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The Drop Shot Rig for Bass: Full Setup Guide

Drop shot rigs excel at finesse conditions in deep water. It’s very popular in areas such as the Great Lakes when fishing for smallmouth bass on deep structure but can be applied anywhere when you need to fish deep water for all bass species.

The Drop Shot Rig sees the bait suspended above the bottom, which fish holding on or near the bottom often find irresistible.

How to Tie a Drop Shot Rig

Drop shot rig image

To make a drop shot rig, you will need the following:

  • Bell Sinker or similar weight
  • Single Hook (a #4 is a great size)
  • Soft plastic bait

For this rig, you will need to add your hook first, but don’t tie it to the end of your line (fluorocarbon leader or monofilament), pick a length up from the tag end that is the length you want. This length is going to determine how high off of the bottom the bait will sit.

Use a Palomar knot to tie the hook, with the tag end being the desired length (12 to 24 inches is the standard). Don’t cut the tag end like you normally would, and instead tie your bell sinker or another sinker to the end.

Simply add your soft plastic worm or other lure to the hook, and you’re ready to fish.

Drop shotting: How and Where to Fish This Rig

Like wacky rigs, drop shot rigs are used for precision fishing, but in deep water situations, and typically when fish aren’t as active.

Find a deep hump, brush pile, rock pile, fish crib, or some other deep piece of fish-holding structure, and hold above it.

Put your drop shot rig that you have tied to your desired length in the water and let the weight hit the lake floor or river bottom. Be sure to keep slack out of your line. Remember, you holding the bait up at that desired depth.

While drop-shot rigs are generally fished around bottom structure, they can also be “counted down” to catch suspended fish in the middle of the water column. This is particularly effective alongside vertical structure such as bridge pilings, jetties and other forms of vertical structure.

To work the bait, you can give it little rod taps to make the soft plastic wiggle and dance around, but like with wacky rigs, you don’t have to do anything in terms of creating action to get a fish to eat it.

Drop shot rigs are the best for fishing in clear bodies of water. In clear bodies of water, the fish tend to hold deeper in the water column.

The fish hold deeper in these clear bodies of water, particularly those that are heavily fished, and this is where the rig really shines.

But you can also fish the drop shot in areas that you might not think they would be effective in, so be sure to experiment in other areas and situations as well. You might be surprised when you stumble onto a drop shot pattern that you wouldn’t expect, and you will probably be the only guy in the area doing it.

Be aware that fish will often bite very lightly and often times you won’t even feel the tap (although using braided main line helps with maintaining that ‘feel’ at depth). 

 Don’t set the hook hard like you would with other techniques – just wind down as you lift the rod.

Best seasons for drop shot fishing for bass

The Drop Shot Rig can be used year round for chasing bass including ice fishing in winter.

During the winter seasons, a drop shot used with imitation shad bait can fool a lot of fish.

In summer months, when rising water temperatures push bass into deeper, cooler water they can slow down a bit. The Drop Shot Rig presents them with a tempting bait that’s right in their wheelhouse. If the fish only needs to move a foot or two to grab the bait, you are a great chance to get hook up.

Best Drop Shot Baits 

There are a lot of different types of plastic baits that are suitable for Drop Shot fishing and these are some of our favourites:

Finesse worm

A finesse worm is probably the standard drop shot bait. A simple straight tailed worm is a great bass catching lure in a variety of different conditions and waterways. It is a popular choice for a reason.

Crawfish baits

Crawfish style plastics are another popular choice that can be deadly on bottom feeding bass.

Paddle tail swim baits

With their pulsating tail motion, paddle tail swim baits – such as the Dr Fish range – that require minimal movement are great imitations of small bait fish and will fool most bass.

Creature baits

The surprise factor is key with these baits and they are great for the drop shotting technique. They present a profile that the fish have probably not witnessed before so they are good for getting that reaction strike, whether it is borne out of aggression or curiousity.

Shad-Style Baits

When a fish feed heavily on minnows and shad these baits (such as the Bass Assassin shad) are a great choice for a drop shot presentation.

Tubes

These are a bit of a secret weapon – not that many anglers use them for the drop shot method, but they should. Tube baits, such as the Strike King range, have a great silhouette and provide great movement in the water.

Grubs

Again, another plastic that isn’t that popular. We aren’t sure why because a curl tail grub – such as the ZMan range – provides more movement than most other soft plastics and you can get the tail movement with minimal current or movement. 

Best Drop Shot Weights

Drop shot weights have a crimped swivel at the top, which makes clipping them onto your fluorocarbon leader or mono line easy. 

Typical weight range is from 1/8 oz through to 3/8 oz, depending on depth, wind, casting distance. We like to use the minimum required to get the bait to the bottom.

