This is part two of my series on drop-shot fishing. In the first installment, we learned how to tie the rig, fish the rig, what equipment to use, and a bit about baits. This chapter will attempt to answer the questions sent to me about the rig after reading the first article.
1. We have seen drop shot fishing described as a deep clear water presentation. Can it be successful in stained water? What about shallow water?
There is no doubt about the effectiveness of this method when coupled with some severe sonar work in deep water. I attempted several years ago to take this technique in a new direction and use it in my local shallow tannin-stained waters. I see no difference in success from clear to stained water. I've done well in both. Because of my geographic location, I was virtually forced to use this rig in shallow water.
Let's realize that when I say shallow, I'm talking about water 15 feet and under. That is a drop in the bucket to the 75 to 100-foot levels that this rig is commonly used in. I've unlocked several doorways with it as I now employ it in areas where I may have fished a different rig in seasons past.
I'll be the first to tell you that this is a simple yet highly versatile rig. I was keen on using a splitshot rig and Mojo rig for what seemed like eons. The past few seasons have had me using the drop shot in places that those rigs would typically have seen action. I've taken bass on this rig in about 6 inches of water. So I answer "yes" to the question.
2. Can the drop shot rig be effective in cold water? What season is best for it?
I've used this rig in every season. I've also caught fish on it in every season. The drop-shot rig is excellent when fish move off into the deeper areas of my 1 to 15 feet approach. I like it best in the fall and winter. I prefer other baits in the early season as I target large fish then. To me, this is a method to get a limit. I fished the drop shot religiously this season from September thru December. I did very well with it.
3. Why would I opt for a drop shot rig in shallow water when I could use a weighted soft plastic or a Texas rig?
I have fished this rig in places that may dictate other methods. It is highly versatile. I've eliminated several methods that I used to rely heavily on in the past. It certainly is not the "Supreme Fishing Method," but it can be used in more areas than you read about in magazines. I'm a huge fan of split shot and Mojo rigs. I can accomplish the same things that I did with those methods with a few advantages with the drop shot rig.
- I have a better hook-up ratio.
- I pick up fewer weeds.
- I can kill the bait and have it hover in place. This can be deadly. Try doing that with a Texas rig. I can match the leader length to be a few inches above the bottom growth. This will keep it at a level that fish can see it. That is a huge advantage that we haven't even begun to realize.
4. Do you fish it vertically, or can you cast and wind it in?
Traditionally this was a vertical presentation. For me, I fish it horizontally. It makes sense in shallow water. Why fish vertical in 5 feet of water? I'm not a Ninja, so the fish would see and hear me.
5. How did you start fishing the drop shot rig?
I started deep like most other guys. I targeted water in Mahopac that was 25- to 30-feet deep. I experienced some success and found a few ledges up to 10 and 15 feet. I marked the locations and scaled them down to a smaller weight. The wind blew me off the areas and made me drag the bait more than fish it vertically. I quickly found out that smallmouth bass liked this, so it stuck. I imagined that it would be very successful on my shallow home waters and when I started fiddling with it, lookout. I've been adamant about learning more about this method ever since. I won two tournaments fishing the drop shot last season. It has certainly paid off for me in the long run.
6. Would you say this rig is just a copy of the traditional high-low saltwater rigging?
It is with a twist or two thrown in. Traditional saltwater rigging utilizes a dropper loop most of the time. I've never seen a hook tied direct to the mainline and a weight below. Even fluke and flounder rigs utilize a loop or snell setup. For years when I was a kid, we'd chuck plugs to stripers in Long Island sound using a straight shank worm hook 10 or 12 inches above the plug. We put on a Kalin's grub, and it took a good number of bass for us.
7. What do fish tell you that makes you choose this rig?
I throw it at certain times of the year a ton more than at others. I won't tell you that I've been out on the water doing bad when switching to the drop shot saved me. That may have occurred once, but I know when to throw it on the whole. I use it seasonally. It performs well in cool water. That is where I rely on it most. I am a Pisces. The fish tell me many things, but not when to use a drop shot rig.
8. Can you fish the drop shot rig fast?
You could, but you will lessen the effectiveness of your presentation by doing so. Why not opt for a different method if you think the bass want a faster presentation? Go with a spinnerbait or crankbait. There are times when other methods will be more successful. A good angler knows when to recognize these times and abandon old patterns.
9. How do you choose what bait to use? Do you always use small baits?
I think of this method as a pure finesse method. For me, smaller is better here. If I want bigger, I'll flip a jig or creature bait. I chose my baits based on available forage species. This is a match-the-hatch method for me.
Generally, I use baits 4 inches and smaller for drop shot fishing. Usually, I opt for a 3-inch bait. This is a good size bait for all-size fish to eat.
Listen, I'll be the first to tell you that I genuinely feel that someday soon, a B.A.S.S. tournament will be won by some guy throwing an 8 inch Yamamoto grub in 6 feet of water with a 1-ounce sinker. It is going to happen, and we'll have another craze. I will continue to fish the rig the way I do because it is so effective. To me, I liken it to Slider fishing. It is a great way to catch a bunch of fish.
