Can You Beat a Drum?

By Andy Whitcomb

Jun 29, 2015

The freshwater drum does not get enough respect as a sport fish.

The freshwater drum does not get enough respect as a sport fish. In fact, in most states it is not considered a game fish and regulations may fall under the heading of “other.” It is a rarely targeted species, more often a surprise while trying to catch something else. Although it may feel great on the end of a line, it can be a disappointment to bass tournament anglers in large rocky lakes and large river systems where it is a common bycatch.

Here are 3 admirable qualities of the freshwater drum:

  1. Big. Although the average may be in the 1-4 pound range, they can reach 30 pounds. The state record in Missouri is over 40 pounds. While muskellunge fishing on a small reservoir in Pennsylvania last year, my son and I were unprepared when a huge drum slid confidently under our kayak. When we return to that lake, the muskie will have to wait.

  2. Strong. These are a stubborn, deep-bodied fish, capable of long, bull-headed runs, much like their highly sought after saltwater relative, the redfish.

  3. Distinct. When you catch a drum, take a closer look. You may notice hues of purple, blue, and silver. They have long pelvic fins and a rounded club-like tail. The mouth is subterminal and without teeth, but it has massive pharyngeal pads in the back of the throat to crush crayfish and freshwater mussels.

To catch a drum, try your luck in rocky rivers or large reservoirs, especially below dams. They will hit lures like jigs, spoons, or occasionally crankbaits fished near bottom but aggressively inhale bait such as minnows, crayfish, nightcrawlers, or shrimp. Walleye anglers commonly catch them while trolling crawler harnesses with spinners near the bottom.

Have you caught a drum? Before you try, make sure your fishing license is up to date.

Andy Whitcomb
Andy Whitcomb
Andy is an outdoor writer ( and stressed-out Dad has contributed over 380 blogs to since 2011. Born in Florida, but raised on banks of Oklahoma farm ponds, he now chases pike, smallmouth bass, and steelhead in Pennsylvania. After earning a B.S. in Zoology from OSU, he worked in fish hatcheries and as a fisheries research technician at OSU, Iowa State, and Michigan State.