vertical drummin'

jiggerjohn

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Mar 23, 2010
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Last weekend my son & I headed up to Lake Erie (Vermilion,Ohio) to do some serious vertical jigging for our favorite light tackle fish, the Freshwater Drum. Yeah, we got a lot of flack from the locals about targeting the lowly (in their limited opinions!) "Sheepshead", but after sore wrists derived from playing the hard diving, densely muscled fish-around 300 pounds worth- we were quite content with the VERY frequent battles ! In fact, we've determined that the major difference from our vertical jigging for crappies on Pymatuning vs vertical jig methods on sheep, is that the Erie fish can be 10 or more times bigger than any panfish and more seriously strain our drags and 4-6# test mono!

Calm conditions on the big lake helped, but we merely had to row out (motor proved inoperative), locate a rock pile on the 9-11' breakline, and lower jigs straight down (sometimes a split shot 6" upline in slight wind&wave movement). We used the same 1/28 oz wool/satin jigs with super sharp no. 8 VMC hooks (jigheads from Hawnjigs) that we employ for crappie& trout. A piece of live crayfish (better than the whole critter,we found -the wooly jig completed the crab "look"!) was a non-fail tipping.Positioning above a rock hump below, we'd often just get a slight twitch to indicate a take-very subtle usually-then we'd slight lift into real weight- the tiny hooks were a key to constantly stinging the delicate takers! Lake fish of size have some serious endurance,as our battles on the biggest lasted quite a while!

Why do these wonderful fighters get so much disrespect?? IMO they are THE ideal light tackle jigging fish, and reach bodyweights (at record levels) which rival muskies (yet Drum are hardly the "fish of 10,000 casts" as muskies can be; more like the fish of TEN casts if on a good rock pile!!).
 

papaperch

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Well John if you ever " drum " up the courage. ( Pun Intended ) . Cook one up sometime and perhaps you will understand their low standing in lots of anglers eyes.

Way back when by maternal Grandfather asked me to bring some back as he wanted to try them. I had already tried them several different ways and liked none of them. For a better understanding trust me my grandfather LOVED fish. He ate bullhead with as much delight as he did walleye.

After dropping them off for him. I waited for his judgement on them. I never asked and he never ventured to offer his judgement on them. Suffice to say he NEVER suggested dropping off any of them again.

Compared to walleye crappie and perch yes they do fight. But tell that to a room full of bass fishermen and they will laugh you out of room. I have caught way more than my share of them on trips to Erie. In our group who some ever landed the most sheepies had to buy milkshakes on the way home. Kinda of a vote for Dewey button award.

My hat is off to you if you enjoy fishing for them. One thing you won't see much competition.
 

jiggerjohn

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Papaperch, One year a big group was at the cottage court that we stay at on Lake Erie, and seeing our coolers of fish requested a fish fry ! My son, who is a chef, fried up heaping platters of equal amounts of smallmouth bass fillets, white bass, and sheepshead ; I believe the sheepshead went the fastest ! Of course all fish had been iced immediately when caught, and were filleted almost while still flipping around, plus Sean cubed them and served up these bite sized morsels piping hot with all the delicious trimmings -anything ,of course, would have tasted great to the hungry sunbathers!

As to the comparative fighting abilities, if ya hooked an average drum, tail to tail with a "tournament sized" largemouth, the sheeps would dive the bass backwards into the depths and drown him!
 

Bucko

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I try to use them as cut bait for catfish. They don't like them either. They do put up a good fight though. They fight more than a largemouth but not as much pound for pound as a smallie.
 

jiggerjohn

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Bucko, I have to agree with ya on smallies pound per pound ;of course good smallie anglers use light tackle &small jigs,like we do for drum, rather than the shark outfits and 50 pound braid that tourney pros use for 2-3# largemouth ! Then again, the average sheephead is usually 6-12 pounds which is way bigger & much more densely muscled than either bass that is generally caught! And not sure about cut bait choices of catfish, but I do know that famous muskie guide Jon Bondy, who catches more huge muskies for his clients than practically any other guide going, developed his renowned vertical jigging system on the the Detroit river and Lake St Clair by imitating the SHEEPSHEAD with his great Bondy Bait! (http://www.bondybaitcompany.com/howtouse.html ). This plastic sheepshead has caught,in addition to muskie, record sized northern pike, lake trout, and stripers , so some fish obviously enjoy gobbling sheep meat !!
 

