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Written By: Cal Kellogg, March 12, 2012
It’s true, I hate drop shotting! Why? I’m not really sure. Perhaps its because I got my start bass fishing from the bank and viewed drop shotting as strictly a method for boaters, which isn’t true, but was never the less my perception at that time.
I’m a worm dragger. Hand me a rod sporting a Texas, Carolina or split shot rig and I’m right at home. I enjoy threading a worm along the bottom feeling every rock and twig as I wait for that electric “TAP, TAP” that serves as the calling card of Mr. Bass.
While I might not like the drop shot rig, I’ll readily admit that it is one of the most effective methods you can employ. This being the case, I’ve been forced to embraced drop shotting in much the same way that someone who has stepped on a rusty nail takes a shine to a tetanus shot. When the going gets tough it’s often a drop shot rig that I turn to because I like catching bass more than I dislike drop shotting!
A lot of guys that read Bass Angler News are grizzled old veterans (think Kent Brown et all) who have been fishing tournaments for years, but there are probably just as many anglers reading this that have never fished a tournament and have caught very few bass, but are intrigued by the sport. This article is focused at guys that are learning the sport of bass fishing, but the seasoned anglers out there might pick up a new wrinkle or two, so read on…
When drop shotting first hit the bass fishing scene it was a light tackle vertical presentation approach aimed at catching fickle suspended bass in canyon reservoirs that featured clear water and little cover beyond rock piles, creek beds and drop offs.
At the heart of the rig was a light fast action-spinning rod teamed with a reel sporting 6 or 8-pound test monofilament line. A small light wire hook was tied into the line via a Palomar knot and a split shot was clamped onto the end of the line.
A soft plastic bait, most often a worm from 3 to 6 inches long was pinned on the hook with the hook point exposed. The distance between the hook and the split shot determined how far off the bottom the bait would be worked.
Before long anglers began tweaking the rig. Some guys added a second or even a third hook allowing them to fish two or three baits. Other anglers replaced the slip shot with a jig, giving the bass a choice between a small minnow like bait and a bulkier crawfish imitation.
When fishing with a traditional drop shot rig, the rig is dropped to the bottom or lowered to a determined depth directly below the boat. At that point the reel is engaged and life is imparted into the bait by shaking the rod tip.
The beauty of the rig and one of the big reasons that it was and remains so successful is that it allows the angler to keep a thin profile minnow imitating bait in the strike zone for an extended period of time. When bass are playing hard to get, there is no substitute for keeping the bait in the strike zone when it comes to generating strikes.
When employing a traditional drop shot rig, a strike might be signaled by a tap or two, but you might only feel weight or the line might go slack, if the bass moves up with the bait in its mouth. Regardless of how the fish strikes, the hook set is always the same.
First, you want to reel down to the fish and load the rod tip and then jab the hook home with a short, sharp stroke. Since you are using a small hook and light line, it is important to have your drag set correctly. When playing the bass, simply keep the rod loaded and slowly work the fish up to the surface.
The first major revolution pertaining to drop shotting came in the form of tungsten weights. Tungsten is denser than lead, meaning a smaller tungsten weight weighs the same amount as a larger lead weight. Anglers found that tungsten weights gave them a much better “feel” for the bottom. This added feel comes at a stiff price, since tungsten weights are much more expensive than lead weights.
Tungsten dropshot weights are equipped with an eye that starts out open and then narrows. This allows the angler to put the line through the open part of the eye and then pull it up into the narrow part of the eye. The line becomes pinched and weight will stay put. When the sinker gets snagged in the rocks, instead of having to break the line, the sinker will slide off. This way you’ll only loose you sinker and not your entire rig.
It is easy to burn through a bunch or weights during a day of drop shot fishing and if they are tungsten weights you can run up a pretty painful bill. If you are ambitious and cheap like me, you can stock your tackle box with tungsten weights without paying a penny for them.
