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Drift Socks 101: What Is A Drift Sock and How To Use Them

Drift Socks 101

Drift fishing can be a very effective catfishing technique for targeting blue catfish and channel catfish. Like other techniques, it has a time and a place and certainly can be more effective at certain times of the year.

For the beginning angler drift fishing is an excellent way to get on the water and start catching fish and also learn more about patterning and catching fish on anchor through drift fishing.

At the heart of the drift fishing technique is some sort of drift control device for slowing the boat down and controlling direction. Drift socks are the most popular of these drift control devices and the most readily available.

What Is A Drift Sock And What’s It Used For?

A drift sock is a large “bag” (think parachute) that attaches to the boat with a harness and a buoy.

The harness is attached to the drift sock on one end and the other end is attached to the boat. The drift sock is then placed in the water, where it fills up creating a “drag” in the water.

The action of the drift sock dragging through the water helps to keep the boat straight or moving in the intended direction and also helps to slow the boat down.

Controlling the drift allows you to keep the preferred portion of the boat (front, rear or back) pointed into the wind as well as helps you control the direction that the boat travels across the water. More importantly in many situations is controlling the drift speed, which can be critical to catching catfish.

How To Choose The Right Drift Sock Size

One of the critical factors to consider when choosing a drift sock is the size. Drift socks are available in a wide variety of sizes and the size should be chosen based on the size of the boat you are fishing from.

In all instances you will be better off choosing a drift sock on the larger end of the suggested sizes than you will the smaller sizes. Many of the suggestions on sizing from manufacturers have tendency to suggest a drift sock that is too small, but the following chart from Cabela’s is reliable for the Cabela’s Advanced Angler Series drift socks.

I fish from a 22 Foot Xpress HD22 Center Console and I use two of the 5X Large drift socks for my boat, I use one of them in low wind conditions and in higher wind conditions I use two. Sometimes I use two in combination with a third device I call the “Redneck Boat Brake” which really slows the boat in high winds.

Just to clarify on my sizing suggestions:

If you have an 18 foot boat, I would use at least the 4X large drift sock.
If you have a 16 foot boat I would use at least the 2X large drift sock

Again, always go with the higher end of the sizing suggestion rather than the lower end. This will save you a lot of time, frustration and money in the long run.

drift sock size chart

Drift Sock Brands

There are many brands of drift socks on the market with Cabela’s, Lindy and Sea Anchor being the most common manufacturers.

Most manufacturers will use nylon material for the sock, and some are heavier than others. Some manufacturers of the lower end models will use a plastic type material instead.

Avoid this plastic type material at all costs. The material will rip and fall apart and socks made from these materials will not hold up over long term use.

The nylon material is the preferred choice when selecting drift socks but different manufacturers use different materials. Most of the manufacturers use a lightweight ripstop nylon that is much like a “windbreaker” jacket would be made of, it is very thin and lightweight.

Cabela’s uses a much heavier nylon for the Cabela’s Advanced Angler Pro Series Drift Socks and they are much more durable than anything else on the market.

After years of using a wide variety of products in different styles and from different manufacturers, I can say with complete confidence that the Cabela’s Advanced Angler Pro Series Drift Socks are the very best there is. They are super tough and very durable so they will hold up over long term use and abuse and being repeatedly drug around in the water and stuffed down in storage compartments. I’ve been using the socks for the better part of three years now and could not be happier with them plus Cabela’s has larger sizes available that most other manufacturers do not offer.

The Drift Harness And Buoy

The drift harness is what is used to attach the sock to the boat. A float is attached to the buoy as well. While you might be inclined to just try using a rope to attach the drift sock to the boat, a drift harness is a much better option due to the added features of the drift harness.

First and foremost, a good harness will have a quick release clip on both ends of the drift sock which makes it easy to attach and remove both the harness to and from the boat but also from the drift sock.

Dragging the sock through the water will cause the sock to twist and you’ll have to periodically remove the harness from the sock and untangle the lines (the tangles will hinder the performance). In addition you’ll want to be able to quickly and easily adjust the drift sock location on the boat to help with adjusting drift speed and direction.

The buoy or “float” on the harness serves two purposes. It helps keep the sock towards the surface of the water while in use which optimizes performance and also keeps it on the surface if it is removed from the boat. You may accidentally lose the drift sock in the water at times (it happens) but more importantly when landing a big catfish the best option at times is to drop the drift sock from the side of the boat and then go back and retrieve it after you land your fish. Without a buoy on the harness the sock will sink and will be gone forever.

How To Use A Drift Sock

Using the drift sock is pretty easy. Attach the harness to the sock and attach the other end to the boat and throw the sock in the water. Once it hits the water it will “open up” and start to drag water.

Where you attach the sock on the boat will depend on your preferred method of drifting. If you are fishing from the side of the boat with a single drift sock then most boats will need the sock in the middle or front portion of the boat.

Drift fishing can be a very productive technique for catching numbers of channel catfish and blue catfish and even trophy blue catfish. Having a drift sock and learning boat control is one aspect of learning how to successfully drift fish for catfish.

To get in depth information on drift fishing, all details you need to be successful and catch more fish checkout the Drift Fishing For Catfish program one of the premium products from Learn To Catch Catfish.

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About Chad

Chad Ferguson is a professional catfish guide and founder of Learn To Catch Catfish. Click here to subscribe for more exclusive catfish fishing tips by email and then follow on Twitter or Google

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