I continue to say that the future of fishing is so bright. There are so many extremely talented young anglers who have an incredible passion for the sport. Drew Ziehnert is one of those anglers. We discuss with Drew his New York fishing and go in depth about his fishing of Saratoga Lake, Lake George and the Hudson River.
Looks like from your IG that you go to Sienna College. What are you majoring in? What do you love about the school?
I am a English education major, currently a sophomore. Sienna College is a small private college and I love the teacher student relationships that are able to happen from going to a small college. Most of my classes are 20 to 25 students so I am always free to have time to see my professor for extra help. The school’s professors are all extremely passionate about every subject they teach. The majority of them have put together research so it shows in how they present their information.
I am also the Vice President of Siena’s collegiate fishing team. We fish around the capital region along with doing various community services, which include cleaning up lakes and rivers.
I know you love to bass fish small waters. Have you found some of these places around Sienna College?
There is a lake that is around five minutes from Siena called “Little’s lake”. The lake is privately owned but we were able to help them clean the lake up and now the majority of the fishing team has a lifetime membership to the lake. I have caught some very good sized bass in the lake. There are allegedly muskie as well.
There is a pond at the town hall across the street from Siena. I find myself going there when I want to de-stress from the pressures of college. I usually bring a fly rod. You can catch tons and tons of small bass on dry flies which is fun.
The majority of fishing is done in the Saratoga region where I live. We fish Saratoga Lake, Hudson River, Lake Lonely, and Lake George. All of the lakes produce big fish but every lake is different. Lakes like Saratoga Lake are full of weeds and docks so we rip chatterbaits through weedbeds and throw jigs under docks which produces well. Then lakes like Lake George which are much bigger we dock fish with jigs and drop shot smallmouth bass on rocky drop offs. I have actually caught smallmouth bass in over 130 feet of water near the bottom.
What are your favorite aspects about bass fishing on Saratoga Lake?
I really like dock fishing in Saratoga Lake. You can find bass under docks from may through all of summer and jigs produce very big fish. The lake is also very weedy and is abundant with pickerel. Sometimes it is tough targeting bass just because of all the pickerel you will catch.
I like ripping chatter-baits through the weed beds with a Zako trailer in white. It seems to always produce big bass in Saratoga, along with some big pickerel. There is an abundance of bluegill and perch in the lake so swimbaits are also effective for the bigger fish. If we are catching too many small fish, we will throw on swimbaits that mimic a bluegill or perch. This usually ends up catching bigger fish.
Jerkbaits do well where the weeds are closer to the bottom in 10-20 feet of water. Some days the bass seem to be off the docks and more in the deeper weed beds so I target them with jerkbaits. There is a very deep point called Snake Hill that has a huge rocky drop off. I use deep diving Rapalas to find the big smallmouth down 20 to 30 feet on these drops.
It seems that the best way to fish Saratoga is to start at the docks and if they aren’t there then fish the weed beds. If the weed beds don’t produce then you move into the deeper rocky drop offs.
How do you compare bass fishing on Lake George with Saratoga Lake?
Lake George is a much bigger lake with much deeper water and more areas where bass can be. I have found that the same color jigs work very well in both lakes, specifically black/blue. There are some crayfish in the lake, but I do not tend to match the hatch.
Lake George does not have the amount of weed beds that Saratoga Lake has. I like fishing the southern bays of Lake George like Warner’s Bay and Dunams Bay. The bays usually have the warmest water and the bass tend to hang in docks on hot summer days. If you want to fish deeper water then deep diving firetiger crankbaits work well for largemouth and drop shotting finesse worms crush the smallmouth.
The smallmouth hold extremely deep in the lake and can be found holding near the lake trout. Right on the drop offs where the water goes from 20 to 80 feet. We often catch lake trout using drop shots for bass and vice versa.
