Mastering the Drop Shot
Try this technique when post-front conditions make bass finicky.
By Paul A. Cañada
With apologies to Charles Dickens, March is the best of times — and the worst of times — for bass fishing. Many bass are in transition in March and, depending upon the water location, some bass are pre-spawn, some are spawning and others are post-spawn. All of these behaviors impact the feeding mood of bass. But another major factor in March is the variable weather conditions.
During a warming trend or after several days of stable weather, it’s hard to keep bass from attacking your lure. But what happens when a cold front drops air and water temperatures? Bass go from an aggressive to a neutral to a negative mood in a matter of hours.
Suddenly the chuckin’ and windin’ techniques are worthless (except for a good workout). After a cold front, it’s time to look for another way to catch some bass. One method, which has really taken bassers by storm (pardon the pun), is using a drop shot rig.
The drop shot is ideal for finicky bass either after a cold front or when fishing pressure is high. Even when the fishing is good, I keep a drop rig handy because I can go through an area and catch the aggressive bass and then turn around, go through the area again, and catch more bass on the drop shot.
It is also a good way to help novice anglers catch bass. In most bass fishing techniques, feeling the subtle take of a bass is difficult for beginners. On a drop shot, however, a bass feels very little resistance from the line or weight so not only does it have a tendency to hold artificial baits longer, it also makes it easier for a novice to set the hook, or even for the bass to hook itself.
Most anglers think of the drop shot as a vertical presentation, but I have had just as much success pitching the rig to cover or casting and working the rig back to the boat with methodical, short hops much as one would fish a Texas-rigged worm. Long pauses between hops gives sluggish bass time to find the bait and decide to eat it. If you move it too fast, the bass will ignore it. Although I have been talking about using the technique in post-frontal, spring conditions, the drop shot was originally developed for deep water, summer or winter vertical fishing. It is a technique that is easy to master and will serve you well all year when nothing else works.
Setting up a drop shot is simple. I usually tie a worm hook about 14 to 16 inches above the end of the line with a Palomar knot. (Of course, you can make this leader any length necessary, depending upon conditions, which we’ll get into later.) After tying on the hook, don’t trim the tag end, but loop the tag end through the eye of the hook again. This helps the hook hold the lure horizontal.
Now, on the end of the line, you can be creative. Sometimes I add a snap so I can change weights as conditions change. For example, if the wind picks up and I can’t feel the weight on the bottom, I’ll add more weight by unhooking the sinker and replacing it with a heavier one. Bass casting sinkers are ideal for this set up. If I’m fishing heavy cover, I like to use a weight with a slimmer profile such as the Mojo down-shot weights. I always use the lightest weight I can get away with so the bass is less likely to feel the weight when it takes the lure.
Other times I tie a live-rubber jig and plastic craw to the end of the line rather than a plain sinker. Now I have two baits for the bass to choose from. The jig’n’craw/worm combination is especially effective for pitching into trees or brush. The hook-up ratio is usually about half and half between the two baits.
Another variable in open water situations is to use a split shot hook on the top hook, rather than a worm hook, and then nose hook a small plastic grub or 4-inch worm so the hook tip is exposed. This results in almost every fish hooking itself.
Finally, experiment with leader length. If I’m fishing heavy cover, I keep the leader short. In deep, clear water, I increase the leader length. In clear water I use 6-pound monofilament or 8-pound fluorocarbon line with 1/8-ounce weights. In stained water, I use 10- to 12-pound line and 1/4-ounce weights, unless it is really windy.
On your next trip, when the bass catching slows down, experiment with drop-shot rigs, and you may be able to put a few more bass in the boat.