You don't have to go back even a full generation to recall a time when much of the fishing world thought that freshwater weights always belonged above baits. Over the past decade or so, the dropshot tactics introduced by Japanese anglers have inverted that line of thinking. Today, this finesse rig's progressive design has been modified and employed in a variety of scenarios with tremendous success.
With its weight dangling from the tag end of a hook standing perpendicular to the main line, a dropshot is easy to tie, easy to cast and undeniably productive in tough fishing conditions.
Requiring little to no action, this rig defines "user-friendly;" however, its simplicity belies a serious fish-catching appeal that merits inclusion in any bass angler's playbook.
Productive dropshot scenarios include:
Pockets: Dropshotters are wise to monitor the sun's progression - specifically its effects on shifting shadow lines and the dark pockets created.
Bass seeking solace from sunlight are suckers for a well-placed dropshot, but note that these pockets will change throughout the day, so anglers must adjust their targets with the changing light. Fish that bit on one side of a laydown or weedy point in the morning will shift to the opposite side in the afternoon.
Docks and bridges: Shadows offer a nice sun break, while structure provides protection and ambush feeding opportunities. Make a sulking bass look at your dropshot bait long enough and a bent rod rewards your patience.
To entice stubborn fish, play games with their predator instinct by making the bait look like it's trying to hide behind a piling.
Play deep: From brush piles, to rocks, stumps, or any other submerged fish magnet, sonar is the great facilitator of offshore dropshotting. Some call it "video gaming" - the practice of hovering over structure and watching the fish react to your dropshot presentations.
On a good day, you drop down and hold the bait on target until one of the fish marks starts wiggling - then you reel.
Bed fishing: Catching a big female is mostly a case of irritation and persistence. No other rig can hold its position in the fish's face without actually disrupting the bed like a dropshot.
Hint: Bait colors that resemble egg-munching bluegill or cannibalistic young bass meet with fierce aggression.
Suspended fish: When fish hold over standing timber, in front of deep docks or along bridge pillars, use your dropshot to work through the school and trigger bites by mimicking a dying shad.
Rig light with a 1/16- or 1/8-ounce weight, and send a Berkley Gulp Minnow or a Yamamoto Shad Shape Worm to the fish: Just cast ahead of the target zone, flip over the bail and let the bait swing like a pendulum through the suspended school.
This is a water-column presentation, so you don't want your bait to hit bottom.
Power play: The dropshot may have been conceived as a finesse tactic, but this is no one-dimensional rig. When bass hide in heavy cover, upsizing your tackle affords yet another presentation option - this one called "power-shotting."
While most may think of dropshoting as super-light line, a tiny hook, a small weight and vertical fishing, you may be surprised at how effective this rig can be when fished on a 7 1/2-foot medium-heavy rod with 15- to 20-pound line and a 7-inch worm and a 3/8-ounce weight.
Power-shotting, works in casting, flipping and pitching scenarios. Notably, the heavy dropshot is more subtle than traditional jig or Texas-rigged presentations, so hooked fish are often less agitated and come through cover more easily.
Here's a handful of tips and pointers for maximizing your dropshot productivity:
Great with baits
The standard for dropshot bait selection is a thin, ultra-limber worm like a Roboworm or a Berkley Powerbait Hand Pour Finesse Worm, but sometimes the fish respond better to something with a curly tail, a ribbed body or a subtle minnow shape like Roboworm's Alive Shad or Special FX. Small stickbaits like the 3-inch Yamamoto Senko also can imitate baitfish forage.
Now, because the very nature of dropshotting implies static presentations, bass can grow accustomed to a particular bait - or "look." Fishing a wacky-rigged worm can certainly enhance your dropshot's appeal, but turning a worm sideways isn't the only option.
Don't hesitate to experiment with various bait shapes and sizes. For example, 3- to 4-inch worms are common, but a 6-incher may be what you need to trigger strikes from fish that don't want to waste energy grabbing tiny meals.
Conversely, if a good bite wanes, drop down to a smaller worm, or try biting an inch or so off the larger worm that has been working and the lesser profile may do the trick.
For greater bait profile and motion, try a tube or a small creature bait like the Zoom Tiny Brush Hog or Wave Tiki Craw. You'll find those creature baits particularly effective around reeds or any other stalky vegetation, as these lures resemble the crawfish that often cling to this habitat. Moreover, while slender worms can be tougher to spot in such environs, bass aren't likely to overlook the larger profile of a craw or creature bait.
Also note that bass pay more attention to something that not only smells edible, but, more importantly, something that does not smell like human hands. The bait scenting effort is as much about masking human smell as it is about enhancing the plastic.
Many bait makers add various amino acids and other natural scent enhancers to their plastics, but it doesn't hurt to dip dropshot baits in scented liquids like JJ's Magic garlic oil or spray it with Berkley Gulp! Alive scent. With dips, consider the dropshot bait's orientation and dip the heads rather than the tails: essentially, you want the fish to bite the head because that's where the hook is.
Just be careful to keep the scented stuff on the baits and off your hands, lest you choke on the scent while you're fishing. If you do find the stinky stuff dripped, splashed or spilled on your hands, here's a tip for quickly removing the smell: Rub a gob of peanut butter - a common fishing lunch ingredient - on your hands and rinse in lake water.
Handy with the hardware
Leader length: Opinions vary on this one, but it's really all about fish positioning.
If the bass are holding closer to the bottom, a short leader of maybe 6 to 8 inches will do the trick. If you're catching fish on a traditional Texas rig and the bite dwindles, rig up a dropshot with the weight 3 inches below worm. This will appear very similar to a Texas rig, but the worm is horizontal, rather than standing up.
On the other extreme, most agree that tall structure merits longer leaders - sometimes 4 feet or more. You may want to probe the sides and lower extremes of a brush pile or standing timber, but when fish hold above something standing a yard stick or more off the bottom, they're usually looking up more than down, so baits must hold in the strike zone.
The key consideration with any leader design is keeping the bait as perfectly perpendicular as possible. Most dropshotters connect their hook with a Palomar knot and insist on passing the tag end back through the eye after cinching the knot to ensure a straight leader and proper hook orientation.
Another option, the VMC Spinshot, fits a dropshot hook on a light wire stem with line ties at both ends. Tying main line to one end and leader the other keeps the hook properly positioned and allows 360-degree mobility without twisting line on the drop.
Weighting game: Dropshot weights vary not only in size, but also in shape, based on the scenario. Generally, cylinder ("stick") weights are best when rocks, wood or thick grass threaten snagging. Round weights easily slide through reeds and other sparse structure, while bell ("teardrop") weights put more surface mass in contact with the bottom for greater sensitivity in detecting gravel or other key elements.
Hook it up: When the fish are biting aggressively, hook your bait through the head to avoid deep hooking.
For light bites, Texas rigging the bait with a small, wide-gap worm hook puts the point farther into the body and, hopefully, closer to a fish's mouth. (This weedless style is helpful around wood or thick vegetation.)
Remember, head hooking and wacky hooking leaves the point exposed and, thereby, easily snares anything that bites. With a weedless arrangement, you'll need to set the hook by reeling down and lifting more vigorously to pull the point through the bait and into your fish.
A dropshot is best fished on spinning gear due to the light line (4- to 8-pound) needed to fish the light lures, providing more control to make the exact cast with a light line/lure combo.
And remember, shake the slack in the line; don't shake the weight. Dropshots are designed for subtlety, so play the stealth game and reap the rewards of persistence.