If you are anything like me, when struggling to catch a limit in a tournament, finesse fishing is usually your “Plan B”. For years, a light Texas rig finesse worm or shaky head was my bait of choice. Lately, however, I’ve found the drop shot is putting fish in my boat more and more often. In this article, I’m going to talk about a few things that I’ve picked up as I’ve been learning this technique.
I have fallen in love with the Denali Rosewood Drop Shot rod. This is a 7 foot spinning rod with a soft tip, good backbone, and very light weight. The soft tip is important when using a light wire hook that can easily tear free from a fish when they surge on a run. Plus this rod has the strong middle and butt section to help control a fish throughout the fight. For the reel, I’ve been using the Avocet II S2000 made by Mitchell.
As far as line goes, I use Spiderwire Stealth 10lb braid as my main line and then tie a fluorocarbon leader. When vertically fishing, I use a 10’ to 14’ leader of 6 pound fluorocarbon. If I’m casting to shallow cover, I’ll go with a 6’-10’ leader in 10 pound. A lot of anglers like to use fluorocarbon for the entire setup. I prefer the braid for two reasons. First, there are fewer line twists with braid because the line has zero memory. Second, the sensitivity is outstanding. Because there is no stretch in the braid and almost no stretch with the fluorocarbon, everything is felt instantly. I tie both of these lines together using an Albright knot. I use this knot when I’m casting as well because it is small and passes through the rod guides well. A double uni knot is also a good knot for this. Animatedknots.com is a great site to learn these knots.
On the business end, I normally use a No. 2 drop shot/octopus style hook. Most of the time when vertical fishing, you are not fishing any cover like trees or grass. In this case, I almost always nose hook the bait. If I am getting a lot of bites where the fish are just kind of mouthing the bait, I’ll switch to a 1/0 Owner Rebarb Finesse flipping hook. I’ll push this hook all the way through the bait just like a jig head through a grub. This way, when the fish grabs the bait, they have a better chance of getting the hook as well. A 3/8 oz. sinker normally gets the nod in this presentation. That may seem heavy but think of this as a flipping presentation. When the fish bites, it’s a reaction strike. Often when I drop down to a fish on my graph, it will already have the bait in its mouth as I pick up the slack.
The type of bait is dependent upon the bait that the fish are feeding on. If already known you are way ahead of the game. I tend to stay with minnow style baits and try to match the color of whatever is in the lake. The Attraxx Drop Shot Shad and the Lunkerhunt Bento Minnow are two of my favorites right now. The most important thing to keep in mind is that this is a “match the hatch” game.
The Graph Features
The most important factor to this whole technique is being familiar with your electronics. You don’t need the newest stuff on the market but there are a few features that you want in a graph that will really shorten the learning curve. The first is having a graph with a high pixel content. This is important because a lot of times the fish will be hugging the bottom. If the pixel rate is low, the difference between a fish and the lake bottom is hard to distinguish. The key is the more pixels, the better target separation.
A color graph is the next feature I would recommend. This isn’t quite as vital as the pixel rate but it’s certainly helpful. With a color graph, targets pop out because everything is a different color based on the strength of the returns (fish, rocks, trees, etc.). For example, a hard bottom (strong return) will come out as a bright yellow.
Lastly, I like to have my display set with zoom bar feature active. This allows me to see my weight falling through the water at a real time rate. Also, I like to zoom the view in to focus on the part of the water column the fish are occupying at the moment. This will help differentiate between fish and the lake bottom.
There is a really good instructional video on Youtube of Brent Erhler explaining how to catch fish on a drop shot while spotting them on the graph.
When I get to an area I think holds fish, I will troll around with the electric motor and watch my graph looking for fish, both on the bottom and suspended. As a rule, suspended fish are normally harder to catch. These are fish that are usually not actively feeding.
When I do spot a fish, I drop my bait down to its depth. This is why it’s important to have the zoom bar on the graph. You can see your weight and know when to stop the bait. If the fish are actively feeding, the fish will probably already have the bait when picking up the slack. If not, I continue to watch the graph to see if the fish will rise to the bait. If it still will not bite or drops back down and away from the bait, I either open the bail and drop the bait 5 feet or reel it up 5 or 6 quick turns of the handle. The really cool part is after catching that first fish or two, the whole school will ignite. I’ve lost count the number of times this past summer I would pull up on a suspended school and quickly catch a few of them. After that, the graph would light up with a bunch of lines that are zigzagging up and down. Those are fish that are feeding and searching for bait.
Casting the Drop Shot
I use the same rod/reel/line set up as vertical fishing but go with a shorter 10lb leader. This helps with the abrasions inherent with dragging it around shallower water cover. I also go with a lighter weight depending on the wind and depth. I like a 3/16 oz. in anything less than 10 feet.
While this can be used as a search tool, I like to use it when I come across isolated cover like docks, rock piles, and stumps. I call this target fishing. When using this rig for target fishing, I can leave the bait in the strike zone for a long time but still impart action on the bait. This is especially effective when sight fishing for spawning fish.
As you can see, I’m pretty pumped about this fish catching little rig. This is something that anyone can do and a great way to put a ton of fish in the boat in a hurry. There are plenty of other uses for it. In the south, it is used in flipping situations with heavy tackle. It seems like we are just scratching the surface on the possibilities of the techniques right now. Get out there and give it a try. Who knows? It might just become your “Plan A”.