The Low Down On The Drop Shot
By Steve Basinger
As I’m sitting at my computer and writing this article, I’m staring out my window and watching the very beginnings of a November snow storm. I can’t help but think about getting out on the water. Especially when there is new-to-me technique out there and I’m just beginning to scratch the surface. This new technique would be the drop shot. I have only been drop shotting for one season but I did it so much on certain lakes this year that I feel like I’m really on to something. So much so that I can break it down into two categories: vertical fishing and casting. We’ll start with vertical fishing.
I like a 6’6” to 7’ med to med light action spinning rod. You could probably get away with a baitcaster but I just feel more confident with a spinning rod in this situation. Also, I don’t think that the length is nearly as important as the action. You will be using light wire hooks so you want that lighter rod to keep from tearing the hook out of the fish’s mouth. For the reel, I’ve been using the Avocet II S2000 made by Mitchell.
I use Spiderwire Stealth 10lb braid as my main line and then use 10’ to 14’ Berkley Vanish 6lb fluorocarbon as a leader. A lot of guys like to use fluorocarbon for the entire setup. I prefer the braid for two reasons. First, you won’t have any 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, you will feel everything 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. Which is the reason I don’t like to use a swivel too. 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 so I almost always nose hook the bait. If I am getting a lot of bites where the fish is just kind of mouthing the bait, I’ll use a 1/0 Owner Rebarb Finesse flipping hook. I’ll push this hook all the way through the bait just like you would 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. It’s the same way here. Most of the time, when I drop down to a fish I see on my graph, it will already have the bait in its mouth when I pick up the slack.
The type of bait that you put on here is dependent upon the bait that the fish are feeding on. If you already know what that is, then you are way ahead of the game. If you are like me then you half to figure that part out. I tend to stay with minnow style baits and try to match the color of whatever is in the lake. That would normally be yellow perch but at Sakakawea it was smelt. 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 have to have 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 high pixel content. The more pixels, the better target separation you get. This is important because a lot of times the fish will be hugging the bottom. If the pixel rate is low, you can’t tell the difference between a fish and the bottom.
The next feature is having a color graph. This isn’t quite as vital as the pixel rate but it’s certainly helpful. With a color graph, targets will pop out at you 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.
I also 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. Then I like to zoom the view in as well to focus on the bottom 50% of the water column. 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 that I think holds fish, I will just 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 will drop down to its depth. This is why it’s important to have the zoom bar on the graph. You will be able to 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 you pick up the slack. If not, I continue to watch my graph to see if the fish will rise to my bait. If it still will not bite or drops back down and away from the bait, I will 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 that after you catch that first fish or two, the whole school will ignite. I can’t tell you how many times this past summer that I would pull up on a school that would just suspend in open water and then I would 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 I will admit that it is probably a good idea to go to a 10lb leader. This would help with the amount of abrasions that would be inherent with dragging it around all of the cover in shallower water. 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. While I haven’t had the chance to do this myself, I can only imagine how great this will be to try on a spawning fish on a bed.
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. And there are plenty of other uses for it. They have even used it in flipping situations with heavy tackle in the South. I hope this has helped some of you guys. Maybe you can expand on this and write the next article.
-Badlands Bass Bandits Member