What's So Great About A Drop Shot Rig?
What's great about the drop-shot technique is that there is no right or wrong way to fish it nor is there only "one way" to fish it. I always have a drop-shot rig on deck and rarely do I not fish it, successfully, on any given day. There aren't many fishing rigs you can say that about.
Traditionally the drop-shot technique has been a vertical presentation for deep water, that is, anywhere from 20´ to 100´. Today, drop shot fishing is also employed as a horizontal presentation in shallow water. I've found that horizontal dragging a drop-shot rig is very effective on smallmouth in Dale Hollow and Center Hill lakes, the Tennessee impoundments where I often fish.
Why should you consider a drop-shot rig rather than a Carolina rig or a Texas rig in shallow water? They're both great rigs, no doubt. But with both, when you stop retrieving the bait, it falls to the bottom, if it ever even left it. Are the bass always on the bottom?
With the drop-shot technique, the very nature of the rig keeps the bait suspended above the bottom gently moving in place, either from the slight jiggle of the angler or just the movement of the water. This presents a very natural appearance to bass. If you rigged your hook at the right depth you are basically, "in their face". It's sort of like a gnat flying around your face. After a while you're going to swat it. Well, a bass does the same with the drop shot bait. He smacks it!
Rod, Reel and Line
Depending on where I'm using a drop-shot technique I'll use one of two different rigs. I consider the drop shot technique to be a finesse technique first and foremost and fish it most often with either of the following light gear set ups.
One is a G. Loomis, model DSR820S, 6´ 10" long, extra fast action rod for 4-8lb line. I combine this with a Quantum Energy PTi 30 spinning reel. This rod is extremely sensitive and telegraphs the slightest strike to my hand. The reel is rated for 6-10lb line and has 10 bearings providing very smooth retrieves.
The other is an All Star model TAS 762S-DS, 6´ 4" long, extra-fast, light action rod rated for 4-8lb line. I combine this with a Daiwa SS1300 spinning reel. This rod is also quite sensitive and the reel is very light and rated for 6-10lb line.
Secondarily, I will fish what might be called a "heavy duty or power" drop-shot rig if in very gnarly cover or structure. For this any spinning rod 6´ 6" to 7´ long that has a wispy tip (to impart action to bait), medium action and a bit of backbone in the middle and lower sections will work for a "heavier" drop-shot rig. It should be rated for at least 12lb line if you intend to do some "heavy-duty" drop-shoting with full size baits and larger hooks. Any medium size spinning reel with at least five ball bearings and a smooth drag is appropriate. You might find it interesting to know that there have been bass as large as 10lbs caught on drop-shot rigs.
Casting gear of the same ratings can also be used if that's your preference when using a beefed-up rig, though spinning gear is better suited to the task for finesse presentations.
I suggest you always use fluorocarbon line, especially in clear waters, as it has very low visibility, is abrasion resistant and provides a much more sensitive feel than mono.
Vertical and Horizontal Drop-Shot Technique Presentations
A vertical presentation of a classic finesse drop-shot rig is a good choice to use after finding bass suspended on or around open water structure like points, humps or roadbeds. Once found using your electronics, position your boat above them, drop the rig down letting line run out on an open bail till the weight hits bottom. Close your bail and raise your rod till you feel the resistance of the weight. Continually drop your rod tip to insure there is slack in the line indicating your weight is on the bottom. Gently shake the rod tip on semi-slack line giving your bait action. Shake for 3-5 seconds, stop for about the same amount of time then shake it again. Some anglers will "dead stick" the bait for extended periods of time letting water movement impart subtle action to the bait.
A different approach is to drop your bait to the bottom. After the initial touchdown of the weight, leave it there for a few seconds before lifting it slowly off the bottom taking care not to bring the weight off the bottom. Hold the bait in place for a bit and give it a few gentle jiggles before again dropping it to the bottom. Repeat this process over and over again while each time slowly moving the bait a short distance closer to the boat till it is directly below.
A horizontal presentation involves "dragging" the rig along the bottom. Any time you want to add action to your bait while working it just off the bottom a drop shot is a great choice. The rig is usually flipped or pitched 15-25´ to the target letting the rig drop to the bottom. After jiggling the bait in place on a semi-taunt line, you then slowly drag the rig closer to your boat a foot or two at a time. This seems to work well on bass that are less active.