The bite is also very good at sunset on Lake George. I go into the back bays and throw spooks starting at the docks and working them back to the boat. It catches some monster largemouths. The amount of smallmouth bass in Lake George is incredible. They can be found around every dropoff in Lake George. The largemouth aren’t as prevalent but they seem to be found around the docks of the south bays.
I noticed on Lake George you were fishing a black jig with a black trailer. Typically anglers use a different color trailer than jig. You said this combo can be very effective. When do you go to this same color combination?
The black jig with the black trailer was passed down to me by an old school fishing guide whom is retired now. I became very good friends with his son and his son turned me on to this jig combo. We fished in springtime with the black and black and it outfished every other jig color.
What I have found is that the key to the jig is the amount of water that the trailer pushes. It is a chunk trailer made by Zoom and fish destroy it. I use a Gambler 3/8 ounce swim jig or a Strike King Bitsy Jig in 3/8 ounce. Either black or blue works for the jig colors.
I think another key to the jigs is that basically no one else throws the jig combo. So I’m giving the fish something completely different to look at. It’s big, it pushes water, it’s different and the fish hit it hard. I have watched fish bite it and rip it apart underneath me.
The crayfish in the lake are a brownish color so the black is different. Natural color jigs do work and I do use them once in a while but for big lakes that get a lot of fishing pressure the black prevails. The interesting thing is that this black and black combo works in every singe body of water I have fished in New York. I have caught bass, pike, and walleye on the combo. So it is not just a random coincidence that it works on lake George. It has become my go to jig and my confidence bait. I ended up catching my personal best walleye and personal best largemouth on the jig this year. It crushes bass on the Hudson River as well, pecifically 3 plus pound smallmouths.
Speaking of jigs, you are a big fan of Gambler jigs. Why do you like their jigs so much?
I had heard such great reviews on Gambler jigs so I decided to start using them and what a difference they make. I really like Gambler’s Southern Swim Jigs. The profile looks incredible in the water and the jigs are high quality.
I find that the biggest issue with jigs is that when I’m bouncing them off rocks that the paint tends to chip off them. This becomes a major turn off to the fish but I have found that the quality of the Gambler jigs is much better and the paint does not tend to chip off when swimming it against rocks.
I really like their double weed guard jigs also. The double weed guard really helps when I’m fishing for bass in the weed beds and around docks. At times in Saratoga the weeds are everywhere and it is a major issue getting weeds on your jig every single cast. So with the double weed guard it makes fishing the jigs through weed beds much more effective. One tip is that they may come a little long so you may have to trim your weed guard.
The trailers are where Gambler separates themselves from the competition. As soon as you open a trailer bag you can smell the garlic infused trailers. The scent on the trailers drives the fish insane. My two favorite trailers are the Stinger and the Mega Daddy.
The stinger is a huge profile trailer but it catches bass of every size. The action in the water is incredible and it makes the jigs stand out.
The Mega Daddy is another big trailer that I trim down to make it more of a chunk trailer. When the bass need a little extra scent and color I throw on the Mega Daddy. The Mega Daddy crushes bass that are sitting up and under docks.
What other places do you enjoy bass fishing?
I really have began to love the Hudson River for bass fishing. It is a majorly underestimated river that holds massive fish. It is not a easy river to fish but if you know what to look for it can be. The Hudson over the years has become a catch and release only river due to the PCB’s that were released into the water by companies years ago. So the DEC has banned the eating of fish to make sure people are not affected by the chemicals. So all of these fish in the rivers are becoming huge by just being released every year.
Every time I find sunken logs and trees in the river there are always massive bass under them. You can not catch a single fish for a mile down the river but as soon as you find a sunken log there are tons of large bass.
I have recently been ice fishing the river and have been catching some monster crappie. While we throw jigs under these logs we often catch oversized crappie as well.
