By Jeremy Smith
Drop-shot rigging became popular because it’s incredibly effective; you could accurately place a plastic bait in front of fish you saw on a depth finder. In a way, it’s like ice fishing from a boat, because you can see the fish and your bait and watch fish sidle up to the bait. That helps you focus in order to detect the bite.
Last time, we talked overall basics. Drop-shot rigs are simple: A sinker lets you easily maintain contact with bottom, and a plastic – or live bait –rides at whatever height you choose off the bottom. Let’s dig deeper on dropper length for various situations. Dropper length is the distance between the sinker and hook. The hook is tied in above the sinker.
How do you determine how long you want the dropper – how high up you want the hook?
If you’re fishing directly below the boat so you can see your bait (and fish) on the sonar, you want the hook at the level of the fish you are seeing. If you see fish higher in the water column, simply lift up to them.
If I’m casting the rig, which is how I fish it most of the time, I often favor a longer dropper. Here’s why: The farther the rig is horizontally from the boat, the smaller the angle. For example, if you’re fishing the rig vertically, it’s 90 degrees relative to the surface.
If you make a long cast, the angle from the rod tip to the sinker could be roughly 45 degrees relative to the surface. As the rig gets closer to the boat, the angle increases and the hook is then higher off the bottom.
Again, in most situations, I’d favor fishing above the fish than below them. A short dropper on a long cast often leads to fishing below the fish.
There is a maximum length you can manage; too long becomes unwieldy. You can use a dropper up to about 6 feet long, maybe 7 feet, but longer than that and you struggle to control it. Longer rods are more favorable for longer droppers.
For fish feeding on or near bottom, like smallmouths eating crayfish, you might use a 2-inch dropper. My go-to dropper length for prospecting is about 15 to 24 inches.
The question comes up: How creative might you want to get with how you present a drop-shot bait? Or, do you simply stick with the “shake in place, pause, then lift and move” approach we talked about in the last column?
The short answer is to stick with the shake in place. It’s awesome for keeping a bait at a fixed distance off bottom and dangling in a fish’s face.
If I decide, for example, to move the bait more, or move it faster, I’ll change rigs and tactics to something better suited to that. Drop-shot rigs keep a bait in the zone really well, and in many situations, and that’s exactly what you want.