10. How do you modify the rig? Do you have any secret rigging methods?
You all know I love to experiment with things. This rig is no exception. I've done some toying with a small balsa shad fly tied about 8 inches about the hook for a double-powered approach. This has been a fun way to fish. Smallies love it. I don't recommend it for tournament fishing as I think it may weaken the line below the fly. For fun, it is a blast. That is the only mod I have right now.
11. What rod angle or position do you hold the rod?
I keep the rod in front of me, not to the side. I also sit down when I fish this rig. If 90 degrees is straight out from my body and parallel to the water, I hold the rod at about 120 degrees. This allows me to bounce the tip ever so slightly and remain in the optimum hook-setting position.
I come straight up with the set. Steady pressure on the fish by reeling in a while, lifting the rod, or sweeping it up. Nothing violent, nothing that will launch my partner out of the boat.....like my usual hook set.
12. Do you Texas rig your baits on the drop shot rig?
Never! I'm using a light line. This, combined with the fact that I not only have to penetrate the bass but now the plastic, would require far too much pressure on the line to hook up successfully. I would likely break my line when attempting to set. A simple sweep will get them stuck every time with a nose-hooked bait. No extraordinary swing to cross a fishes' eyes. Why over-test your line on the set? It will surely break if you put too much pressure on it. A steady sweep will not damage your line or knot and gives you the best chance to hook up solidly.
13. Do you recommend this setup for shallow winter fishing?
This depends. I would not target an area if I thought most fish had moved out. In a mild winter, it is possible to have a decent population of bass remain shallow for some time to have a consistent bite. Almost 99% of the fish will back out to deeper water in most winters. This would severely decrease your odds if you chose to stay shallow and fish for the remaining population.
Now, on Long Island, when I mention that fish are moving out, don't be fooled into thinking that they are traveling considerable distances to escape the cold. In reality, many lakes average 6 to 8 feet here, so where do they go? Can they be that much more comfortable in 6 feet of water than 1 or 2 feet? The answer has nothing to do with drop shot fishing but more knowledge of your waters. Some lakes have springs that may bring warmer water year-round. Others may have creeks or inflows. The fish would gravitate to those types of places.
14. Would this be an effective rig to throw in a bed?
I'm not much for targeting bass beds. I am confident that I can catch fish elsewhere instead of bothering these fish when they spawn. I think it would be an excellent way to hover a bait on a bed and drive bass crazy to answer the question. Again, I stress the importance of letting these creatures do their thing to repopulate our waters.
15. Does Stick Man catch bass with a drop shot rig?
No, Stickman prefers to hunt sticks with topwater lures and Senkos. Stickman breaks out big swimbaits designed for that giant California bass when looking for trophy lumber. Rumor has it that Stickman has been seen tossing 1-ounce Musky Jitterbugs to voracious sticks and tree limbs on the full moon when they bite best! Hail to Stickman.... love you, bro!!!
16. Do you see the technique evolving any further?
Of course, it can only get better. I'm not a pioneer. Guys are indeed fishing the rig the way I am. Keep an eye on the BassResource YouTube channel to keep up on what is going on. The modification I spoke about involving the shad fly will also appear. I look forward to seeing what guys come up with all the time. Be creative!
17. I remember you talking about a minnow bait that one of your friends made for drop shot fishing. Can you tell me about it?
That little bait was called the Drop Shot Minnow and was made by my friend Tom Kail of Northern Hand Poured. It was a deadly little 3-inch minnow that perfectly imitates a sculpin or darter. Tom is a master at coloring his baits and made these look very realistic. Unfortunately, they're not available anymore because Tom told me he was getting away from the business. I have yet to find an acceptable replacement.
18. Do you think that you can catch big fish on this method? Or is it primarily for limits?
I'm sure that you can catch big fish on the drop shot rig. It is a limit finder, a seeker rig, if you will. My biggest fish on it came in a tournament. It was 15 inches long but weighed over 3 pounds. You've heard the term football bass. This was a medicine ball. I opt to go for a limit with this method. I'm more confident at catching big bass in other ways.
19. What is your feeling about circle hooks for drop shotting?
I've never liked circle hooks. It is just my feeling that I do better with other hooks. I prefer the Octopus style or the split shot hook by Gamakatsu. I stick with the Gamakatsu split shot and the Daiichi Bleeding Bait hook. The Daiichi is close to a circle hook, but it isn't a true circle. You do not need it for nose hooking as I encounter very few snags anyway. Remember, you are setting your leader above the weed growth, so you should not run into snags. I like a small hook that stays out of the way until I need to hook a fish with it.
20. Do you recommend any new baits for Drop Shotting?
That's a loaded question because new baits are coming out. When I think I've seen it all, a brand new design is introduced that blows me away. My advice would be to find a lure representing a minnow and try it out. Sooner or later, you'll find a lure that works best in your area.