The drop shot rig is a simple and effective presentation for targeting a variety of game fish species, but is primarily used for bass fishing. It creates a natural presentation that entices even the most finicky bass to bite. It can be fished on the bottom or at various depths in the water column. It can be fished vertically, in a current, or drifted.
A drop shot rig consists of a line with a weight at the end with a baited hook attached to the line about 6-8 inches above the weight. Various hooks, weights, and bait options can be used with a drop shot rig. Using a drop shot weight with a crimped swivel makes it quick and easy to attach to your line, although any weight that can be tied to the bottom of the line will work. Weights in the 1/8 to 1/4 oz are most common.
One of the more common setups for bass fishing is a 3/8 to 1oz drop weight, with a 0/1-0/4 hook, using 10 to 15 lb braided line with a 4 to 6 ft fluorocarbone leader. Depending on your target fish species, and water conditions, you can increase or decrease weight and hook sizes. In really rough water, you may need to use up to a 3oz weight.
Baits options are going to be a diverse as the target fish species. For fishing smallmouth and largemouth bass you can’t go wrong with a soft plastic finesse worm in the 5 inch range or a minnow imitation. Nose hooking is the most common way to rig the bait, but their are other options. Using a wacky rig or Texas rig style bait setup will also work.
Recommended gear and setup
Ninety percent of the time a drop shot rig is used with finesse techniques for bass fishing. Casting gear can be used occasionally but a spinning rod and reel is your go-to finesse setup for the large majority of your drop-shotting presentations.
There are no specific guidelines for rod and reel size but a 7-foot, light-medium action spinning rod is going to perform as well as anything for fishing a drop shot rig in most situations.
If you’re going to be drop shotting vertically over small schools of fish or targeting structure, a slightly shorter rod will provide more accuracy and control of bait placement. When selecting a rod, the most important consideration tip sensitivity. You want a rod with a sensitive tip that will allow you to feel bites.
Fluorocarbon or braided line are preferred over monofilament for improved sensitivity to bites. A common setup is a 10 to 15 pound braided main line attached to a 4 to 6 foot fluorocarbon leader. The stretch resistent braided line allows bites to be felt and transmitted through the rod and to the angler quicker, leading to a higher hookup rate.
How to tie the Drop Shot Rig
The drop shot rig is one of the easiest rigs to tie. Just follow 3 simple steps.
- Tie a bell weight to the tag end of your line or leader using an improved cinch knot or uni knot. Alternatively, attach a drop shot weight with a clip to the tag end of the line.
- About 8 inches above the weight use a palomar knot to secure your hook to the line or leader. Some of the newer drop shot hooks feature swivels that can make rigging easier.
- Rig your bait to your hook through the nose or using wacky or Texas rig style rigging.
It’s that easy. There are other more complicated knots and methods for tying a drop shot rig but why make it more difficult than it needs to be?
Bass fishing with a Drop Shot Rig
When the bass aren’t biting and fishing pressure is high, the drop shot is the go-to rig that professional bass anglers turn to. It will work in clear or murky water—and when no other presentation is producing a response.
The drop shot rig can be fished in one foot of water or one hundred feet. It can be fished from shore or boat. It shines in muck-covered bottoms where other popular bottom fishing rigs, such as the Carolina rig or Texas rig, don’t perform as well because bait is dragged directly along the bottom through the muck. The drop shot maintains the bait itself above the slime and muck where it can be seen by bass.
The drop shot rig is so simple it can be set up and fished by a novice, yet it is a popular rig even among the most seasoned bass anglers. It can be fished vertically off the side of a boat using a “jig” style techique to bounce it off the bottom. It can be fished using a traditional cast and retrieve method.
There are a variety of baits that can be used with a drop shot rig when targeting bass. Soft plastics are going to be your most productive baits. Simple is often better. A soft plastic worm between 4 and 5 inches is going to get as many bites as anything else on the market. And I’ve never fished any color more effective than green. It’s not sexy, but bass like it.
Drop shotting for Perch, Bluegill, and Crappie
The drop shot is one of the more popular bass fishing rigs but that doesn’t mean it’s only good for bass. A lot of panfish anglers use a drop shot equally well for catching perch, bluegill, crappie, and other panfish. A drop shot rig can be downright deadly when panfish are feeding just off the bottom.
There isn’t really much you need to do to adapt the drop shot rig for panfish fishing other than decrease your weight size, use a slightly smaller hook, and mix up your bait selection a bit. A drop shot weight in the 1/4 to 3/8oz range is typically ideal. You need enough weight to get your bait down on the bottom, but not so heavy you can’t detect the bite.
Perch, bluegill, and crappie have substantially smaller mouths than bass. Any hook size between a #6 and #10 will work for most panfish species. Tip your hook with a piece of a worm, a cricket or small minnow and you’ll get a panfish or two biting.
Fishing a drop shot rig for Walleye
When fishing walleye off the bottom, a drop shot rig is a great presentation to get ’em biting. It works particularly well when walleye are finicky and need a little coaxing. It’s also an ideal rig to fish in water where thick vegetation, stringy moss, or muck is covering the bottom. With a dialed in drop shot rig you can be in contact with bottom while keeping your bait free of debris at an ideal working depth.
A drop shot also works well in waters where invasive zebra mussels cover much the bottom, such as Lake Erie. Great Lake anglers often resort to fishing a drop shot when they want to avoid snagging on mussels but need their bait within biting range of bottom feeding walleye. 6-12 inches off the bottom is ideal bait placement to attract bottom feeding walleye.
Ideal hook size for fishing walleye using a drop shot is between #2 and #6. If you’re fishing near cover edges, weedbeds, or other structure a smaller hook in the #4-#6 range is recommended. Octopus-style, offset-shank and wide-gap hook types all have their place when fishing walleye and can compliment a drop shot rig nicely.