Rocky Droneburg knows how to catch smallmouth bass. Let me change that. Rocky Droneburg knows how to catch big smallmouth bass. In this interview he shares some of his keys to river fishing on two of his favorite waters, Potomac River and Susquehanna River.
First of all tell us about the new Rhino Jet. It looks like it is going to be an amazing boat.
After chasing both Smallie’s and Muskie in the Potomac river. I always dreamed of a boat with more room. You get a 17×54 boat with 3-4 tackle boxes and 7-8 poles at approximately 8 ft. In length. Also add a frabil big kahuna net. You are crunched for space.
So when a opportunity came to upgrade my fishing machine. I knew I was going with a custom build. As much as I love some of the popular inboard jet boats. I knew I would never be completely satisfied fishing out of it. I’m not really a deck boat kinda fisherman.
On the Potomac drifting through ledges I need a boat that I can hit the key to the big motor and move to avoid collisions. You don’t have time to climb off a deck behind a console sometimes. With that said, I was exploring options for a custom built inboard jet. But couldn’t get any solid plans. I knew I was sticking with a stick steer no matter what. So I made a call to Jim Starkey of Rhino jets. That call was the final straw for my decision. I knew if I was building a boat. It was gonna be with this guy.
So I took a Modified V haul of his design. Then tried to redesign the inside layout with a tried and true design that the late Butch Ward proved worked. We designed it with the battery box for a 36 vt. System under my control seat on front. With my deck just high enough to account for the fuel tank right behind me. For a level transition to the rear of the boat. Two dual rod lockers and a 50 inch back deck with a livewell front center of that deck. The back deck is for my friends to have a better vantage point when chasing Muskie.
The hull we built with .190 gauge aluminum with UHMW on the bottom. The areas I like to target on both the Potomac and Susquehanna Rivers are both very rocky! So hopefully this rig will take some unintended hits with ease. We’ll see about that.
What sections of the Potomac do you fish? Why is a Jet Boat necessary for running your sections of the Potomac during summer conditions?
I fish several area’s on the Potomac from the more rocky areas of Frederick County for Bass to the more calm areas west of Hancock Maryland for Muskie.
How I choose my areas depends on water levels, seasons, water temps and water clarity. The rocky/rapid areas I like at higher flow. For clear water I like deeper pools and slower currents. The lower clear water times of the year is when the Jet outboard is most important!
How was your spring of 2017 on the Potomac compared to other years?
Our 2017 spring season was actually very tough on both river systems for bass. It seemed like every chance I had time off work it was high winds, cold front conditions. But I also had one of my best big fish years with 3 Bass over 21 inches.
Between my partners and myself we had several fish over 20 inches. But, with only 1 of those 20’s coming from the Potomac river. I don’t pretend to be a biologist or quote our local hero book writer. But experience of the past 20 years has taught me that just some years are better than others. Depending on spawn success and flooding during that time frame…as well as well planned outings and weather patterns.
What were your go to baits for River smallmouth this spring?
My go to baits are always tube jigs of natural forage colors. But this season I assume with all the cold fronts we had several days saved by suspending jerkbaits. I wasn’t always a jerkbait fisherman. For years I would live and die by tubes and hair jigs of my fishing partner Gene’s design.
But, after spending time fishing with new people the last few years. I learned I was missing out. My friend Bubba Baker and Joe Mong showed me that there was a whole world I was missing! But not anymore!
What is your favorite big smallmouth springtime bait?
That’s pretty easy. A 3/8th ounce spinnerbait. When you get water temps over 50 degrees you can strain more water!
In the springtime, how are you dissecting the water?
I consider warmer water influences up river of my location. If a water system is entering the river above me and of a warmer temp or better water clarity. I will focus on holes that are affected by that water.
My partners and I always fish together as a team. We don’t throw the same baits. If I throw jig. My partners will throw jerks, hair jigs, cranks. We switch it up. To help us work thru the fish catching problems of the days. I’ve had partners in the past that are only concerned for their own success. Needless to say they had to find new partners. I fish for fun. If that means enjoying someone else’s success. I love it!
You also fish the Susquehanna River a lot. How are fishing these two legendary smallmouth fisheries similar?
The Susquehanna River! What a fantastic fishery! I honestly don’t think they are very much alike at all with a few exceptions. Low water summer-fall conditions and during spawning. They pick the same fundamental areas slow pockets and rock shelves in mid river areas.
The river is also influenced by many tributaries. Like the Juniata River, North and West Branch of the Susquehanna. If you don’t like the conditions just change to the other side of the river. Sometimes half the river will be cold and muddy. The other clear and 5 degrees warmer.
One of my absolute favorite times is very high water fall, winter and spring. Eight feet and above on the Harrisburg gauge. I love to fish island tails. When that water rises they migrate right on many island tails. But not all island tails are equal. I like a tail that faces a large open area of river. A large trolling motor is most important for this pattern. I like a 36 volt 112 lbs thrust minnkota.
I can’t wait to follow Rocky the rest of the summer and this fall. I am confident we will be seeing a lot of giant smallmouth pics on his page, hopefully soon in the new boat. Follow him Instagram.