Black Drum Fish - Sight Casting

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Instructor: Ruben Lee

The upper Florida Keys offer excellent flats fishing opportunities, especially for black drum. Instructor Ruben Lee, a knowledgeable keyfisher, shares tips on sight casting to black drum in skinny waters. Black drum fishing on the flats requires spotting, determining feeding, and positioning your presentation. Learn tides, atmospheric conditions, and baits to have a fun-filled day of sight casting.

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Key Point on the Black Drum Fish - Sight Casting video

  • Target black drum in shallow flats by understanding their behavior and feeding patterns
  • Learn how to navigate and fish the flats effectively
  • Discover the best bait, tackle, tides, and conditions for black drum fishing
  • Master the art of spotting black drum and accurately casting your bait
  • Gain insights from experienced Florida Keys fishing guide Ruben Lee

Black drum fishing on the flats is an exhilarating experience that requires skill, knowledge, and a keen eye. In this article, we dive deep into the art of sight casting for black drum with the guidance of Ruben Lee, an old school Florida Keys ninja fishing guide. Discover how to successfully target these fish in skinny water by understanding their behavior, selecting the right bait and tackle, and mastering the techniques needed to land these impressive catches.

Fishing the Flats in the Florida Keys

The shallow waters of the flats in the upper Florida Keys provide a unique environment for targeting black drum fish. To effectively fish these areas, it's essential to understand how to navigate and position yourself based on the sun's position and wind direction. Start by identifying which end of the flat to begin fishing on, taking into account the current conditions.

When searching for black drum on the flats, keep an eye out for specific signs and signals that indicate their presence. Look for subtle movements, push wakes, or the distinct tailing behavior that occurs when they are actively feeding on the bottom. By learning to spot these clues, you'll be able to locate black drum more efficiently and increase your chances of success.

Understanding Black Drum Behavior and Feeding Patterns

Black drum have a unique eye position, often angled downward as they forage along the bottom in search of food. This feeding behavior can make it challenging to entice them to take your bait. To improve your odds, it's crucial to understand their feeding patterns and how to tell if they're in a hungry state.

Pay attention to the tides and the movement of water on the flats. Black drum often become more active during specific tidal stages, such as the incoming or outgoing tide. They may also be influenced by the presence of certain prey items, such as crabs or shrimp. By familiarizing yourself with their preferred food sources and the conditions that stimulate their feeding response, you'll be better equipped to present your bait effectively.

Bait Selection and Presentation

Choosing the right bait is key to enticing black drum to bite. Natural baits tend to be the most effective, as they closely mimic the prey items that black drum naturally feed on. Some popular choices include live or fresh dead shrimp, crabs, and clams. Experiment with different baits to determine what works best in your specific fishing location.

When presenting your bait to black drum, accuracy is paramount. These fish can be easily spooked, so it's essential to cast your bait in their path without causing too much disturbance. Aim to land your bait slightly ahead of the fish, allowing them to come across it naturally as they forage along the bottom. Use a stealthy approach and minimize any unnecessary movements or noise that could alert them to your presence.

Tackle, Tides, and Conditions

To effectively target black drum on the flats, it's important to have the right gear and knowledge of the best conditions for fishing. When it comes to tackle, opt for light to medium spinning or baitcasting gear. A medium-action rod paired with a reel spooled with 10-15 pound test braided line is a versatile setup for black drum fishing. Use a fluorocarbon leader to provide added stealth and abrasion resistance.

Consider the tides and weather conditions when planning your black drum fishing trip. As mentioned earlier, tidal movements can significantly influence their feeding activity. Look for periods of clean, moving water, as this often triggers a feeding response. Avoid fishing during extreme low tides, as the lack of water can make it challenging to navigate the flats and locate fish.

Spotting Black Drum and Casting Accuracy

One of the most exciting aspects of sight casting for black drum is the visual hunt. Developing a keen eye for spotting these fish in skinny water is a skill that comes with practice and experience. Here are some tips to help you locate black drum on the flats:

  • Scan the water for subtle movements, push wakes, or the flash of a tail.
  • Look for areas with submerged vegetation or structure, as black drum often feed around these locations.
  • Use polarized sunglasses to reduce glare and enhance your ability to see into the water.

Once you've spotted a black drum, the next challenge is delivering your bait accurately. A well-placed cast can make all the difference between a successful hookup and a missed opportunity. Practice your casting techniques to improve your accuracy and distance control. Aim to land your bait softly and precisely in the fish's path, giving them an opportunity to discover it naturally.


Sight casting for black drum on the flats is a thrilling and rewarding experience that tests your skills as an angler. By understanding their behavior, selecting the right bait and tackle, and mastering the art of spotting and casting to these fish, you'll be well on your way to successful black drum fishing. Remember to be patient, stealthy, and adaptable to the conditions. With practice and persistence, you'll soon find yourself enjoying the excitement of landing these impressive catches in the shallow waters of the flats.

What is the best time of day to fish for black drum on the flats?

Black drum can be caught throughout the day, but the most productive times tend to be early morning and late afternoon when the sun is lower in the sky. These periods offer better visibility for spotting fish and more comfortable conditions for the angler.

How do I know if a black drum is feeding?

Look for signs of active feeding behavior, such as tailing (when their tail breaks the surface as they forage on the bottom), push wakes, or mud plumes. These indicate that the fish are actively searching for food and may be more likely to take your bait.

What should I do if a black drum refuses my bait?

If a black drum shows interest in your bait but refuses to take it, try changing your presentation or bait selection. Experiment with different retrieves, such as a slow and steady retrieve or a more erratic motion. You can also try switching to a different type of natural bait or adjusting the size of your offering.

Can I use artificial lures for black drum on the flats?

While natural baits are the most commonly used for black drum fishing, artificial lures can also be effective. Soft plastic baits, such as shrimp or crab imitations, can be used to mimic their natural prey. Experiment with different colors and presentations to find what works best in your specific fishing location.

How do I fight and land a black drum once hooked?

Black drum are known for their strong, determined fights. When hooked, they often make powerful runs and can be challenging to bring to the boat. Use a steady and consistent pressure, keeping your rod tip up and allowing the fish to take line when necessary. Be patient and let the fish tire itself out before attempting to land it. Use a landing net or grab the fish by the lower jaw to safely bring it on board.

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