papaperch

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John- we have to do Pymatuning one of these fall days. Would love to argue the virtues of the " marbleheads " with ya all day long.
whilst catching fish of course. Smallies are the gamest fish that lives no argument there what so ever. Even a 12 incher challenges some of my light equipment. PB smallie was a lake erie behemoth that was over 6 lbs. Caught her on a 6'6" ultralight rod with 4 lb test. She made my drag sing like the fat lady at the opera. That was well over 30 years ago and I still remember that battle. My friends couldn't believe it when I released her.

Back to your " favorite " fish heh heh. Two oddest baits I ever caught sheephead on chewing gum rolled to look like a worm and them gumdrops that used to come in a small box. Biggest sheepie I ever caught was on a Hot-n-Tot the first time I ever fished with this lure. My pal Leonard assured me on the way up to Lake. Great thing about trolling the Hot-n-Tot is the fish are all walleye. So of course the very first fish was a big old grunter. They almost laughed me out of the boat.

I think I developed a consuming hatred for them way back when. As youngsters we pursued bass almost to the exclusion of all other fishes. We would seine our own crabs and were in constant search of the prized soft craws. When putting a softy on your hook and making a great cast and being rewarded ? with a sheepy instead of a smallie. Well I'm sure you understand
 

redman

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Jiggerjohn you are missing the best way to eat a old sheephead or gasper goo as we say down in the deep south. Smoke him I gut and gill them say soak them overnight in a sweet brine and smoke with a sweet wood. Apple, cherry, or pecan works best. It taste a lot like pork. It will keep in the fridge for two weeks and in the freezer a lot longer. At our house it don't last all that long. I even will put bar-b-que sauce on it.

It sounds like fun to fish them. I have caught them on cane poles that was a lot of fun. As I say anything that shake the end of my pole.

Redman
 

jiggerjohn

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Redman, Thanks for the smoking sheepshead tip ! I have a batch of friends who have gotten into amateur smoking, and I know they'll be up for this project !

Yep, on light tackle,fishing for drum is a blast! We usually go for them with 4 to 6# ultra thin Tectan mono (this is exact pound-test measured mono, so is skinnier & "weaker" than most 4# stuff!), but in Lake Erie there is rarely snags,other than the rock piles they hang around, to contend with, just depth & distance-easy to handle if ya keep your cool and have a good drag ! The best thing is, these drum LOVE small jigs, like our 1/28 oz wool/satin D-bug, and would go crazy over some of YOUR compact, superbly tied rock-a-roo types!! Anything that can bump around the rock, and mimic a crayfish!
 

hookup

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jiggerjohn said:
ultra thin Tectan mono (this is exact pound-test measured mono

Another Tectan user.

Where do you buy yours now?
 

jiggerjohn

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Hookup, I now order my Tectan from FISHUSA .Love that very limber,soft mono for light jigging, and enjoy the ease of distance due to its tiny diameter!
 

hookup

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Thx. I'm starting to run out. Not sure if you remember Dick Bengraf (Mr Jig) but he turned me onto it.

When Cabelas stopped carrying it, I bought a whole drawer full of various sizes. Been using the 6# (diameter of 2-3#) for white perch in brackish water lately, but when chasing smallies, I like the 11# (diameter of 5).

For long casts there's nothing like it. Not as abrasion resistance as braid, but still works nicely in the deeper river pools and flat water.
 

jiggerjohn

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Hookup, Yep, Dick Bengraf is certainly "THE MAN" when it comes to light tackle jigging! I corresponded with him on occaision, and noted that he& I shared the solid faith in lighter Tectan line ; I think each of us used the stuff ever since Cabelas first started offering it in the late 60s. As you mention, this thin mono isn't as abrasive resistant as braid (which you know "Mr Jig" absolutely hates for jigging, calling it string or rope!), but it is perfect for my deep running, open water sheepshead !!
 
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