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The Drop Shot Rig for Smallmouth Bass: Tips, Tricks, Setup
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The Drop Shot Rig for Smallmouth Bass: Tips, Tricks, Setup

Steve Raath
Co-founder

As you head north, the chances are you’re going to start coming across more systems that hold Smallmouth Bass. These fish remain a prize freshwater species within North America, and many will travel far and wide to get their PB bronze beast. Here, we will talk about one of the most effective ways to target this species - the drop shot.

What is a Drop Shot Rig?

The drop shot is a lighter line technique that is quickly becoming the most dominant way to target bass of all kinds. 

It’s a slightly more complex setup than other techniques and it may seem difficult to set up at first. Here is what a drop shot rig includes:

  • Finesse hook
  • Leader (fluorocarbon)
  • Single weight (tungsten/lead)
  • Soft plastic


The mainline attaches to the finesse hook, while a leader is attached from the finesse hook to the weight. This means that the weight sits at the bottom, while the hook and bait hold just above. 

The drop shot is a stationary presentation that simply looks amazing at the bottom of the water column. The weight should remain at the bottom, while the angler makes slight rod twitches that enable the soft plastic to move elegantly in the water. 

One thing to consider with the drop shot is that it has an exposed hook point, meaning that this technique will suit offshore areas better where there are less threats of getting snagged - more on this later. 

This technique absolutely thrives in systems where bass see plenty of fishing pressure, as it is an incredibly delicate and subtle presentation. Often, when nothing else is working, the drop shot will get the job done. 

The Drop Shot Rig for Smallmouth Bass
The basic shape of a drop shot

Smallmouth Bass and Drop Shot

These two are almost a match made in heaven. The drop shot is definitely a versatile bait, and it can be fished in many situations, however, it really does shine as a clear water and deep water presentation. 

Smallmouth bass tend to thrive more in clearer water and deeper water. They’ll hug sparser cover and love to hang around rocks and boulders.

Largemouth bass will generally hug thicker vegetation in warmer water conditions. The drop shot can be altered to deal with vegetation, but its natural ability is to look elegant in clear, offshore areas. 

Presenting and twitching drop shot rigs on rocky, offshore cover is one of the most effective ways to target smallmouth bass. If spotted (the importance of clear water), smallies will often make the mission to come and eat.

The beauty of the drop shot is that you can get it down (thanks to the weight) to deep areas where smallmouth will often hold. Other finesse presentations may not be able to access these deeper columns.

Smallmouth bass can often be hard to target purely because they are less predictable than largemouth. Drop shot fishing along with electronics has greatly increased the catch rate of these bronze beasts.

Drop shot fishing for smallmouth bass
A beauty of a juvenile smallmouth bass hanging around a rocky bottom

The Drop Shot Setup for Smallmouth Bass

Setup is key for fishing a drop shot effectively for smallmouth. This technique is almost always done on a spinning setup, as this enables better casting of lighter line applications. 


Drop Shot Rod Setup for Smallmouth

You’ll want a spinning rod that’ll match the weight of your line as well the weight at the bottom of your rig. Here are some good starting points:

  • A medium power should match the weight of your tackle perfectly. A lighter option may struggle with turning over the rig especially with the added weight. The chances are you may be using a heavier weight as well, especially if you’re fishing deep
  • A fast action is very important with any drop shot rig. This provides the necessary backbone to get a solid hookset. The added backbone will help with taking up more line, faster
  • Sensitivity is always a great trait to have when fishing a drop shot!


Best Line for a Drop Shot

Fishing line is without the most important piece of tackle when fishing pretty much any technique when it comes to bass fishing. Here is line you would want for a drop shot when targeting smallies:

  • 6-10lb straight fluorocarbon offers a very thin diameter. This gives your bait the best option possible, while also being less visible
  • Fluorocarbon offers immense strength pound for pound, meaning you’ll be able to deal with some big smallies 
  • The minimal stretch factor in fluorocarbon also helps with getting a better hookset


Terminal Tackle for a Drop Shot

This will also play a huge role for the overall presentation of your drop shot. When I say terminal tackle, I mean the hook and the weight. Here are some pointers:

  • For the hook, there are many drop shot hooks out there that’ll do the job perfectly. These hooks are called finesse hooks and they are smaller than other technique-specific hooks
Drop shot hook for smallmouth bass
Class drop shot hook by Gamakatzu

  • When it comes to weight, one needs to vary this in relation to how deep they are fishing. When fishing for smallies, you may want to get deeper as they are often sitting on colder, deeper columns. For this, you want to look at a 1/2oz weight. Tear drop weights work really nicely for smallmouth and they're easy to tie on

Tear drop weight for smallmouth bass
Tear drop weight


Best Baits for Smallmouth Bass on a Drop Shot

The drop shot plastics are some pf the most innovative and lifelike baits on the market right now. They need to be as they thrive in clearwater conditions, and some drop shot baits are just irresistible for smallies. Here are some of our favorites (links go to reviews):

Drop shot rig baits
A personal favorite - the Strike King Dream Shot


Wrapping Up

Mastering the drop shot is one of the best things to do if you’re into finesse fishing. Our waters are getting more and more fishing pressure each year, and the guys who have the patience to master delicate, more natural presentations will continue to catch bass consistently. 

Catching smallmouth on a drop shot is an incredibly satisfying feeling and if you get good at it, you're guaranteed to get hooked.

Steve Raath
Co-founder

Steve is a complete bass fishing maniac. He is constantly looking for creative ways to catch bass, and is always throwing some interesting lures out on the water. Steve has always been fascinated by bass. Whether it's their eating patterns, behavioral changes, or just their moody nature. Every time he fishes, he aims to learn something new about their habits and how he can trick them into planned strategies. He is however a topwater freak, and will always throw at lily pads if he spots any.

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