-by Ryan McDermid
Does this situation sound familiar? You have been fishing hard all day and have little or no fish to show for it. Maybe the weather conditions aren't the best for fishing. Maybe the fish are just finicky. Whatever the reason the drop shot rig can be the difference between catching a few more fish and not catching any fish at all. I have found when talking to other anglers that many shy away from the Drop Shot rig. I don’t know if this is due to unfamiliarity with the rig, the lack of the proper tackle, or the fear of using light line. Whatever the reason Drop Shotting is a finesse tactic that never fails to produce fish even on the slowest of days.
My go to combo for Drop Shotting is a 7 foot medium or medium light spinning rod, and a medium sized spinning reel with a good drag system spooled with good fluorocarbon in the 6-10lb range. I personally use Seaguar InvizX in 8lb test. For the rig itself I prefer 1/4oz or smaller tungsten Drop Shot weights, and a 1/0 Drop Shot hook. The tungsten weights are generally smaller than their lead counterparts. They are also harder which makes it a bit easier to feel the bottom. Additionally bass have a habit of reaction striking the weight as opposed to the bait itself so a more compact weight will cut down on some of this but likely not totally prevent it. Another way to cut down on this is to sand some of that shine off of a brand new weight, or color the weight with a magic marker. There are also several different shapes of Drop Shot weights. Most common are tear drop, round, and skinny shaped weights. Skinny weights are generally for rocky terrain as they tend to hang up less in rocks. For most other applications tear drop and round work fine. There are a ton of drop shot baits on the market now with more coming out every day. For me the bait I use depends on several factors. Like with any bait my first consideration is the main forage in the area I am fishing. There are drop shot baits that resemble crayfish, baitfish, worms, and several other creature baits. Personally I like to throw worms or baitfish imitators that have a good action. Roboworm makes many good baits, Berkley has a hand poured finesse worm that works really well, and my new favorite is the JP Hammer Shad by Power Team lures. The next thing I take into consideration when choosing a bait is the color. Matching the color of the forage as closely as possible is always good especially in gin clear water. However in heavily stained or muddy water I tend to lean towards darker colored baits. The last thing I consider is my confidence in the bait. It doesn’t matter how great a bait is if you aren’t confident in it. I personally believe this so much so that my confidence in a bait is often the first thing I consider instead of the last.
Now that we have all of the tackle sorted out it is time to rig up. The Drop Shot is a rigged with the weight at the bottom of the rig with a leader (tail end) of about 12-15 inches. The best way to tie this rig with a standard hook is to use what I call a Drop Shot Palomar knot. This is just a regular Palomar knot with one extra step. The first step in tying the rig is to tie your hook on using a standard Palomar knot. If your intention is to tie the hook 12-15 inches up from the weight make sure you leave a tail AT LEAST 12 to 15 inches long. It is always easier to shorten the tail later after you have finished your knot. Make sure you get your knot very wet when cinching down your knot so not to burn and weaken your line. One thing I commonly do is cinch my knot most of the way down using the tail end and then cinching down the last bit by slowly pulling both the main line and the tail. This ensures that if the line does get weakened that the tail end is the weakest point. Since the fish does not put tension on the tail end during a fight this should be a non issue. Once you have cinched down your knot there is one more step when tying a Drop Shot Palomar knot. You take the tail end and run it down through the hook eye. This keeps the hook point up which tends to lead to better action in your bait and better hookups on fish. In addition to a standard hook there is now a specialty drop shot hook on the market made by VMC called the Spinshot hook. This is basically a hook on a swivel. The hook is allowed to spin freely preventing line twist. I also believe it gives the bait a little better action. With these hooks you can use whatever knot you would like to tie the hook to the main line and then tie on a leader of whatever length you would prefer below the hook.
Now it is time to put on your weight. There are a couple of ways to do this. Most Drop Shot weights have a small clip that the line runs through. You can cinch your line in the clip without a knot. This will work but I find that out of the box some of the Drop Shot weights have clips that don’t clip on tight enough and the weight can slip off very easily. To keep this from happening I simply tie an overhand knot and then cinch the line into the clip. This generally still allows your weight to break off instead of your whole rig in the event that only your weight gets hung up in cover.
Now for rigging the bait. The most commonly used method of rigging a Drop Shot bait is right at the nose. Bring the hook through the bottom of the bait and then out the top. I like to make sure that the hook is far enough back that the bait will not come off the hook easily when a fish eats it, but far enough forward that the point of the hook is in front of the nose of the bait. These baits are generally smaller and most fish will grab the whole bait on the initial strike so I like to make sure the hook is the first thing in line when I yank the rod back.
A second method for rigging your bait (and the one I most often use) is to bring the hook into the bottom of the bait, and instead of coming out of the top bring the hook out the nose of the bait. This method tends to prop the bait up a little more and leads to a little more action.
Now that you are all rigged up it is time to go fishing. Do to the nature of the Drop Shot and the light weight line that is used you generally don’t want to throw this rig into or near cover. That being said I have thrown this in and around cover many times with a lot of success, but it also leads to frustrating days and a lot of lost tackle. Most people are under the impression that Drop Shotting is a tactic for fishing vertically in deep water. While Drop Shot does lend itself to that scenario that is actually not the way I most commonly fish this rig. I will fish a Drop Shot rig anywhere from a foot of water out to 20+ feet. I throw the bait into or just beyond the strike zone and let it hit the bottom. The idea is to use a weight heavy enough to keep you on the bottom. However this is a finesse tactic and I find that the smallest tackle possible to get the job done is best so use the smallest weight that keeps you in contact with the bottom. This will also help with those pesky fish that like to strike the weight as opposed to the bait. Once your bait is on the bottom I will make my line tight. Then I will drop the tip a foot or so. (Just enough to put some slack in the line) Then instead of giving the bait action on a tight line I will just pop or jiggle the slack. The energy transferred from the movement in the slack line is just enough energy to give that bait the right action. I tend to do this for as long as I think there is a high probability that there is a fish in the area. Once I am satisfied that I am not going to get a strike I will slowly retrieve my bait dragging it across the bottom until it is back to the boat. One thing I have noticed about a drop shot is that it is generally a line watching technique. Many times you won’t feel the strike or if you do it is very subtle. This is especially true if you are giving the bait action via a slack line. Keep an eye on your line though because the bites you don’t feel you will commonly see. If your line starts moving set the hook. When you do set the hook remember this is light line and a very small and very sharp hook. You don’t have to try and rip the lips off the fish. Often times I just give the rod tip a good quick snap up a few feet and that is enough to put the hook through the hardest part of a bass’s mouth. Now that the fight is on you need to keep the line tight and baby the fish. Remember to have your drag set appropriately. That fish needs to be able to take line when it runs. Once you start landing fish or if you get hung up check your line frequently for nicks. On light fluorocarbon a small nick in the line can be the difference between landing that big one and having to tell
your friends about the one that got away.