and recent evidence has shown that they are known to eat the invasive zebra mussels where colonies exist, though not eradicating them.
I consider myself a multi-species angler, content with fishing for what I am fishing for at any given time. Greenbacks in the Red River during the fall migration and Common Carp in the shallows in spring are a few patterns that come to mind. I don’t really specialize in one specific fish as I enjoy the different fights, challenges and traits of all the species freshwater has to offer. Another one of those seasonal patterns I have picked up on are the lake dwelling Freshwater Drum heading into the larger tributaries of the lakes they live in to spawn. It is in my opinion your best chance at a trophy and a good way to put your tackle to the test.
It’s a bite that can last all day with a chance at what many consider a trophy at any given moment. Depending on your style of fishing, location and bait, there is always a chance of other species taking a bite as well. If I’m feeling like casting I won’t hesitate to throw out a three to five inch crankbait or a spoon, hoping to seek out an aggressive bite. A three inch Trigger X or Gulp minnow fished low and slow has done me well and saves time on rebating hooks. Another great option is a three way rig with your choice of bait, worms, baitfish or shrimp are all good options. I can’t stress enough keeping hold of your rod and being quick on the strikes. Drum are notorious for taking hooks deep from unattended lines as they tend to crack their prey with the molars in their throat.
Most of the rivers where I fish for Drum are filled with the spring runoff and fairly muddy. When casting at a chosen spot we will try and seek out different depths, fishing both the current, edges and slack water. Some days a pattern develops and others one doesn’t, the more you can pick up on, the better your chances at a trophy are. It’s always good to try different areas and if after working a good stretch of shoreline without much action we will head off to other known spots. More often than not, that move pays off and can revitalize a slow day.
SPRINGTIME IS DRUM TIME!
It was a clear sky and barely a breeze in the air last spring when we spent a day targeting drum. The sun shone bright as it followed its familiar path overhead and the fishing was stellar. We were finding drum of all sizes from seven to thirty inches and a few patterns presented themselves within a couple of hours. After countless casts and retrieves it seemed the fish were very bottom oriented this day, possibly due to lack of cloud cover. The smaller fish seemed eager to take worms jigged along the bottom, the medium sized ones preferred the minnow or minnow imitations and the leviathans of the day seemed to go for large swim baits and bottom fished shrimp. It was a blast finding out what worked and what didn’t as we all tried different lures and presentations to crack the code for the trophies.
When a big one bites and you feel the weight on the end of the line, it doesn’t matter the species, the fight has begun. With these Drum the medium sized ones would sometimes have more fight than their bigger relatives. However when the larger ones were hooked and near shore, they knew it and peeled off with vigor and determination. A real test of one’s tackle! Often times when fighting a trophy you can forget to enjoy the experience and lucky for us there were enough caught that day to really be able to. In awe over the wakes these fish could create near shore and the strength of their tail flaps, we were elated each time one over 24 inches was landed.
Fishing for Drum can be a blast when the bite is on, from a lazy afternoon bottom fishing and waiting for a bite, to exhausting a tackle box, giving anything a shot to see what they won’t hit. Take a day this season to target something different, try a variety of lures and baits and don’t get caught up in the same old patterns we can put ourselves in while fishing. If pursuing the Freshwater Drum interests you, all the better, they are fun, feisty and out there!