Bass really seem to relate to structure in the Hudson River. I have also found a secret dam that flows from the Hudson River, and it is always loaded with 3 plus pound smallmouth. For whatever reason the smallmouth all funnel into this cove that leads to a dam and it creates phenomenal fishing. The Hudson has an incredibly strong current so my guess is the bait gets pushed into it and the fish follow.
Each place I fish is special because every place is different. Every time you catch a bass in a different body of water the colors of the fish are always different. There are so many different techniques to catch fish on and it has become my goal to learn them all.
I know you are a big time multi-species fisherman. How would your rank your top 5 species of fish to target?
I would say my top five species to target are brown trout, largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, king salmon, and now crappie. There is something special about the rivers around me. They are stocked every April with brown trout, and every April I always fish for them. Although they are stocked fish I have a blast fly fishing for them.
Then once it becomes summer and fall I begin to target the holdover fish and fish the bigger rivers like the Battenkill. The fly patterns change and you can throw streamers to entice big brown trout. I hold the record on my favorite stream for brown trout and the fish is on my wall above my fly station.
Largemouth bass and smallmouth bass are always a blast to catch. You can use a wide variety of techniques and they put up an incredible fight. I just started frog fishing for them this year and what a challenge that is. It’s so amazing to watch them come through the weeds to strike a frog out of the air.
Every fall I always fish the salmon run on the Oswego River and Salmon River. There is nothing more exhilarating then hooking into a 30 plus pound king salmon. I ended up trying to Land one on a 4 wt. fly rod that I use for trout and caught 3 before I snapped the rod on a fish. Salmon are just so strong and watching them swim up current while being hooked shows their power.
Crappie has just been recently added to my list. I love watching them school up under giant logs and while ice fishing. They are not afraid to hit giant bait and lures that shows how aggressive they are.
Who are your current sponsors?
My current sponsors are Glo Pro Lures, Gambler Lures, Deeper Smart Sonar, Carrot Stix Rods, Trapper Tackle, Amphibia Eye Gear, Woo Tungsten, Frog Toggs, Zombie Baits and Ardent Reels.
Glo-Pro Lures who makes lures that have insertable glo sticks that go into their baits so they glow in the water. They have worked really well for deep water lake trout.
Gambler Lures makes high quality and fast sinking jigs and trailers.
Deeper Smart Sonar makes a Bluetooth fish finder. Deeper has absolutely changed the game for ice fishing. Instead of spending hundreds of dollars on a flasher alone, Deeper does it all. Their ice fishing flasher is extremely accurate and sensitive so I can watch huge crappie come off the bottom to hit my tungsten jigs. Deeper also allows you to see any lakes you have marked so you can go back and know where you marked certain structures and fish for prior trips.
Carrot Stix Rods have become my go-to rods. They are extremely lightweight but have the backbone to handle huge largemouth. My favorite model is the Wild Wild Green rods in a 7’0 medium heavy action.
Trapper Tackle makes hooks with a square so fish are trapped when they are hooked. The hooks doubles catch-ability because the fish stay locked.
Amphibia Eye Gear makes floating frames for their sunglasses so I never have to worry when I’m kayak fishing. The polarization allows me to see the most hidden trout in the water.
Woo Tungsten makes high quality tungsten for drop shots and Senko fishing.
Frogg Toggs makes extremely durable and high quality rain gear. I have a pair of their Bigfoot felt waders which are extremely comfortable and will not rip as easy as neoprene.
Zombie Baits is a new company I have been sponsored by who make freeze dried worms. They dye the worms and it just takes water to make them a full worm again. I have caught a 15 inch rainbow trout and an 18 inch largemouth in the same river in the same hour on them. They are a great and less messy alternative to night crawlers.
Lastly, Ardent Reels makes good reels with smooth drag systems. I use their ardent Apex Tournament Series reels. They are really good for chatterbait fishing.
Thank you so much Drew! Follow all of Drew’s success on Instagram @dziehn.
Read More about Hudson River Bass Fishing: Fishing the Hudson River with the Backwater Guide Service