Dropshot Basics, Tips and Tricks By Rick Lawrence
The basics of dropshotting are suspending your lure off the bottom with a line down to a weight below the hook. The only things that remain constant in dropshotting are the type of hooks and weights- lures widely vary. My basic setup is a 6 ½ ft med. power spinning rod spooled with 20# braid, running down to 3 to 6 ft. of 6 to 20 lb. fluorocarbon leader. I like to tie on a Gammy #2 finesse or # 1/0 EWG hook with either a Palomar knot or my signature Fish-N-Fool Knot, which I invented about 30+ years ago. Run your line back down through the hook eye so the hook will stand out, and add a weight of some kind from 4 in. up to 3 ft. below the hook. The conditions and type of fish you are after governs your type of weight and how far up the line the hook should be.
Ninety-five percent of the time that I’m dropshotting, I’m after smallmouth bass in rivers. Most of the time that means I’m fishing in moving water, so my basic setup is 6 to 12 lb. fluoro with a Gammy finesse hook tied on. If there is any wood to snag on, I use an EWG hook so that the bait can be Tex-posed to help avoid the snags. With both setups, I use some type of sinker that will slide through the rocks easily. I like to use hollow core pencil lead as it is both cheap and easy to use. Just cut off the amount of weight you need and slide it up the line until you get the distance you want your lure from the bottom, and pinch the lead in place.
Pictured in the diagram is my setup I use most of the time. I like the walleye bottom bouncer without the arm on it for fishing really rocky bottoms in current, (AKA My Drag the Dropshot) as they will slide along the rocks better than anything else.
My 5 best tips are these:
1. Match the hatch- This just means to try and use lures that resemble the size and type of forage the fish are feeding on. If you catch a nice fish that spits up a 2” perch minnow, you’ve found the hatch, so to speak.
2. Start small- In general, dropshotting is a finesse technique, so smaller and more natural baits will usually catch more fish.
3. Work it- One common thing I see is that a lot of guys barely move the lure when dropshotting. One of my best techniques is to lift the bait up off the bottom, from 1 foot to 4 foot, and let it fall again. This is a major trigger for smallies, as they love to hit a bait on the fall. About every 5 to 15 seconds, I will do the lift and fall. Sometimes this is deadly, and at other times they don’t seem to care if the bait moves much.
4. It’s not just a vertical presentation lure- Although dropshotting is more effective when the lure is straight under the boat, it can be very good when fished at range as well. Many times it is not practical to be right on top of the fish, and making short casts is a great way to pick out fish that you might not have been able to catch otherwise. Another of my favorite ways to fish is what I call “Drag the Dropshot”. If I have a moving current that’s not too fast, I just put on a fairly heavy weight and let out just enough line to keep the weight in contact with the bottom. Most of the time I will put this rod in a rod holder while I fish a crankbait or a jerkbait on another rod, as you can fish 2 poles here in Idaho. This can double the number of fish you put in the boat.
5. Be creative- One thing that I do a lot is think outside the box, so I’m inventing new lures or techniques all the time. One that I have been using more often is a drop/Ned rig. Instead of using just a weight on your dropshot, try a somewhat heavy Ned rig on the end. I also use a tube at times- equally as effective. If you are allowed more hooks, tie on a second dropshot hook and use a different style of bait. This can really help you key in on what baits they like that day.
I’ll leave you with this thought: if you’ve been fortunate enough to watch bass feeding in clear water, you will undoubtedly know just how long they can take to commit to taking a bait. Like all species, the amount of times they inspect your bait without us knowing would astonish most anglers.
The beauty of dropshoting is that it allows the angler to work a lure on the spot for as long as he or she wants to! I tend to fish fairly clear waters without a lot of depth, and these are perfect for observing the behavior of bass. I have watched many times as a smallie has emerged behind my lure, only to hang back and wait to make their next move. By working the lure continuously in the area and imparting a realistic action, more often than not, they will have a go at the bait.
With this in mind, just think how many times bass will inspect your lure without taking a bite! Next time you’re fishing a known hotspot, remember this and make sure that you cover that spot thoroughly; oftentimes your patience will be rewarded!