Every angler has an unique “go-to” method for bass, a specific approach with which he or she is most comfortable and positive, a method that will constantly put a couple of bass in the boat, even when conditions are tough.
For some, this approach is the Carolina rig; for others, it might be a jig-and-pig or a spinnerbait. For me, it is the drop-shot rig.
Why You Should Use Drop Shot Rig for Bass Fishing?
Drop-shotting is usually considered specialized for deepwater situations, a finesse method using 4-inch skinny plastic worms that a person would turn to only when faced with hard fishing. To the contrary, I consider drop-shotting to be a generalist method: I can fish slow or fast, use a large variety of plastic baits, and capture bass at any water depth and in any kind of habitat. Far from being a method to catch simply picky, forced bass, I believe you can catch bass using a drop-shot rig throughout the Northeast.
The history of drop-shotting is muddled, with some declaring it originated on the East Coast, some stating California or Japan, and others declaring that saltwater anglers have actually been utilizing this technique for decades. The drop-shot rig is nothing more than a line with a weight on the end and a hook connected to the line anywhere from 4 to 30 inches above the weight. While basic in nature, this rig enables you to spot even the lightest bites because, when you fish it effectively, you will not feel the resistance of the weight, however just that of the hook and plastic bait.
Drop-shotting has actually skyrocketed in popularity recently, and specialty drop-shotting equipment– from rods to hooks to weights to plastic baits– is plentiful. While it assists to have some items particular to drop-shotting, in most cases using generalized devices will get you similar results. To set yourself up to capture bass in Northeast (or anywhere else) with a drop-shot rig, you can spend a few dollars or a couple of hundred.
Specialty drop-shot weights are great, and they are used in different shapes particular down type. A really nice feature of these specialized weights is the groove in the wire on top of the weight; connecting your line to the weight using a basic overhand knot that is slipped into the groove enables you to easily adjust the distance in between the plastic bait and weight. In addition, if you get stuck, the line pulls off the weight easily so that you don’t lose the whole rig; you can put on a new weight instead of re-tying the entire setup. However, these weights are relatively pricey, depending upon size and brand name.
I go the cheaper path with drop-shot weights because I tend not to alter the distance between bait and weight, generally counting on a plastic bait that has to do with 15 to 18 inches above the weight. I use “casting sinkers” made by Eagle Claw that are offered at the majority of sporting items stores and are offered in lead-free variations. The cost is about $2 per bag, which contains from 6 to 10 weights depending upon size. I use a 1/8-ounce weight when fishing in 15 feet of water or less, a 3/16, or 1/4- ounce weight, in water from 16 to 25 feet, and a 3/8-ounce weight for anything much deeper than 25 feet. I connect completion of the line to the sinker using a simple clinch knot.
Hooks are not a place to skimp on cost; it is necessary to use a quality hook. I choose Gamakatsu, however there are a lot of other manufacturers that make quality hooks. I tend to go a little smaller in hook size than some drop-shotters, choosing a size 1 or 2 octopus-style or split-shot/drop-shot hook. I have found bass rarely take these hooks deep into their mouths, and usually my hooksets are in the upper lip. There are other hooks particularly developed for drop-shotting, such as “StandOut” hooks, however in my experience these hooks are not needed and seem to hook bass deeply.
The majority of anglers use spinning rods when drop-shotting, but some will use casting rods. While you can spend hundreds of dollars on a specialized drop-shot rod, you can likewise use a well-rounded rod that you probably already own and still catch bass. For several years I used a 6-foot, 6-inch medium-power Berkley Cherrywood rod that I purchased as a combo for $30. This rod served me extremely well until it broke. At that point, I decided to attempt a drop-shot rod. My present rod is a 6-foot 4-inch light-power fast-action All Star drop-shot rod. This is a fantastic rod, although I do need to set my drag light and “baby” larger fish a bit. The rod you buy will depend upon your preferences in regards to cost and length, but a delicate fast-action rod is best. More than likely, you already have a rod like this at home that can be used for drop-shotting.
When choosing a reel for drop-shotting, go with something light with a smooth drag. I currently use a relatively inexpensive Shimano Sienna 2500 FB. If you have a reel you like that has these qualities, provide it a try prior to you purchase one specifically for drop-shotting. I like to keep my drag on the loose side. I know I have the drag set properly when I can hear the drag make a little sound while setting the hook.
I would suggest beginning with the brand name of fluorocarbon with which you are most comfortable. I use 8-pound-test Berkley Vanish fluorocarbon. To me, that test line is a nice compromise in between line that is too light or too heavy. Some anglers drop to 6-pound-test in clear water or when fish are especially finicky. Another alternative is to use a braided Spectra line or a “superline” like Berkley Fireline combined with a fluorocarbon leader attached by means of a barrel swivel. While I like the qualities of the fluorocarbon, I intend on experimenting more with Fireline next year. I would not suggest monofilament, as it is too stretchy and therefore does not have the sensitivity required for this strategy.
The choice of plastic baits for drop-shotting is endless. There are, naturally, specialized drop-shot baits. Ones that I use in this classification consist of a 4-inch Roboworm, Zoom Meatheads, and XPS drop-shot worms. However, I have discovered that almost any plastic bass bait works excellent on a drop-shot rig. I also want to use 4-inch twister-tail worms, lizards, Sugary food Beavers, Paca Craws, 4-inch Senkos or similar stickbaits, and just about any other plastic in my tackle bag. I have discovered that the 3-inch Slug-Go is a fantastic bait, specifically on a bigger river system such as the Connecticut or Merrimack. These baits not only catch bass, but also remain on the hook extremely well through numerous fish.
