Though the drop-shot rig has been popular among expert bass anglers for many years, I still talk to anglers who haven’t tried it, especially those who fish for walleyes and panfish.
A drop-shot rig is simply a weight-forward delivery system, where the weight sits on the bottom and the hook is roughly 6 inches or more above the bottom. The beauty of this rig is its simplicity and that you can set your lure or live bait a fixed distance above the bottom.
This makes it more visible and consistently in the strike zone. It’s especially effective in areas where vegetation like sandgrass covers the bottom and jigs get lost in the cover and rigs constantly get covered in weeds.
For almost all applications I use spinning gear. My go-to setup is a 6-foot, 9-inch medium-light power, extra-fast action rod with a Daiwa Revros 2500 reel and 10-pound hi-vis yellow line and a 6- to 12-pound fluorocarbon leader. But really any spinning setup that’s medium light or medium will work.
The beauty of this system is when you get a bite, just start reeling and they’re hooked. I’m a fan of VMC Spin-Shot hooks, since they prevent line twist and are easy to rig. Use a No. 2 or 1 for bass and walleyes and No. 6 for panfish.
I often cast my rig a good distance to work an area of structure. But when you cast, tie the hook farther above your sinker so it stays well above bottom on your retrieve. I often fish this rig for walleyes on structure in 18 to 24 feet of water, baiting with leeches or nightcrawlers. Cast out and let it hit bottom, gently shake the bait without moving the sinker, then lift the rod tip and let the bait swing toward you and repeat. It often outfishes Lindy rigs or slip-floats in those situations, as you can cover more water and fish particular targets more precisely.
I also drop-shot panfish along deep weedlines, using a small insect imitation. If the big ‘gills get tough, though, a leech or piece of ‘crawler will get ‘em. You may spot crappies suspended on sonar and you can adjust the hook placement to keep the lure in their zone.
For smallmouth and largemouth bass, drop-shots are unmatched, especially in cover that’s not too thick. In vegetation, I favor a cylindrical sinker since it slides through the stalks easily; on harder bottoms, a round weight is best, since it helps you determine if you’re on rock, sand, or gravel.
You can catch bass on a huge variety of small softbaits; it’s hard for fish to pass up. A favorite multi-species plastic is the tail section of a black swimming worm with about an inch of the body, skewered on the hook. The action is amazing when you shake it, it looks just like a leech.
You can even fish a heavy version of this rig on a bait-casting rod with heavier line, dropping lures in thick vegetation. They don’t sink into the bottom and disappear, as can happen with jigs in mucky areas.
In mid- and late summer, this rig is always on my deck, no matter what species I’m after and what type of bite I’m on. Gear up and drop in on your favorite spots. You won’t be disappointed.