How to Drift Fish

Drift fishing involves using a slowly moving boat to drag or “drift” a weighted bait through the water. This is a versatile fishing method that is effective for all kinds of fish, doesn’t need much special equipment, and significantly increases your chances of getting a bite.

A major advantage of drift fishing, and what makes it so effective for so many different kinds of fish, is coverage. By keeping your boat in motion instead of anchored, your bait travels through a much larger range of water and has much better chances of encountering a hungry fish.

A drift fishing rig can be customized to any depth. Use a weight to sink the bait lower in the water, or a bobber or popping cork to lift it up. Natural bait is preferred by most anglers for drifting, but in a pinch artificial lures will work too.

In saltwater, drift fishing can be used nearshore to land amberjack, dolphin, redfish, and king mackerel. Offshore, in deeper water, it will also capture tuna, wahoo and swordfish.

Catfish and crappie are two kinds of freshwater fish that are often caught by drift fishing. Lakes, ponds, streams, and rivers are all good spots to use this method, and in many places it can be done year-round.

Basics of Drift Fishing

  • Use a cork or bobber to bring your live bait or artificial lure to a higher depth, or a weighted line to sink it to the bottom.
  • Remember to keep your boat in motion, since this is what makes drift fishing different from bottom fishing.
  • A drift sock is crucial in drift fishing, acting as an underwater parachute to slow and control the direction of your boat.
  • Know your target fish, and choose the right rod and reel to handle it.
  • A rod made of high modulus graphite will have the best sensitivity and is best for drift fishing.
  • A reel with a high-quality drag system will be able to apply consistent pressure to tire any fish in any situation.
  • The most effective weights are pencil-shaped, and you can aim for different depths by choosing lighter or heavier weight classes.
  • Again, know your target fish, and chose your hook and line based on its size and strength.