Rods & Reels: Shimano Baitrunner 4500 is ideal for casting baits away from the boat as well as having enough line and drag capacity for the strong runs that drum will make in relatively shallow water. Shimano Tallus rods rated 25-40# with med-fast taper are also ideal and provide enough backbone. Remember catching fish in the 70-100# is a realistic possibilty on every drum outing so don't bring your peashooter set ups to this gun fight.
Line: We only use braid, as drum fish have an extremely light bite, the braid also helps with solid hook sets. 30-50# power pro is sufficient for our purposes.
Rig: I start by sliding a fishfinder slider onto our main line, I then tie a 50-70#spro barrel swivel to my main line via a palomar knot. I then attach a 12"-20" 40# mono or flouro leader to my spro barrel swivel via palomar knot. Finally at the tag end of our leader I snell a 10/0 gamikatsu octopus hook via a uni-style snell. The reason for the short leader is to keep the bait close to the bottom and keeping it stable in hard running current. Having your bait close to the bottom is essential and sometimes I will add a few split shot or a rubber core sinker to my leader. The reason for snelling the hook as I have found through experimenting with different knots is a) the strength b) the hook set, when a hook is snelled properly the hook set is much better, we find our fish hooked in the jaw 90% of the time.
Baits: We almost exclusively use LIVE, FRESH, SURF CLAM. I can not stress the importance of freshness, as with all things in fishing, it can make all the difference. we use the entire clam bait and discard nothing except the shell. a bushel is usually enough for one outing, for both baits and chumming. i use thread to tie my clam bait securely to the hook as i like to cast my baits far from the boat, when shallow water fishing it proves necessary to get your baits away from the boat
Timing: It is important to understand drum fishing and moon phases go hand in hand. Drum fishing will predictably be best on the hardest running moon currents, that is 2 days before and after the FULL and NEW moon phases. Scheduling your trip for these times can make all the difference. The smaller fish show up earlier in the season with the biggest fish being caught in late may and early june
Finding the Fish: Drum move into there feeding areas in waves that correspond with the tides. A wave of fish may be come through during the slack, while another wave moves in on the eb, drum feed during ALL phases of the tide cycles so there is little down time. The bay is relatively shallow and has drum attracting structure, encluding razor clam & oyster beds, algea beds slopes, and sloughs. We found our best fishing in the Mid Bay area around areas like the "PinTop", "Tusseys Slough", "Bannana Peel Slough", and "Brandywine Shoal". We usually fish in no more than 18' of water and sometimes in as little as 12', although last year the fish were deeper around 16 bouy in 30 + feet of water. Finding areas with hard bottoms with shellfish and bivalve presence are ideal and are indicated as a hard return on your fishfinding equipment. We don't always mark fish as we are setting up but a hard bottom with a depth change is a usually a good starting point. We have found some unlikely drumfishing spots while fishing for bass when we haul the anchor and find it loaded with razor clams or conch.
Once you find you're likely area and are anchored up its time to deploy your baits and start chumming. We fill a chum pot with fresh clams aswell as smash a couple clams and toss them all around the boat.
Holding your rod is essential in this type of fishing, dead sticking with J-hooks will certainly produce the skunk you also have the option of fishing rods in the holders locked up with 8/0 gami octo-circle hooks as circle hooks are effective aswell. Drum have the lightest and most subtle pick up you can imagine, often times a single light thump is all you will feel.
If fishing with J hooks and holding the rod once you feel the thump it is time to set the hook, reel all slack out of your line, and firmly set the hook.