By now most Western anglers are tired of reading all the articles on the drop-shot rig. The secret finesse technique is really no secret at all, west of the Rocky Mountains. After the initial fascination anglers had with the drop-shot, many have brushed it off as a technique only useful for those times when nothing else was working; only in emergency situations. But the truth is many anglers around the country still have not been exposed to the deadliness of the presentation. Even professional anglers from coast to coast that are applying the technique haven’t really tapped into its versatility. But the effectiveness of the drop-shot technique knows no limitations, it’s not only a finesse application nor does it only catch small fish. It’s become the mainstay of my arsenal because of how many unique uses I find for it and simply put, it may be the most universal fish catching technique ever invented.
It’s not an easy transition going from tournament to tournament on the elite series, many of the professional anglers find themselves trying to force feed the fish with techniques or patterns they had success with in previous tournaments. Fishing in the moment has become a popular theme and seems to best describe what an angler must do in order to be successful at all the different bodies of water. My success can really be attributed to versatility, at even more specifically the versatility of the drop shot.
When the elite series made its stops at Champlain and Oneida I found myself searching for smallmouth on my graph and then dropping the bait down to them. As I watched my bait sink on the graph I would see the fish moving up and grabbing it; it was almost like playing a video game. At Lake Toho and Lake Amistad I bulked up my gear to a higher pound test fluorocarbon line and stouter casting rods in order to sight fish bedding bass. The bait would just sit on the bed right about eye level with the fish. The fish had no chance and couldn’t help but get the intruder away from its bed. At the California Delta I even used the drop shot for flipping sparse tulles, by dissecting patches of tulles very subtly I attracted more bites from the fish that were maybe a little more finicky.
For all the uses of the drop shot the anglers must remember to change their equipment according to the structure and situation they are using it for. Line size, rod strength, and sinker weight are all small variables that greatly affect the presentation and bait movement with the drop shot. The technique is not one that you ask what can you use it for, it’s what can’t it be used for.
The bait selection has been another key to the success of the technique. I think that many anglers seem to neglect how important the falling action of the bait is, the bait is often hit just as it touches the bottom so the bait must appear natural as it falls. The baits I use for all of my drop shotting is the Jackall Cross-Tail Shad, and the Flick-Shake worm. The Flick-Shake worm is just a bit different than the most commonly used straight tail plastic worms; this bait has a built in curved design that makes the movement so lifelike. Its also salt injected and has a live bait scent so fish really seem to hang on to it.
If you look through your most productive baits, most of them are ones with subtle action because that is how the real forage moves most of the time. The Cross-Tail Shad may be one of the best mimics of live forage I have ever seen. It is a unique design that has been popular in Japan for almost a decade. This bait has more body than many other small worms, which gives it a very natural fall rate. I find myself letting the bait sit still most of the time because as the water moves the bait will shutter very subtly and the tail will shake due to the design of the body. It doesn’t take much to make the bait wiggle and draw attention from any fish nearby. The color selection of any bait shouldn’t be overlooked, and this is especially true when using the Drop-Shot rig. Fish are our going to get a good look at the bait so matching the hatch is imperative. But if you were to use just one I would recommend the watermelon color as it has a general look of many forage fish.
The gear I use does vary but most commonly I will use a 6’8” Shimano Final Dimension rod and a Shimano Stella 2500 reel, but if fishing heavier cover or sight fishing I will move up to a Stella 3000 in order to put on a high pound test line. I will use high quality fluorocarbon line like Gamma Edge and I try to keep the weight and hook as light as possible in hopes that the bait will appear more natural.
The most important thing I try and do when drop shotting is keeping my focus and really concentrating on how the bait looks in the water when I am fishing it. I think that this can be said with any technique, but with the drop shot I will focus in order to make very fine movements. A jump of the bait is sometimes necessary, but as you do that you must understand what you are presenting to the fish. As you really focus on the bait and what it is doing under the water, you will also start to get a mental picture of the bottom. Sand, rock, grass, and wood can all be determined by feel. By understanding these variables you will begin to ascertain what the optimal bottom composition is, and what it is that are making the fish bite; and that’s when a pattern is formed. You can then expand that pattern with different bait sizes and to different areas. The bottom line is this, for anglers that have not yet built confidence in the Drop-Shot, and for anglers that have written it off as a condition specific technique, expand your mind and you will catch a lot more and bigger fish.