Drop Shot Rigging for Bass Fishing
The drop shot rig is one that has revolutionized finesse fishing for bass anglers around the globe. It is a very versatile rig and with experience and exploration, anglers quickly come to understand that this technique catches some big bass.
This unique presentation has arguably won more money than any other on the rig on the circuit, which is why any serious bass angler should have the technique in their arsenal.
What is a Drop Shot Rig?
Simply put, it is a weight tied to the end of your leader or main line. The hook on which you place your plastic worm of choice (depending on the angler), anywhere between 5 – 45cm above the weight, tied directly to the line with the hook point facing up. The plastic worm of choice is either nose hooked or wacky rigged. Craw-style baits, or small paddle tails are also used in drop shotting.
When the drop shot rig first gained popularity, Kevin VanDam called this rig the ‘sissy rig’. Since then, even he has one tied up in his boat because of how this rig can turn a very average day on the water into a very special one.
Why Should You Learn the Drop Shot?
As mentioned earlier, the drop shot has won more money than any other rig on the circuit. This is often the technique pros will turn to when the fishing quietens down and they need more weight in their livewell. Here are some key reasons why you should add the drop shot to your arsenal of techniques:
- It will work when fish are pressured: If the bite quietens due to fishing pressure, the drop shot may be the only technique that'll get bit. It's subtle, lifelike presentation is irresistible to even the most educated of bass.
- Extremely attractive action with optimized baits: Get your drop shot rod setup and test it out in your pool - it looks epic. Along with this, baits are constantly being developed and optimized to work with this technique, leading to an even better presentation.
- Irresistible to non-feeding bass: Because it's a pretty stationary presentation, if you find bass with your cast, there's a great chance you'll eventually get bit. Having that attractive action in their face for a fair amount of time will ultimately lead to a bite.
- It's a world class spawn technique: If you manage to find beds during the spawn, the drop shot is one of the best techniques to go with. Male bass will protect their beds, and having a irresistible bait in the area will be tough to ignore.
- It's an amazing follow-up technique: If you throw a jig and get bit, and you struggle to get that fish to bite again - throwing a drop shot may be the answer to another nibble.
Drop Shot Setup
As with any technique, gear needs to be optimized for this finesse-style method. Having the right rod, reel, and line will play a large role in your success on the water.
Rod for Drop Shot
Drop shotting requires a lighter touch, greater feel, and something a lot of bass anglers struggle with – patience!
A 6’6 - 7’2" ultra-light up to a medium-light or medium powered spinning rod is probably the most important piece of the whole setup. The tip of the rod is the most important aspect of this type of fishing and because the bait needs to be moved subtly and stay in the strike zone longer than usual baits.
The tip provides both the sensitivity and softness needed to present this bait properly and not rip it out of the strike zone. The point of having a soft tip to the rod is also so that when the fish inhales the bait, they do not feel any tension on the line whatsoever and will often keep the bait in their mouths for longer allowing you to identify the pressure change and set your hook.
Reel for Drop Shot
A 1000 – 2500 size reel for this application is ideal. Predominantly a spinning reel focused tactic, the drop shot rig can be fished on a baitcasting reel specially when the type of structure changes and an angler needs to adapt this technique for fish in submerged trees or around big underwater boulders, whether man made or natural.
A baitcasting reel would work better when fishing heavier structure, where tackle needs to be adjusted to deal with any potential hazard.
Best Line for Drop Shot
I fluctuate between two setups for this.
The first: I use 12lb finesse braid to an 8 or 10lb leader. This varies depending on where the fish are relating to the bottom and the clarity of the water. If the water has 5 or more feet of visibility, I will use longer fluorocarbon leader so the fish have no chance at all of seeing my braid.
On tough days when scratching out bites is hard work, these tiny, yet important details will make a difference. I will shorten my leader if visibility is limited, and the fish are sitting closer to the ground.
The second setup I use is a fully fluorocarbon main line. In extremely tough situations I will drop down to an 8lb or sometimes 6lb main line. This slows down the presentation dramatically because of the less direct aspect of fluorocarbon to braid. I will also use this setup if I find the fish are responding to a technique I call ‘scooting or crawling’.
Takumi Ito used this technique to win the final Bassmaster Elite tournament on Lake Champlain. I will go into detail about this technique later in the article.
Terminal Tackle and Baits for Drop Shot
I like to keep the weights for this fairly simple. The heavier weights (heavier than 1/4oz), I tend to stay away from, primarily because for most of the time a slower fall is a more favorable one in tough conditions.
There are two main types of weights for drop shot:
- The Teardrop Style Weight: I use this in open water when I’m fishing flat bottom or sparse gravel and there is not any structure to get snagged on.
