My time to get out to the pier, the wharf, the shore, and a planned boat excursion, is going to be limited for a while due to prior commitments so I thought I’d explain what I mean when I mentioned in many of my posts that I fish with a drift line. The concept is simple but actually fishing this way can be a challenge.
As I mentioned in an early blog post, my grandpa always advised me to take a fishing pole and what he called a “wishing pole” with me when I had a chance to do so. The wishing pole is one that I would weight down, bait up, and cast out to the deepest part of the lake, ocean, or river that I could reach. Then I’d set my drag so it would alert me when a fish is on the line. This pole would be used to fish for all the bottom feeding fish that tended to be larger and put up a better fight than fish who do not feed this way. Submarine size Carp and Catfish are examples of freshwater bottom feeders while Rays and Sharks are examples of saltwater bottom feeders.
Going after bottom feeders with your wishing pole is simple and easy to do and I think it is the way most people fish even when they use live bait. However, going after the rest of the fish out there with your fishing pole rigged as a drift line takes more effort than simply setting your drag. For one thing, you should never set your fishing pole when practicing this method especially when there are hard hitting fish like Mackerel and Bass in the water.
A drift line is simply a line with no weights or bobber on it. You can have multiple hooks if you want a greater challenge like catching three Mackerel at a time, which I have done many times. Your fishing pole should be as light weight as you dare use and the lighter the better, I say, since I like a good fight and I like to give the fish a chance. I always use my old ultra-light rig when I drift line so there is a 50-50 chance that I will either haul in my catch or it will get away. Since I only fish for sport, this doesn’t matter to me.
Whatever you use, it should be easy to cast with only the weight of the bait on it since no lead weights are used in this method. Using a bobber is close to drift lining but it is not the same since your bait is being held in place in the water, at one level. Though your line can drift anyway it wants, it cannot drift down which is key element in drift lining.
Drift lining is used to fish for all the rest of the fish out there besides bottom feeders though you can occasionally hook one. In drift lining, you cast your bait into the water and let it drift where ever it may go. As it sinks to the bottom, your bait can attract any fish at an water level. In the ocean, you often have Smelt sitting just below the surface, with Mackerel beneath or mixed in with them. As your bait drifts lower, it can attract Perch and Bass. If it hits bottom and you are content to let it sit there for a while, you can pick up a bottom feeder but since you are using light tackle, you have to hope it is not too big.
One day while I was fishing at Stearns Wharf, the Smelt that are usually around had moved off to another area which allowed me to catch 33 Mackerel in a few hours. One time, my bait made it through the horde of Mackerel that were lurking about and my line drifted closed to the pilings just beneath my feet. Suddenly, I got a hit that I knew was not that of a Mackerel, it was stronger, but slower and after a pretty fierce battle, I reeled in a nice size Calico Bass. Until that time, I didn’t know there were bass under the wharf. So I started fishing for them. Six more times my bait made it through the school of Mackerel and I ended up with 7 Calico Bass on the day. A total of 40 fish in about 3 ½ hours. I was very busy and I owe it all to the drift lining method.
As I said at the start, though, fishing this way can be a real challenge due to the following reasons:
So, that is the drift lining method. I have caught thousands of fish this way even when others around me were being shut out. Though I have told and shown many fishermen this method, I have not seen that many actually use it because of the attention needed to be successful when using this method.