Another horizontal drop-shot technique is to allow your line to go slack after moving the rig forward and jiggling the bait on this slack line for a few seconds. Then weigh the line, that is, tighten up on the line to see if you feel anything different. If you do, they set the hook. If not, lift the sinker and move the rig a bit closer repeating the process.
Heavy-Duty Drop Shotting
When you find a group of bass holding on shallow structure in a well defined spot of cover on that structure, such as heavy brush, laydowns, or submerged trees, the pinpoint presentation of a drop-shot rig is a very efficient way to try and catch them. In these situations some anglers choose to use a heavier rig with a larger bait. They do so because they are targeting "bigger bass" that lurk in such places. Remember, big bass like big meals so why not give them one. A 7´ to 7´ 6" medium heavy to heavy rod with 12-20lb fluorocarbon will fill the bill. Big baits as large as 10" worms can be used with weights of 3/4 to 1 ounce placed on the bottom of the rig. Almost any bait you would normally Texas rig will work here such as a 7" worm, a fluke, flipping tube or even a 6" lizard.
Some anglers opt to use flipping sticks with 50lb braid, 1-ounce weights and large flipping tubes for so called "magnum" drop-shot rigs in and around heavy weeds, brush and standing timber.
Drop Shoting Grass
If fishing grassy mats you should realize that the bass are most often holding just under the mat or between the mat and bottom, not right on the bottom. The drop-shot technique can suspended your bait right where the bass are. Set up your rig so the bait is "up your line" far enough to suspend it just below the mat when your sinker rests on the bottom. Use a Texas rigged bait such as a lizard or craw. Heavier gear is better here too.
When you flip or pitch a Texas rigged worm or a jig into grass mats the lure passes by the bass quickly on its way to the bottom and if the bass are not active it is often ignored. However, bass aren't accustomed to seeing these baits hanging around just under the mat and, even when inactive, are more likely to swat a bait that is in their face, like you would the gnat flying around yours.
Wacky Drop-Shotting Shallow Cover
You don't always have to beef up your drop-shot rig when fishing cover using the drop-shot technique. Wacky rigging a stick worm on a drop-shot rig is an effective drop shot technique for use around shallow cover such as docks, laydowns, brush piles or isolated clumps of weeds. Work it by raising the worm off the bottom and letting it fall back down. Be certain not to raise the weight off the bottom. This technique usually targets largemouth bass.
This set up can be modified by adding a dropper line between the hook and the main line that has a wacky worm on it.
Two Hook Drop-Shot Rigs
A drop-shot rig can be assembled to have two hooks. The weight on the bottom of the rig can be replaced with a jig, a tube jig or a jig/grub combination. However, when adding a larger bait on the bottom, due to the difference in hook setting action for a finesse rig versus a rig with regular baits and hooks, you should also put a regular lure "up" the line. Using something with a different profile like a fluke, a tube jig or a YUM crawbug on the bottom are good examples.
Otherwise, when you get a strike, you will not know whether to execute a jig hook set or a reel-set. In either event, if you make the wrong hook set, you stand a 50/50 chance of losing a fish.
Be aware that using two hooks on one line is illegal in some parts of the country. So be sure to check your local regulations before venturing forth with this drop-shot technique.
Setting The Hook
Setting the hook when using a "finesse" drop-shot technique is very different from the "lip ripping" hook set for jigs or Texas rigged worms. The bite on drop-shot rigs is usually not heavy. It is typically just a subtle tightening of the line as the rod gets heavy. Because you're using light line a strong hook set risks breaking the line. Instead, just give a quick, firm "snap set" with your wrist and start reeling as you lift your rod. The fine point of the small light wire hook, which you should be using, should easily penetrate the bass' upper lip. Then the fight is on!
Always Have a Drop-Shot Rig On Deck
The drop-shot technique can be used anywhere and anytime there is an advantage to putting a bait "off the bottom" and in the face of bass. It's a great finesse technique for targeting deep water bass using light rods, reels and line paired with 3" or 4" baits. This is a long established fact.
But what about drop shotting bass in heavy cover? No problem. Just switch your drop-shot technique gear to include heavier action rods, line and sinker and add larger plastic baits like craws, creature baits, lizards and tubes. Then go after them right in the cover.
There are no limits, other than your imagination, to the many ways to use the drop-shot technique.