Okay, so maybe black drum aren’t the most beautiful fish swimming in the sea. Nor are they the tastiest once they surpass 30 or 40 pounds (though smaller ones are quite good in the frying pan). They don’t tail-walk, and they aren’t know for surface explosions. But black drum do have one extremely redeeming factor: they can tug like a Mack truck. And that makes catching black drum a real treat.
For those reasons we mentioned earlier, many anglers don’t often focus on blacks and as a result, they tend to be more commonly caught by accident than on purpose. And usually, they’re caught on bait that’s sitting on bottom. This fact gives some insight into how drum feed, and how you can catch more of them.
Look at the above picture carefully, and you can just make out the tiny barbels on the fish’s chin. Yes, black drum have barbels just like catfish do, although they’re much smaller. Rather than being like whiskers, they’re more like small, fleshy knobs. They use these small appendages to not only feel, but also taste what’s laying along the bottom (hence, their positioning on the underside of the fish’s lower jaw). Black drum love eating shellfish more than anything else, and after detecting a shellfish with those barbels they suck them in and begin crunching. In fact, you’ll often find crushed shells in their belly, when you clean one.
So – how will this information, interesting as it may be, help you hook into more black drum? When you’re in an area where blacks are present and you might be choosing between a cut bait like mullet or crab, the crab will give you a better shot at the drum. And if there are clam beds, snails, or other shellfish of one variety or another that tend to be found in a particular area, it’s a good bet that black drum frequenting near-by waters know about it and will feed there.
Remember, the best asset of a drum is its pulling power, thanks to a broad, sweeping tail that can put out a ton of torque as it pumps through the water. Don’t try to go after big specimens with light gear, use a stout rod that allows you to pull right back, and rig up with a relatively heavy leader that can withstand being scraped across the shell beds and rocks found in the same areas as the fish. Do so, and it’ll feel like you’ve just hooked into a Mack truck.