By Louie Stout
There are a number of ways to catch summertime Midwestern bass, but none is more consistently effective than the drop-shotting technqiue.
That is, when done properly.
For newbies, drop-shotting is a rigging method by which you tie a small hook on the line but leave a short tag beneath it and then add a sinker on the bottom. It’s very similar to what panfishermen call a “perch rig,” except you’re only using one hook. The technique allows you to fish over fish that school deep, such as on humps, rock piles, or outside weed edges. However, it can be cast and fished horizontally, as well.
The concept allows you to present a finesse lure just off bottom and right where fish are holding. Because it’s primarily a finesse technique, it’s best done with spinning tackle and light line.
Lures are often small and imitate baitfish. Bites are attracted by subtle jigging action.
Choose line carefully
Line size should be based upon cover type and most common fish sizes. Smaller lines, such as 4- to 8-pound test, are preferred; the smaller the line the more natural the lure movement.
Veteran drop-shotters like small diameter braids, such as 10- to 15-pound sizes (comparable to 2- and 4-pound mono or fluorocarbon). Superlines are not translucent, so use at least a 6-foot fluorocarbon leader between braid and lure. The braid offers better feel on subtle bites, and if casting, you can cast light baits farther. However, the braid/fluorocarbon set-up may not be best for fishing current. Braid tends to float and drags with the current. In heavy current, straight fluorocarbon – which sinks better – can be a better option.
Stay on bottom
Arizona B.A.S.S. pro and fishing guide Cliff Pirch says inexperienced women anglers he has guided tend to be better drop-shotters than their husbands. The reason? Experienced anglers are accustomed to imparting a lot of action. As a result, they are bouncing the drop-shot rig too much.
“One of the biggest keys to successful drop-shotting is keeping the sinker on bottom and barely moving the bait,” Pirch said.
Cylinder-shaped sinkers don’t hang up. Tungsten sinkers not only provide a smaller sinker of equal weight, but also transmit the feel of bottom better. That’s important when fishing hard bottoms.
“Anchor the sinker on the bottom to fish a target,” Pirch said. “In current, I want it dragging on bottom. If the weight is coming off the bottom, the lure is moving too fast – not a natural presentation.”
Adjust leader length
A 6- to 10-inch gap between lure and sinker works in most situations when fishing vertically, but watch the electronics to see if fish are off the bottom. Put the lure just above the fish. If the fish are a foot or more off the bottom, adjust the sinker-to-lure length accordingly.
If making casts, remember that the line is coming in at an angle so the bait will be
closer to the bottom and you may need a slightly longer leader.
Upsize your baits
Finesse drop-shot baits catch all sizes and species. If you’re getting annoyed at the little fish bites, try upsizing the soft plastic lure. For example, I have seen a difference in the size of fish that a 5-inch Strike King Dream Shot catches vs. a 4-inch Dream Shot. One summer my fishing partner used a 6-inch fluke style bait. He got fewer bites, but caught bigger fish.
Avoid line twist
Line twist, especially when rigged with straight fluorocarbon or mono, is a common problem; reduce that by rigging the hook through the center of the soft plastic. If it’s off-center, the line is likely to twist. Nose-hooking a bait helps, too. Again, the hook must penetrate the center of the worm and come out the center of the head.
Another advantage of nose-hooking? The rig’s a bit more weedless. You don’t have to push the hook barb through the end. When the fish bites just apply rod pressure – the barb slides through and hooks the fish. And, of course, wacky-rigging (placing hook in the middle of a finesse worm) is equally effective when drop-shotting.