How to catch bass with a drop shot, the much heralded finesse technique which is as mysterious in origin as it sometimes is in use, originated in the U.S. southern waters. Many anglers will argue that it is a Japanese technique that was brought to the U.S. However, Rich Zaleski wrote about the drop shot over two decades ago in the In Fisherman Magazine, when it was called the “down shot”.
Equipment for fishing a drop shot is somewhat specialized. Over the years, anglers have experimented with rod actions, reel sizes, and line weights. Most anglers have settled into a medium or medium light action spinning rod coupled with a small light weight spinning reel. This combination makes it easy to manage the 4 to 8 pound lines commonly used when finesse fishing and drop shotting. Because this is a “finesse technique”, the low visibility fluorocarbon lines have become the norm.
So, we have our lite weight spinning rod in Medium to Medium Light that is somewhere between 6 foot 6 inches to 7 foot 2 inches long. We’ve attached to it a nice light spinning reel, and spooled it with 6 pound test fluorocarbon. Now what?
I will outline what I have found to be my best options and some tips I have learned:
Rod and Reel:
I use a 6 foot 9 inches long Bass Pro Carbonlite spinning rod with a medium light action. I’ve attached a 20 series Plfeuger President spinning reel. This is a very light weight outfit with quite a bit of sensitivity. I started with a 6 foot 6 inch Bionic Blade and worked my way up. What rod is best for you? Only you can determine that. It’s best to ask friends what they like and ask to use and theirs for a few casts to get a feel for what you might like.
When it comes to line I’m a bit different, and use an idea I got from reading what some professional anglers are doing. I use 6 pound FireLine tied to a small swivel then a 6 pound Vanish fluorocarbon leader. The FireLine and Vanish fluorocarbon are connected to the swivel with a uni-knot. I like the extra sensitivity and the lack of line twist that this combination/set up gives me. There are many different ways to set up a drop shot. After a lot of experimenting, you will find what works best for each situation.
The hooks used for drop shotting are as specialized as the technique its self. All hook manufactures have specific lines of hooks designed around the Drop Shot technique. I’ve tried several different hooks in various sizes; however, I keep going back to the Gamagatsu #1 Drop Shot/ Split Shot hook. I’ve tried bigger and I’ve tried smaller, everything else I tried just didn’t seem to have the reliability for getting bass in the boat. The hook can accommodate a wide variety of baits from thick to thin–this hook gets penetration. Just like with any other technique we will all have our preferences, so experiment, you may very well be happier with something else.
Most anglers choose to tie their drop shot hook to the line with a Palomar Knot; the key is to leave a long tag end for attaching the weight. After tying the Palomar Knot, I like to hold the hook with the point facing up, and then run the tag end of the line down through the eye of the hook and pull it tight. This ensures the hook point will always face up, making for a better hook to land ratio.
The weights used are just as specialized as the hooks with various shapes and ways of attaching them to your line. There are lead and tungsten weights in various shapes, from round to pencil shape; I even have a friend that uses diamond shaped weights. Through a process of experimenting, I’ve come to only use lead pencil shaped weights. I started with round tungsten because everyone said the feel is so much better with them. I found the round weight would hang up in weeds and rocks. After losing several tungsten weights I switched to round lead weights to save some money. However, there had to be something better at coming through snags. While replenishing my supplies, I came across some pencil shaped weights. Curious, I purchased some to try. They eliminated most of my hang ups. Now, I own molds and pour my own. Many anglers swear by the tungsten and say that you get better feel with it, I’m just not convinced. Again, experiment and see what works the best for you.
The most widely used method of attaching drop shot weights to the line is with the Bakuden attachment. The Bakuden attachment is pretty simple to rig: moisten the line, run the line through the opening, pull toward the top. This holds the weight in place, yet, allows it to pull off if it gets snagged. This way you don’t risk losing your hook and bait as well. Most drop shot weights are inexpensive making this a very effective tool.
The hardest part about drop shots is deciding which bait to use. There are about 6 million different drop shot baits in a multitude of colors, all claiming to be the best. These baits come in handpours, machine molded, and hand injected. They come in various degrees of softness as well. They range in lengths from 2 inches on up. Over time, I have learned that a few work best for me. I carry four or five colors but rely on three specific colors the majority of the time. In fact, I use one particular bait 80 percent of the time. My all time favorite drop shot bait is the 3 inch Bass Pro Sticko in watermelon seed. I’ve captured the lunker award in 3 tournaments with this bait, so my confidence is very high. I do use Robo Worms, Zoom Finesse worms and Berkeley Baits at times. The Robo Worms are very soft and have a lot of action just sitting there; they also come in a lot of colors no one else uses. When looking for the pattern of the day, I always start with my favorite, the Sticko.
I’ll rig my baits one of two ways, nosed hooked or wacky hooked. I’ll experiment and let the bass tell me what they want. A tip that has worked well for me, when nose hooking a bait run the hook up from the chin of the bait and through the front of the bait, not the top. I got this from watching Kevin VanDam and tried it. I was very pleased with the results and found baits also last longer. Another tip, use chartreuse dipping dye to give your baits some added contrast.
Much of what you read about drop shotting is that you cast or drop the rig beside the boat, let it hit bottom and shake it in place. Another popular method is while the weight stays on the bottom, raise the bait and let it fall back to the bottom trying not to move the weight.
If you drop it vertically, you simply keep the bait under the boat and shake or lift and drop. This is very slow fishing, unless they are really biting. If you favor casting, you want to drag or hop it a few inches or even feet, let it settle to the bottom and shake or raise and fall. This does work at times, but it is very easy to over work the bait. Most of the time I let it sit or I do the rise and fall. I don’t impart action when it’s just sitting. The natural movement of your breathing, your pulse and wave action will impart action to the bait.
When using a casting presentation, I use a longer leader to make up the difference the bait is off the bottom because of the angle of the line. If you want to keep the bait 12 inches off the bottom you’ll have to make your leader 18 inches. Most often I start with an 8-10 inch leader and change it as needed. I keep the tag end (or leader) longer so I can lengthen the distance between the hook and weight quickly. Use the lightest weight possible and learn to be gentle in your movement so the weight stays on the bottom. When you do get a bite, the hook set is a simple upward sweeping motion; if you set it like you do a jig you’ll break the line.
Once you’ve mastered finesse drop shotting, it is easy to make the move to heavy duty or “bubba” shotting. This is using heavier line, weights and bigger baits in heavy cover. When I need to place a drop shot in places with heavy cover, I have a 7 foot medium action bait caster spooled with 14 pound FireLine and 14pound Vanish. You can use any bait and appropriately sized hook, and really catch some quality bass. Like any other technique, you can over complicate the technique with a bazillion baits and terminal tackle. In my experience, the K.I.S.S (Keep It Simple Stupid) method is the best approach. The other piece of advice is to experiment, experiment, experiment, then experiment some more.