To do this all you need to do is pinpoint areas at local lakes where guys like to drop shot early in the season when the lake level is up. When the lake level is down walk these areas and start flipping over rocks. I stumbled on this method of securing weights one winter day while bank fishing for trout at Collins Lake. I was fishing on a rocky point when I noticed a couple of weights near my rod holder.
After a modest amount of searching I located more than 40 tungsten weights of various sizes. Since then I’ve gone on many weight hunting expeditions at Collins, Folsom and other lakes and I’ve always been surprised by the amount of weights and other tackle I come up with.
Make no mistake about it; these days anglers still spend a good deal of time working their drop shot rigs vertically, but vertical fishing is no longer the only way drop shot rigs are employed. Anglers have found that drop shot rigs can be deadly effective when pitched to specific targets or tossed to the shoreline and worked down sloping banks on a taught line with plenty of pauses and rod tip shaking. This is a great method for covering water as you determine the depth where the fish are holding.
One of my favorite situations for working a drop shot rig is when I’m confronted with steep slopping banks that are dotted with stumps. You’ll find a lot of rocky stump studded banks at lakes like Bullards Bar and Shasta.
When working stumps I don’t fish with an exposed hook point. Instead, I swap the traditional mosquito style hook for a small offset shank worm hook and Texas rig my bait with the hook point lightly buried beneath the skin of the worm.
With my worm or worms Texas rigged, I pitch the rig up into about 5 feet of water and begin hopping the sinker down the slope until I feel it come up against a stump. At that point I let the rig set while I wiggle and shake the rod. I’ll let the rig set next to the stump for 30 seconds or so before hopping it up and working it down the bank in search of another stump.
While most guys still drop shot with monofilament line, I prefer to utilize braid. I still use a light-spinning rod, but instead of spooling the reel with mono, I fill it with 15 or 20 pound braid. The braid is tipped with a swivel. To the swivel I attach a 36 to 48 inch 8 or 10 pound test fluorocarbon leader and build the rest of the rig on the fluorocarbon.
The braided line provides me with strength for dealing with rocks and stumps, but its primary function is to give me extra sensitivity when I’m fishing water that is more than 25 feet deep. Briad is also less affected by twist than mono and nobody likes dealing with twisted mono.
So far we’ve been primarily talking about open water reservoir fishing, but drop shot rigs can also be very effective when fished in shallow cover rich environments like the Delta and Clear Lake. Late last winter the Fish Sniffer’s resident bass pro Sheldon Bright introduced me to a variation of drop shotting that he calls power shotting.
Sheldon is a Delta Rat and spends a good deal of time pulling bass out of heavy cover both in the form of tules and submerged wood. When he showed me the technique we were fishing at the Kelsey Bass Ranch. The weather was cold and a front had just moved through. We were hooking bass, but the fishing was far from easy.
At one point we came upon a row of submerged trees. I reached for a jig, while Sheldon grabbed a baitcaster rigged with a unique drop shot rig. The rod was rigged with heavy braid.
The braid was tipped with a swivel and a section of heavy 25 to 30 pound fluorocarbon was tied to the swivel. A standard drop shot weight was attached to the end of the fluorocarbon while a 2/0 worm hook sporting a 6 inch Witch’s T Robo Worm was situated about 18 inches above the weight.
I caught one bass off the wood while Sheldon banged 6 fat bass in about 10 drops. I was amazed. The bass wanted the subtle action off the bottom action of a drop shot rig, but there is no way you could have pulled the bass out of the cover using a traditional light weight spinning rig.
Sheldon’s “Power Shotting” approach combined the effectiveness of drop shotting with the horsepower of flipping gear. Needless to say, power shotting is now part of my fishing arsenal.
Whether you like drop shotting or hate it, it is a technique that you’ve got to be familiar with. I also believe that it is one of those approaches that has not yet reached its full potential.
As anglers experiment with drop shotting new avenues continue to open up. Fish with an open mind and don’t be afraid to experiment and perhaps you’ll be the angler that writes a new chapter in drop shotting history!
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