Few things in fishing cause more ire than a fish that refuses to bite. When combined with suboptimal fishing conditions, such as steep terrain, fast currents, or fish that go nowhere, it can make any angler want to drop their rods and quit. However, if you can learn to harbor your patience and hone your sleight of hand, you can master a technique that has helped many an expert snag a fish: the drop shot.
Drop shot fishing is versatile and accessible to both novice and expert anglers. Explore our guide to read more about how to perfect your drop shot and hook more fish during your next outing.
What is Drop Shot in Fishing?
Drop shot rigs are a popular fishing setup using a weighted leader that makes your bait sink toward the bottom of a body of water. The weight allows the bait to capture the natural movement of the currents on the lake, ocean, or river floor to simulate the movement of a fish’s prey, like a worm or smaller fish. Not only can it help make your bait look more attractive, but the extra weight also allows your bait to sink lower and capture the attention of bottom-feeding fish, like catfish or bass.
When Should I Use a Drop Shot Fishing Rig?
The versatility of drop shot rigs means that they can be used pretty much at any time, anywhere. As a form of finesse fishing, drop shots require more than just tying a weight to the bottom of your line and using lightweight gear; it also requires understanding and utilizing your underwater environment to your advantage. Keeping a taut line helps little if your bait rests too low or you use the wrong kind of bait or can’t keep your bait in the right position. The following few scenarios highlight why taking the time to perfect your drop shot is worthwhile.
Not only does the weight at the bottom of a drop shot allow your bait to sink lower and get the attention of bottom-feeding fish, but they also help get your bait over rocky lake bottoms, steep ocean dips, and generally uneven terrain. Keeping your bait in one place in such areas can help you nab some stubborn or especially shy fish that might be scared off by other anglers or fish.
When fish stay suspended and nonreactive, sometimes the best game plan is to stay put and be patient. Drop shots allow you to keep your bait in one place for a long period of time without having to worry about a current or other fish carrying it away. The weighted nature of drop shots also makes it easier for you to wiggle your bait in ways that might get the fish to start biting.
Regular rigs without weights make it difficult to keep your bait hovering where it needs to be. When seaweed or other sea debris covers the surface of your bait or hides your fish, it can be hard to catch their attention. Drop shots are the perfect solution for keeping your bait in a tantalizing position while using your surroundings to your advantage. Drop shots are also ideal to keep your bait in steep but shallow waters under hard-to-reach areas, like caves, piers, and sunken branches.
Problems with Current
Fast-moving currents make it difficult for even the most skilled anglers to set up a proper shot. The weights used in drop shots can make it easy to keep your bait in sight of fish without needing to reset your shot.
The weighted rigs of drop shots allow you to utilize the motion of the current and more effectively simulate the movements of a fish’s prey. Novice anglers and exasperated experts alike might be tempted to shake their bait to capture a stubborn fish’s attention, but capturing the current will be your best bet.
How Do I Set Up a Drop Shot Fishing Rig?
Many fishing gear retailers will have rods, reels, lines, and hooks specifically for drop shots. If you have the resources to invest in different kinds of equipment, you might consider drop shot gear a worthwhile way to get a lot of practice. However, you can set up a drop shot with pretty much any equipment you already have; one of the best parts of the drop shot technique is that it requires no special tools.
To set up a proper drop shot rig, you need to buy the right kind of rod. A medium-weight rod will do, but a lightweight or medium-light rod is preferable in general. Lightweight rods allow you to better detect bites from fish and make maneuvering bait in a realistic motion easier. You also want a similarly-weighted reel to effectively balance your shot.
You also do not need any special sort of line, although drop shot-specific products exist. In general, you want a line that is light enough to feel a bite but can withstand the fight of a 15-20 pound fish. Once you weave it through the eye of your pole, you want to have around a foot of excess line so that you can properly set up your hook and weight. You do not want to attach your bait directly to the end of the line, since it’s thicker and brighter to attract more fish. You will also use this part of the line to loop your leader.
Once you tie your line to your rod, attach your leader; you should strive to use leaders that are approximately 15 to 18 inches long to give yourself plenty of room for both your hook and your weight. You want to use a lightweight material, like fluorocarbon, and a strong enough knot to ensure your leader doesn’t break when attempting to reel in a fish (or while waiting to get one).
Tie your hook approximately 6-8 inches in between your leader and where you plan to tie your weight. A size number 1 or number 2 hook works well for drop shots, and again should be tied securely with a fishing knot, like a Palomar knot. Take care that the hook is tied through both sides of the hook’s eye for proper placement; the hook should be pointed upwards and off to the side.
You should have around 10-12 inches of slack left on your line to attach your weight. Simply thread your leader through the eye of the weight and secure it to the line; snip away any excess line. Various kinds of weights are available for you to choose from and typically come in either tungsten or lead. Attach your bait or lure, live or artificial, to your hook to complete the rig; whichever lure you choose, remember to choose ones that properly simulate the prey fish in your area will go after.
Tips to Improve Your Drop Shot
Start with Less Weight
A big component of drop shots focuses on being lightweight from the rod to the leader; this includes the weights. Most weights for drop shots will be around 1-3 ounces because they are heavy enough to sink the bottom and stay, but also light enough to drag in the water and recast quickly. Using heavier weights might be necessary to keep your weight put in stronger currents or thick debris, but err on the side of needing as less weight as possible. The more naturally you can emulate the motions of a fish’s prey with less movement, the more likely you can focus on feeling when a fish bites.
Experiment with Different Equipment and Techniques
Although drop shots can be done with pretty much any equipment, you need to feel which combination of pole, reel, lines, and weights feel best for you. Certain conditions, like a jagged rocky bottom or fast-moving currents, can make it difficult to set up a drop shot and will require you to use different kinds of weights or knots to ensure the most secure knot and bait placement. Try out different kinds of rods, leader lengths, and hook sizes to find what works best for the kinds of fish you look to hook.
You should also experiment with different styles of setting up your drop shot. Drop shots, as the name implies, require that you typically cast a line, wait for the weight to hit the bottom, and hold your position until a fish bites or you reel your line in to try a different location. However, in especially clear waters or for anglers with good aim, you can try lowering your shot right above them. Practice trying to drag your drop shot across ledges and sandy ocean floors to nag bass hiding in tough spots.
Read About Where You Are Fishing
Learn about the type of fish and environment you will be fishing in to figure out the best kind of rod, lure, and weight to use. You might need to go a few times or bring a few types of materials to figure out which works best for each fishing situation. Utilize the components of your fishing spot to your advantage, like using a bed of docks or the poles of a dock to place your drop shot rig. You just might be able to nab a bunch of fish in places where others cannot. The more you practice, the easier it will be to set up and hook more fish.