(Above: Drift fishing bass on a solid 15mph breeze. Too windy to fish? Maybe you should stay home. Watch some fishing on TV maybe. I’ll keep the fish busy. Ha Ha)
Fishing a “hand propelled boats only” lake with the pontooner and getting into decent numbers using a method called “drift fishing”. This is not ground a breaking tactic by any means and is simply the act of fishing while the wind pushes your boat. It sounds easy and it is. Just gauge the wind direction to pick a line that you want to travel. Position the boat at the front of that imaginary line and then adjust course as needed while you drift slowly along.
I see this method only being used by a few people at a few places. Maybe this is one of those old school tactics that has been placed on the shelf after the introduction of electric trolling motors. What about those lakes that are HPO (hand propelled only)? You don’t want to row all damn day do you? Get some of this drift action!
Select a lure that you can troll slow with as well as sight-fish. Spinnerbaits, jerkbaits and stickbaits are just a few of my favorites. But the ability to go from a slow troll to the quick cast is key. When you don’t see fish that are active an angler can search cast or simply go with the flow and let the lure swim through the water to find the fish. The speed is often slower than what you would normally reel and very natural looking. Heck, I even catch fish while doing nothing but holding the rod and drift fishing with my finger on the line poised to set the hook. We are talking one cast every few minutes or so. It’s downright lazy but it works.
Drift fishing with the wind is not always perfect and there are some drawbacks. Boat positioning is one of them. Do your best to compensate using your oars or trolling motor but don’t bother trying to keep your boat perfectly lined up. Set the boat to cast and then focus mostly on the lure. The boat will go where it wants for the most part. You waste energy fighting it and flounder when fishing at the same time. Do one step. Then do the other. This allows perfect focus for each step.
A rod holder can be an essential item for drift fishing as it lends an extra hand when you need to grab the oars or even drop anchor to hammer a sweet spot. Just be ready to grab that rod when it bends over. I tend to miss a few fish if I am not holding that rod to instantly nail the bite. But then again I pick up a fish or two when my hands are locked on the oars. So the rod holder is more of a “helper” than a mainstay but it does come in handy.
Before I even get my boat on the water I am checking wind direction. Boaters usually check wind for safety concerns and then curse it the rest of the time. Getting the wind to work with you instead of against you is smart fishing from many angles.
Case in point: Postspawn conditions with an air temp of 65 and water temp about the same. Wind was fluctuating: 5mph to 15mph to the southwest. The bass were not timid but they weren’t boiling the surface or making obvious gestures to give up their location. This is perfect for the drift fishing. I started rowing to the east side of the lake and then picked my line. There were some adjustments needed for the shoreline but you get the idea.
(Above: This is as close as I could get to decent top view illustration. Not to scale.)
I was able to slow troll when I didn’t see fish and then able cast out to the fish when I did see them. As you see from the illustration above I had to make a few course corrections. The wind rarely blows the way you want. Hopefully you can get by with only a few adjustments here and there. After two good passes about 20-feet apart and this section was pretty much worked. Two big fish and a number of smaller guys were popped out of the same area on just those two passes. Once I got the boat lined up and started to drift…BAM! I was reeling in fish.
Important boating notes:
1. Invasive species are everywhere. Check all your gear especially your boat, oars and anything else that goes with you for dirt, algae and clinging debris. Clean your gear every trip and it will last longer, perform better…heck you might even fish better.
2. Wind conditions change dramatically. Don’t go onto water when weather and wind is too foul for boating. My pontooner can take waves better than canoes and some V-hull boats but still push my luck out there sometimes. I should throw out a box of disclaimers freeing me of any liability to those fishaholics that read this blog now.
3. Take your life vest every trip. Most places require that you have it. Don’t risk getting booted off the lake. Take your PFD. Wearing it just may save your life. Me? I take mine every trip whether BB’ing it or on the pontooner. I may not wear it all of the time but I have it in case someone tells me to put it on. Nobody’s perfect.
4. Check the boating regs and even follow them occasionally. Don’t be that guy who gets pulled off of Chatfield for drinking way too much or the jerk who nearly pulls right up to the shore guy and fishes right on top of him. So many more to mention here…just realize that everyone is looking at those bungwads and saying, “What a @#$%^& moron!” Now not all regs are posted and man o man are there some gray areas. I am not saying that you have to be all goodie-goodie two-shoes out there. What I am really trying to say is…don’t be a @#$%^& moron!
Good Luck and Good Drift Fishing!