How to Hook the Bait
There are a few ways to place the plastic bait onto the hook. Some anglers slide the hook point into the middle of the head of the plastic bait, move the bait up about a 1/4- inch, and then swing the hook up and from the top of the plastic bait. I prefer to put the hook point listed below the plastic bait, about 1/4- inch from the head of the plastic bait, and simply force the hook point directly through the top of the plastic bait. In either case, make certain the plastic bait comes to rest at the middle of the bend of the hook. It is essential that the plastic bait sticks out straight in the water so it will move with the slightest jerk of the rod or line. Sometimes, anglers have good results by wacky-rigging a 4-inch worm or stickbait on a drop-shot rig.
How To Tie A Drop-Shot Rig
Use a Palomar knot to connect the hook to your line. Take the hook in your hand so the hook lies horizontally, the hook point towards the top. Run the line down through the eye of the hook, providing yourself additional line for the distance in between the hook and weight. Run the end of the line back up through the hook eye until you have about a 2-inch loop below the hook eye, and after that tie your Palomar, ensuring that the knot is tight around the end of the hook eye and you’ve left the long tag end. Take the tag end of the line, pass it down and through the hook eye, and pull completion of the line tight. This will make sure that the hook sticks out perpendicular from your line, which is the crucial to connecting the drop-shot rig.
Then, tie on your weight utilizing a basic overhand or clinch knot. You might need to cut the end of the line to change the length between the plastic bait and weight. As I discussed formerly, I usually connect my rigs so the range in between hook and weight is 15 to 18 inches. With practice, you will get pretty fast at connecting a drop-shot rig, however if you use a barrel swivel at the end of your line, you can tie up a lot of rigs beforehand and just tie them to the swivel when a replacement is needed. It is important to inspect the Palomar knot relatively often and to re-tie if the line gets frayed.
Where to Fish It
I cannot stress enough that drop-shotting is not just a finesse strategy to be used in deep-water scenarios. I have actually captured bass throughout the Northeast with this strategy in water depths from 2 to 50 feet and in habitat ranging from rocks to fallen trees to marine plant life. In every situation, I believe in drop-shotting.
I cast the drop-shot rig to practically every place I would cast any other sub-surface plastic bait for bass. Certainly, it is difficult to fish this rig straight in aquatic vegetation or in wood. However, this technique stands out when fishing the edges of aquatic plants, in open pockets within the plants, or at the edges of fallen trees or stumps. Fishing in these areas might need anglers to use stronger line and a medium-heavy-power rod so that hooked fish can be quickly pulled from possible snags. It is also possible to fish directly in marine vegetation and wood when utilizing these “much heavier” techniques in combination with a much heavier weight.
How To Fish It
If I am fishing in shallow water with apparent cover, such as aquatic greenery, wood, docks, or rocks, I cast to the edge of the cover. If I am fishing in much deeper water, I merely erupted from the boat around 30 to 50 feet. After casting, I let the weight settle to the bottom. It is important to be familiar with how long it takes the weight to reach the bottom, as suspended bass will often strike the plastic bait on its descent. As soon as the weight reaches the bottom, I change the line so that I am simply able to feel the weight. I extremely gently wiggle the rod, a bit like you would when fishing a shakey-head jig, making certain not to pull the weight towards me. If I do not get a bite, I let the rig settle then slowly pull the rod idea up and towards me. When I reach about 1 o’clock, I slowly lower the rod to about 3 o’clock, reeling down while I do so to keep the line tight. I then lightly shake the rod pointer or let the line sit still for a few seconds. I repeat this up until I lose confidence in the cast or the plastic bait is below the boat. I alternate my retrieve until I find out what the fish want on that particular day. Some days a quicker recover is best, while in some cases the fish want a slow retrieve or even a “dead stick” method with almost no motion.
When anglers find bass congregated in deep water, they often drop the rig right below the boat, utilizing the drop-shot as a simply vertical discussion. While this is a great way to fish under these conditions, I hardly ever use a drop-shot rig this way, instead utilizing it as more of a search bait. You can cover a great deal of water with it in a fairly short quantity of time when you fish it as explained above.
Regardless of how you fish the rig, the most important thing is to make sure you keep the line reasonably tight at all times, as a bite can come at any minute. Bites can feel like a slight “tap-tap,” a lack of weight on the line, or a more powerful pull as the fish may have just picked up the bait and swam off with it. In the beginning, it can be difficult to find some bites, and a guideline that has served me well with this strategy is that if something seems various, set the hook.
The drop-shot rig is the most essential method in my bass-fishing arsenal. It can increase your bass fishing success if you take the time to acquire confidence in it. Remember, it can be fished quickly or slow, at any water depth, in almost any kind of environment, and with a broad variety of plastic baits. This technique catches bass throughout New England; from Candlewood Lake to the Quabbin Tank, from Lake Champlain to Lake Winnipesaukee, from the Connecticut River to Cobbossee Lake, and everywhere in between.
Gabe Gries is a fisheries biologist with the NH Fish and Game Department and is the state’s Warmwater Fish Project Leader. Bass are among his preferred fish to pursue and the Connecticut River is his favorite fishery.