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The Ins and Outs of Mastering the Drop-Shot Rig

It's one of the most productive finesse strategies for bass, if you rig it up right and fish it properly.

The Ins and Outs of Mastering the Drop-Shot Rig

Aside from a subtle quiver of the rod tip, drop shots require little movement from the angler. You want a bait that generates lots of natural-looking action with very little manipulation. (Photo courtesy of Z-Man Fishing)

Some situations are best handled with finesse. This can be true of international diplomacy, asking for a first date and, yes, bass fishing. While "power techniques"—like bombing a loud, rattling crankbait or burning a flashy spinnerbait—are often highly effective, sometimes softer, more understated finesse presentations put more bass in the boat.

Perhaps no bass fishing technique exemplifies "finesse" more than the drop shot. It calls for thin-diameter line, miniaturized hooks and small soft-plastic selections chosen for their lack of movement.

The drop shot excels throughout fall and winter months when bass are following balls of shad near creek channels. However, it's also deadly when facing ultra-clear water or heavily pressured lakes. This downsized finesse approach, best fished with spinning tackle, places a premium on the rigging to maximize bites and bring them to the boat. While a common setup, some still don't fully understand its ins and outs or the tweaks that can be made for optimum success.

Drop Shot for Bass
Keys to the drop-shot rig are a small hook, a weight, a Palomar (or similar) knot that positions the bait horizontally and a lively soft plastic. (Photo courtesy of Z-Man Fishing)

RIGGING

The ideal drop-shot line setup is a combination of braid and fluorocarbon, which takes advantage of the best qualities of each. A main line consisting of braid in the 12- to 15-pound-test class eliminates line stretch, which makes it perfectly suited to burying a finesse hook with a simple lift of the rod tip. Additionally, braid doesn’t generate the same line twist that fluorocarbon does after several hours as the sole line on a spinning outfit.


A 15- to 20-inch fluorocarbon leader provides the perfect solution for the business end, presented directly in front of a finicky bass. And 6- to 8-pound-test fluoro virtually eliminates line visibility in clear water and allows natural movement of the soft plastic. A chain is only as strong as its weakest link, which brings us to the ever-critical braid-to-fluoro knot. Four nominees for best knot enter the arena: the Alberto, Albright, Double Uni and FG knots. Each is similar in providing an incredibly strong bond between lines of differing diameters and materials. When tied properly, each knot is also quite thin and elongated, allowing it to easily flow through even the smallest micro guides on today’s spinning rods. Multiple animated videos detailing each knot are available online, allowing you to practice at home to see which one you prefer.


Hooks should match the size of your soft plastic offering, as well as the type of cover. With smaller finesse plastics fished in sparse cover, a 3- to 4-inch soft-plastic worm can simply be nose-hooked onto a No. 2 hook. This method permits solid hookups without needing to drive the hook point through plastic before connecting with bass. If your approach requires fishing near submerged wood cover, Texas-rig a finesse worm on a slightly larger 1/0 or 2/0 hook to avoid snagging the rig on bottom.

You want to present plastics horizontally, so tie a Palomar knot to ensure the hook point is tied facing upward. Make sure to leave a long "tag end" of a couple feet. This is threaded back through the eye of the hook from the top down and forms the leader where you’ll attach the weight below. Rotate the knot and tighten so the hook extends perpendicular to the line when pulled taut.

Multiple hook manufacturers also make drop-shot hooks with a swivel above and below the hook. This allows you to tie the fluorocarbon leader to the top swivel and the tag end with the weight on the bottom swivel. It also reduces line twist and automatically keeps the hook perpendicular to the line.

Soft Plastics-Drop Shot
Shad-profile soft plastics are other good bait options for drop-shotting. Vary your weight and size according to water depth. (Photo courtesy of Z-Man Fishing)

Drop-shot weight selection depends on fishing depth. Generally, the shallower the depth, the lighter the weight. When casting a drop shot in depths of 10 feet or less, a 1/4-ounce weight is usually sufficient to maintain bottom contact. Deeper presentations often require 3/8- to 3/4-ounce weights to ensure contact with the bottom. You can alter the distances between hook and weight. However, rigging the hook 1 to 2 feet above the weight is usually enough to keep a plastic suspended just off bottom and generate the subtle action wary bass require.




TECHNIQUE

You can present the drop shot two ways: casting or vertically. When casting, let the weight hit bottom and gently drag the rig back to the boat. Occasionally impart soft rod tip shakes to mimic a struggling baitfish. Depths of 20 feet or greater call for a vertical presentation. Here, the angler usually watches the fish and lure on sonar pointed directly under the trolling motor. Whether casting or dropping the rig, remember that less is more with regards to action. Try quivering the rod tip instead of shaking it.

A DIFFERENT DROP

Try this beefier drop-shot variation for fishing larger soft plastics.

One drop-shot rigging method eschews the presentation’s usual subtlety of light line and small worms in favor of bigger baits for use in stained water and heavier cover. This version upsizes the line and hook, allowing an angler to use a bulkier soft plastic while maintaining the appeal of a suspended worm. The setup also allows anglers to fish the rig with baitcasting gear, if desired.

Recommended


Often referred to as the "Bubba drop shot," it consists of a 12- to 15-pound-test fluorocarbon main line with a 3/0 to 4/0 hook to accommodate larger soft plastics of 5 to 7 inches in length.

Cast this rig to targets just like a Texas-rigged worm. It’s easily fished around shallow cover or dragged through offshore brush piles in the same gentle shaking manner as its finesse cousin.

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