The drop-shot rig and the split-shot rig, once ridiculed by many bass fishermen as sissy fishing, is now the go-to rig of many professional bass anglers.
Weekend warriors have caught the craze as well, making it a top weapon in their arsenal. Fished on spinning gear most of time, it can be used on baitcasting gear as well.
The drop-shot rig is just that — a hook tied to the main line several inches above a split shot squeezed onto the end of the main line. This hook of the rig is usually tied onto the main line with a Palomar knot, with the tag end left at various lengths for attaching the split shot. As the craze grew, a lot of tackle companies jumped on the bandwagon and made special drop-shot hooks and drop-shot weights, but there’s no real reason to get that fancy. Keeping it simple can catch more bass. This is a rig that can be more versatile than you might think.
In many cases, the lakes where we bass fish have a ton of vegetation that produces a lot of muck that settles on the bottom. Perhaps, your bass lake just has a lot of slimy algae on its bottom. In any case, all bass fishermen have had their Texas-rigged worm come back with a pile of green slime on it because the weight at the nose of the worm scoops up the slime, algae and other detritus on the lake bottom where it is fished.
The drop-shot rig presents your bait — typically a soft-plastic worm, grub or fluke — above the bottom because only the weight affixed to the end of the mainline contacts the lake bottom. Without the weight right at the bait, the bait stays clean.
When rigging the bait, the tag end to the weight is usually 10 to 12 inches long most of the time, but it can be lengthened if the weeds are taller or the bottom vegetation is extra thick.
When fishing around rock, the drop-shot rig can be tweaked to adapt to those treacherous bottoms that seem to eat Texas-rigged plastic worms. When fishing a drop-shot rig around rock, go a little shorter on the tag end of the line off the hook and a little lighter with your weight. I mentioned specialized drop-shot weights, but you can just add a regular split shot to the bottom of the tag end.
Squeeze it on, just tight enough to hold it in place. If the split shot gets caught in the rocks, apply some extra pressure to pull the line through the split shot, and all you have to do is add another weight if you miss a fish. No retying every cast.
If you do get stuck in the rocks, let the drop-shot bait sit a bit, occasionally giving it an ever so slight twitch. If you do get bit, you need to set the hook hard and fast.
You want to pull the rig away from the jammed shot, while setting the hook in the fish. If you wait too long, the fish feels the resistance of the lure because the shot is stuck in the rocks and it drops the bait.
A lot of anglers think of the drop-shot rig as a tactic for fishing deep water, but it can be used in water from 6 inches to 60-plus-feet deep. Springtime fishing for bass, as they roam the banks looking for bedding locations, can produce fast action.
For this activity, many anglers choose to fish small creature baits or shad-type baits. Bass love crawdads, as we know, and this rig lets the lures, whether a French fry or soft-plastic crawdad or shad lure, swim or scoot a bit more than just get dragged along the bottom. You might want to go with a longer 14- to 16-inch tag end for this tactic, creating a more natural movement of the bait.
The split-shot rig serves a similar purpose as the drop-shot rig — to let the bait swim more naturally. This scaled-down version of the classic Carolina rig was most likely developed in Southern California by anglers trying to get a new twist on presenting their tiny finesse baits to the ever-so-wary bass there. Again, the presentation of smaller baits, matching the baitfish in the lakes, is what led this method to catch on quickly among tournament pros and anglers everywhere.
The split-shot rig is usually fished on spinning gear with lines commonly lighter than those used on baitcasting reels. The line usually is tied directly to the hook and a split shot is pinched to the line about 12 to 14 inches ahead of the hook. The split shot can get larger with depth, but some anglers copied the Carolina rig with a small worm weight in front of the split shot. The clicking can help attract the bass at times. Some fishermen even add a glass bead between the weights for more clicking, like the sound a crawdad might make.
The split-shot rig really lets the bait swim along, a lot more than even the drop-shot rig. Leaders can vary from a few inches to a couple feet, depending on the bait. As with the drop-shot rig, almost anything can be fished on this rig. Small, soft-plastic shad baits have been the norm for years as they float behind the weight looking like a lone shad that lost the rest of the school. Small creature baits, crawdads and French fry baits will also dance and scoot along more naturally.
The deeper you fish the split-shot rig, the heavier the weight needs to be. You can go larger with the baits, too. Even if it’s just a 4- to 6-inch worm, try a floating worm if the fish are a little off the bottom. The split-shot rig is, admittedly, a rig that can be a little hard to pull through brush and rock, but heavier cover simply calls for the leader to be shortened. Almost any soft-plastic bait can be added.
Drop-Shotting for Smallies
When you spot bedding bass, shorten the tag end on a split-shot or a drop-shot rig to just 4 to 6 inches long.
Cast your bait past the bed and pull it into it. The bait will be floating in the nest and when the bass comes to inspect it, their movement will push the nearby water around and make the bait move even more on its own. If the bass sucks it in and spits it out to remove it from the nest, the lure will only travel a couple inches and still be floating in the fish’s face. The bass will get even angrier and suck it in to take it off the bed.
That’s when you set the hook. Use the short leader even when blind-fishing deep beds to produce the same results.
When fishing the shallows, brush or small trees can sometimes choke the water column. You can easily pull drop-shot and split-shot baits through structure like that if you shorten up the tag line to the weight.
As you fish deeper, maybe looking for those big girls waiting out on outside points or river channels, you can always go to a larger lure, upward of 12 inches and more. Choose a hook that better fits your larger lure and a weight for reaching — and maintaining — the depth at hand. Remember, the main purpose of the drop-shot and split-shot rigs is to let the bait float above the bottom, creating a more realistic presentation to the bass. Some pros even add a floating shad crankbait to the back of a split-shot rig.
There are a number of ways to fish these setups and do it well. Add these and you will be catching more bass at your local lake on the drop-shot and split-shot setups.