- The Cylinder Style Weight: this comes through cover nicely and allows you to put your drop shot into grass and trees without having to worry about your weight getting hung up.
For hooks, there are two main hook brands and sizes I use for all of my straight tail or wacky rig drop shot rigs:
- Number 1 or Number 2G - finesse hook by Gamakatsu
If I am drop shotting craw style baits, then I will use a 1/0 offset hook.
Best Baits for Drop Shot
There are hundreds of thousands of variations and brands that one can be very confused by. Here are some well-known, quality products that I have had some great success with:
- Roboworm 4 ½' or 6’ Fat Straight Tailed Worm
- Zoom Trick Worm
- Strike King Dream Shot
- Strike King Half Shell
- Big Bite Baits Smallie Smasher 3 ½' or 4’
The color patterns I stick to are normally adjusted to water clarity. The clearer green pumpkin and watermelon red versions the different companies bring out tend to work well in clear water.
The darker colors, or shock colors such as junebug, black or white work best in dirty water. In summer I also like to throw bright purple and pink worms because for some reason the bass just love them!
Where and When to Fish a Drop Shot
As mentioned before this technique shines when fishing it slow, and bites are few. Colder months come to mind, as well as in the heart of summer, where temperatures are at all-time highs and bass are seeking the cool water in the offshore depths.
In the early stages of spring, the fish that come up are exceptionally skittish. They start coming up usually onto the secondary points, the start of creek channels, and the drops offs close to large spawning flats and move up to those flats progressively as the temperature changes.
At this time of year the hydrilla and milfoil just start to turn green and hold more oxygen for baitfish - and bass know that food isn’t far behind after they spawn. During the spawn there are usually still a lot of fronts that push in and sign off the winter. Fish tend to shut down and baits such as crankbaits and spinnerbaits don’t seem to get bites because the fish are not as aggressive.
When bed fishing the drop shot can be cast to the far side of the bed. The weight can be kept outside of the nest while the lure is danced ever so gently on the nest. The advantage to this is that the angler can keep the lure in the strike zone for as long as possible.
Once fish move offshore, they are primarily feeding on baitfish. I will still fish the traditional worms but will rather opt for smaller swimbait patterns. The Big Bite Baits 3’ Cane Thumper and the Berkley Pulse Minnow come to mind.
For Summer, I will generally make longer casts over the intended area and slowly hop as well slowly retrieve the lure in giving the minnow swim–like profile. The traditional worms are fantastic for getting reluctant summer bass to bite and when fished around brush piles. Alongside docks it can also be highly effective.
The Power Shot
This is an upsized version of the drop shot. By upsize I mean rod, reel, line, and bait. Many pros use this technique on a baitcasting rod and reel with heavy line. The reason? When big bass have just moved out of the shallows in late spawn or are consistently cruising in deep flooded timber the power shot is great way to target standing timber and make sure your bait falls exactly on to the fish.
The other time I would fish a power shot is if the standard drop shot technique was catching small fish which it tends to do on largemouth impoundments. For this I will use a 2 or 3/0 offset worm hook and upsize the lure I was using by an inch or more to give a fuller more appetizing meal.
The Retrieve for Drop Shot
The standard retrieve for drop shot is to cast it out, have it hit the bottom and work the lure on the spot for as long as your intuition tells you otherwise. Move the bait and repeat this process.
If you are fishing a long way from the boat then your rod should be at about 10 o’clock so that a gentle action can be imparted to the bait. Carefully watch your rod and line, and if anything looks different with the movement of your line, reel down and lean into your fish when it bites.
Having a brighter braid as a main line will make it easier to detect any movement of your line.
The other technique which made a showing at the last Bassmasters Series event in New York was that of the erratic hopping or scooting as Takumi Ito likes to call it. Instead of shaking the bait in a one position, you imply a consistent erratic action in your wrist causing the bait to always pulse on the spot. Not too different you may argue – however, this is done to a consistent retrieve.
A super slow constant retrieve so that the lure swims back like an injured or highly alert baitfish. This technique can be used to catch big, suspended fish that aren’t sticking to the bottom and are mostly schooling or looking for food.
I truly believe the specifics of drop shot fishing are so varied that one can almost use any plastic worm they are comfortable with to fish on it and do well especially if they know the body of water they are fishing. If you don’t, then the adventure begins and trial and error is the best way of gaining knowledge and experience.
In all honesty, the tedious nature of having to upkeep two appendages at the end of the line instead of one kept me from wanting to try this technique for way too long. This is a great technique and one that has helped more anglers put fish in the boat.