What is Drift Fishing? Learn the Basics

drift fishing

Novice anglers might be surprised to see how much there is to learn. Fishing is a whole lot more than putting a worm on the hook, casting the line and waiting patiently for a fish to bite. One of the techniques used by experienced anglers is drift fishing. Once you understand the do’s and don’ts, you can go drift fishing on rivers, streams, ponds, lakes, or on a boat offshore throughout all seasons.

What is drift fishing?

Drift fishing is similar to bottom fishing, except that it involves motion. The motion is created by allowing winds and currents to move the boat and the bait, which is held down by weights. If you are unfamiliar with the location, drifting can help you identify the best spots for fishing.

How do you drift fish from a boat?

Whether you choose to take your boat offshore or onto a lake or river, drifting can drag your bait or lure along the bottom in effortless movements that will attract fish. Once you master the technique, you could find anything from a sailfish to a catfish on your line.

What are the basics of drift fishing?

You can target the bottom fish by using the appropriate weights or choose a different depth using a popping cork or bobber to keep it suspended. Some anglers who drift fish attach a parachute or drift sock to the boat. When it opens up in the water, it creates drag, making it easier to stabilize the boat at the desired speed. As you become more experienced in drift fishing, you’ll learn more about controlled drifting.

How do you drift fish from the bank or shore?

Like drift fishing from a boat, drift fishing from a river bank allows the lure to float naturally along the river or with water movements in lakes. It involves casting the line with your preferred type of bait or lure and a weight upstream and letting it drift in the water current. Again, you can choose the depth you want to let your lure tease the freshwater fish by using bobbers.

What does it mean to read the water?

As you progress in your quest to become an expert in drift fishing, you will learn how to read the water. Mastering that will help you find the perfect location for finding your targeted fish species. The waters’ clarity, depth and speed of motion all play roles in this process. Primarily, it will determine what you can see and also what the fish can see. Most anglers who drift fish use two different setups for summer and winter — except for ice fishing. They use a light lure, a long leader and a long cast in summer. When they drift fish in the winter, they use the opposite combination.

What is the best bait for drift fishing?

The most experienced drift fish advisors say natural bait is the best choice when selecting drifting bait. The size of the shad or other bait you put on your rig depends on the size of fish you want to target. Going out to cast for bait in the days before a drift fishing trip, and freezing your supply, is a good idea. However, you can also have good results if you use lures, artificial flies or jigs for drift fishing.

In conclusion

Regardless of when or where you plan to head out for your next fishing trip, know that drift fishing is one of the most effective, versatile, and easiest fishing techniques. Whether you focus on the bottom or mid-water structures, you will land whatever species are present in that location. Best of all, you will need no more than a boat — or a perfect spot on a riverbank, your fishing tackle and bait, and water current or wind to drift your way to your next catch.

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    Riley Draper

    Riley Draper is a writer and entrepreneur from Chattanooga, Tennessee. As a world traveler, he has been to more than fifty countries and hiked some of the most elusive trails in the world. He is the co-founder of WeCounsel Solutions and has published work in both national and global outlets, including the Times Free Press, Patch, and Healthcare Global. When he's not writing, he's probably on a hiking trip or climbing in the mountains.