The teardrop or the cylindrical weights are most popular among anglers because they are less prone to breaking off and getting snagged into objects.

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Best Hooks for Drop Shot Rigs

There are three good types of hook that are used for drop shotting:

Straight Shank Hook

A straight shank hook is the most popular type of hook used by anglers. With Robo Rebarb hooks, you can fish grass and sticks without the worm being dislodged.

Octopus-Style Hooks

Wide gaped, short shank hooks. The tip of the hook is at the same angle as the hook eye, so that even if you tie a knot directly to the eye, it will still effectively hook into a fish’s mouth.

Swivel Shot Drop Shot Hook

Swivel shot hooks are purposefully designed for drop shotting to eliminate line twist that can occur when dropping a big, unusually shaped bait through the water column. Basically they have a small swivel installed at the hook eye and are a key part of many people’s drop shot setup.

Drop shot tackle choices

A light spinning rod or baitcasting rod in the 7 foot size range is the ideal choice for the drop shot technique. Braided line (with a fluoro or mono leader) is a good choice as the low stretch helps with bite detection at depth, but there is nothing wrong with fishing mono straight through

Drop shotting for other species

Drop shot tactics are not purely for the bass anglers to enjoy (it is a popular saltwater tactic for a start) and it is used to catch anything from walleye and crappie and other panfish through to pike and trout. While it is primarily a deeper water technique there is nothing to stop you fishing it in shallow water.

Drop shot fishing for walleye

Walleye will inhabit different depths at different times depending on conditions and season, this means you can find them suspended at a certain depth in the basin, down deep towards the bottom, or hanging off, on, and around prominent structure like points, humps, rock bars, rock piles, brush piles, and other areas.

This deepwater structure orientation that walleye a so known for makes them ripe for drop shot attacks.

Drop shot fishing for panfish

All species of panfish can be targeted with the drop shot as well, and they hold on to the same structure as other fish species like walleye. Many weekend warrior anglers only search for panfish in weed beds, lily pads, or close to shore, but panfish inhabit deep structure and can be found congregating in large numbers. When you run across these schooling situations at a given depth with large numbers of fish, the drop shot can be a great way to hammer them.

Obviously, in these situations, fishing panfish, you are going to have to downsize your entire setup and use small baitfish imitations, and insect larvae or nymph imitations such as mayfly nymphs, and of course, live bait like minnows and worms will always work.

Drop shot fishing for trout

Believe it or not, drop shots can also work well for trout. We aren’t talking about trout in fast-moving rivers, creeks, and streams, rather the ones found in deep clear lakes.

The concept is the same for any species listed so far, find an area holding trout and get your rig down there.

You can use the same bait as you would for panfish too, with worms, small baitfish, soft plastics, and insect imitations.

Why The Drop Shot Rig Works

There are a number of reasons as to why the drop shot rig works so well. Let’s break down some of these reasons.

Subtlety

It is one of the ultimate choices in terms of finesse presentations and can work well on bodies of water that have high fishing pressure.

Imagine your fishing a rock pile or a point on a heavily pressure body of water. Bass that are sitting on this spot are seeing a ton of baits, jigs by the dozens, and Texas rigs constantly bumping into the structure or slowly drag past the fish.

These fish know the routine and have the scars to show what happens when you clamp onto one of those things, but all of a sudden there’s a small worm sitting 3 feet off the bottom suspended with a subtle wiggling action. No silt being kicked up, no dragging on the bottom.

That’s an entirely new and different presentation compared to what these fish see on almost a daily basis, and chances are they are going to eat that worm.

Drop shot rigs also excel at fishing precise deep water spots and not solely on a finesse level in heavily pressured waters. The ability to simply drop the bait and have it hold at the desired depth is a powerful tool, and it’s also one that once you have the depth dialed in and you start catching fish, is easily repeatable. If you have a spot with large numbers of fish on or around, you can simply drop it down time and time again and be in the strike zone with no guesswork.

Controllability

You might not think it, but the drop shot rig is fairly controllable. We already talked about how we can repeatedly return the bait to the perfect strike zone depth, but it’s controllable in other ways as well.

You can do certain tricks like lower the bait a few inches closer to the bottom if needed, and twitch the bait back up to the tight line level, and back down again as you want. This is great when using soft plastic baitfish imitations, as it mimics a swimming baitfish.

History of the Drop Shot Rig

The drop shot rig became popular in use in California for bass, but it was definitely something that was originated by bass anglers in Japan. The bottom line is we don’t know who first used the drop shot as we know it today.

California bass anglers started to fine-tune this presentation while fishing in the heavily pressured and clear waters of the California reservoirs and lakes. Pretty soon, all the bass tournament winners caught their fish via drop shot rig, and the word spread across America and elsewhere until we have the rig that we know today, a popular finesse presentation that flat out catches fish.

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