Inshore Challenge: Dialing in the Drum

Inshore Challenge: Dialing in the Drum
Keith Hartsell nets a monster black drum for his partner Charlie Thomason. (David A. Brown photo)

Despite their abundance and eagerness to eat a bait, black drum don’t exactly advertise their location. Riding and looking will occasionally turn up a few opportunities, but refining the search to either known drum hangouts or areas of likely habitat will tip the odds in your favor. Fishing mainly in Lake Calabasse, Thomason and Hartsell pursued their quarry across broad shallow water expanses, but they encountered their most consistent action over oyster bottom.

“Those big drum actually eat those oysters,” Thomason said. “They also eat the shrimp in those areas – we actually saw them coming up and busting shrimp on the surface.

When searching likely areas, the anglers watched for boils, wakes and more definitive signs of drum activity.

“What we were looking for were what we call ‘muds’ or ‘burnouts’ where the fish’s tail makes a disturbance in the mud,” Hartsell said. “Wherever you see that, either there was a fish there or he’s still there feeding. That’s what we keyed on the entire tournament – getting the baits as close to those muds and burnouts as we could.”

Thomason said that once they spotted one of these fish cues, they’d use the trolling motor to ease into the area with optimal stealth. Minimizing noise was essential, as the fish tend to get spooky the shallower they feed. The boat’s water displacement sent a pressure wave toward the school and when the drum rose up to move, the anglers could better gauge their casts.

“You want to throw on either side of the school when you see which way the school is going,” Thomason said. “In the summertime, when the water’s really warm and they’re actively feeding, the school really doesn’t move that much. With the water temperature being a little cooler, we had to chase them – they wanted to run away from us. We just tried to keep our distance so we didn’t spook the fish and made our casts whenever we could.”

“What we were doing is we’d see the mud, run up and throw in there and it was just a guessing game. We’d hurry up and catch a couple and then that was it.”

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