Lake Driftfishing Techniques
By Dave Finkelstein
Fishing is not an exacting science nor should it be at times, and sometimes
by chance, we may catch the fish of a lifetime. We chalk up these experiences to
rely on when we fish new fishing holes in hopes that what once worked at one place can work in another. While fishing at Irvine Lake one day,I happened by accident to hook a large trout by inadvertently leaving a line out during a tackle mishap. I was taken by surprise and the end results had placed a 7 lb. rainbow squarely into my landing net. I sat back in my seat for a few moments and thought about what just had happened. I was using a Trout Trap mini tube lure on 2 lb. test and was literally drifting with the wind. Could it be that simple ? I thought to myself.
I decided to try this again and before I knew it, I had found a great way to fish. Since that day, I have refined my techniques for driftfishing and have landed a lot of fish. Not only has this worked for trout, but I have caught bass, crappie, bluegill and carp while driftfishing. Some of the reasons I believe this technique at times can work so well maybe due to allowing the wind to move me across a body of water in silence. Drifting a small lure at a slower pace allows fish to see your lures and baits longer too. By using several jigs at the same time may appear to be a small school of baitfish.
To optimize my technique, I rely on the use of a portable fish finder to locate
larger schools of fish. Once I find these schools, I then drift the area over and over. When fish are schooling at certain depths, I will adjust the weight of the lures and the amount of line I let out, to get to where the schooling fish are. If wind conditions are really brisk then my lures cannot reach the depths I want. In order to reach those depths it’s important to adjust accordingly. I may add a small splitshot 3-4 foot from my lure. You don’t want to put the split shot too close to your lure otherwise it may hamper the lures swimming action and not appear natural to fish. When conditions are right, using a small 1 inch Plastic bobber can be the ticket for fish near the surface. You can adjust your bobber for depths to maybe 7 foot but not much more than that. The bobber aids both as a strike indicator and at times can slow down your lure if it’s too windy.
Driftfishing lures can allow you to use more than one fishing rod whether your float tubing, kayaking, or in a boat. I like to use a technique called dead sticking. This method is simple to master. You place your rod down in the boat and allow enough rod length over the gunnel to use the light action of your rod to bounce up and down with the swell created by the wind. The rod tip bounces up and down and that creates action on your lures. When a fish strikes your lure there’s usually a major bendo in the rod and you’ll know for sure that you have been hit.
The old saying “use a larger bait and you’ll get a larger fish” seems to work with this type of fishing as well. Nightcrawlers have a negative bouyancy if they are flylined. Small nightcrawlers have a great action when hooked at the very tip of the crawler. The worm appears to be swimming through the water as it wiggles and drift current is added. Some of my bigger fish have been drifting nightcrawlers. The trick with fishing crawlers is not to use one that is just too big.
Most bait shops don’t give you the luxury of getting smaller crawlers these days but growing your own worms can really paid off big time if you have the patience to raise your own. Adding a small fluorescent orange bead or a small propeller above your worm may also add strikes as well. I like to use scents when fishing with nightcrawlers. I may use garlic or another scent from Berkley or Procure Products to give my baits a trail for fish to follow. Scents may also trigger a reluctant fish to hitting a lure in question. Some days scents may not be needed so experimentation is needed.
Selecting the right lure to use may require adapting to wind and current conditions. Lures that I like to use vary from Trout Traps mini tube lures, wet flies,Worden’s Roostertail spinners, Needlefish, nightcrawlers, Berkley powerworms and dough baits. Making your own lures using bright colored beads in colors ranging from fluorescent oranges, reds, gold,chrome and white have been my favorites . Their weight is measurably small and can be found in most fabric stores. Instead of using a wire, I use 12 lb – 20 lb. test line to string my beads . Adding some wire tinsel or colored yarns can add even more action and flash to these homemade lures. Bead sizes can be varied to give a tapered effect to your lures as well. Using a single hook can help when practicing catch and release methods of fishing. I like to use small silver, gold, and red treble hooks since these usually give me a higher percentage of hookups. Small Needlefish lures also will work well in various colors.
I use light line in 2-4 lb. tests when drift fishing. The line should be nearly invisible in the water. Fluorocarbon leader material can be used effectively when fishing in very clear mountain lakes. You can tie them directly to your main line allowing you to reel directly onto your reel spool without using swivels. Allow your reel’s drag setting to be somewhat on the loose side and if needed it can be adjusted while fighting a fish. If multiple rods are used try to position them away from the rod that is hooked up to your fish. In most cases, I try to fight a fish to the opposite side of the boat where I know I won’t tangle my other lines. It takes a little finesse to do this and with enough practice it can be second nature when hooking up with more than one rod out.
On certain days the wind can really be howling and this usually can be a problem when trying to keep a slow drift in key areas. I found several useful common items that can make great drift anchors and work effectively in slowing down my drift. One of the more common items we fishermen may have are coolers. Now coolers float more often then not and come in various sizes and colors. Some have handles and some have handles with removeable lids. The ones made of plastic that float can be used if they have removeable lids. It sounds simple but truth be told they work and work well for drift anchors. You tie some floating nylon rope in the 1/4 ” diameter to them and attach them to either the bow or stern areas of your boat. You can adjust the length out from the boat to adjust how your boat will drift. Some days, I will use one and on really windy days maybe two. It depends on the conditions that you will encounter for the day. These coolers also aid in storing fishing tackle carried from your car to boat. Just make sure that you don’t motor your boat with drift anchors out, otherwise some mishaps will occur. Another item that is cheap and easily found are the nylon bags used for storing sleeping bags. The trick needed here is to use a very stiff, heavy wire threaded inside the draw string seam to keep the bag open. You’ll need to adapt the drawstring area so that two rings or clips can be attached to the heavy wire for attaching your rope. The stronger the material the bags are made of will dictate how long they will last and how good they will work for drift anchors. These bags can be purchased at most outdoor camping supply outlets or army – navy stores. Nylon bag anchors are easily stored and don’t take a lot of space compared to a cooler.
One of the reasons I like best for drift fishing is my time on the water seems to last longer. Maybe it’s just the frame of mind you get when you slow things down to enjoy time in the outdoors. I also like the idea that I don’t have to hold a fishing rod all the time and still can be effectively fishing a lake. I can take the time at hand to enjoy a sandwich or just chat with a buddy on the boat. It’s a winning technique that maybe you should try. Tight Lines and good fishing !