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Over the years, the number of accomplished anglers I have meet who have never tried fishing the drop-shot rig continues to puzzles me. These seasoned anglers rationalize their thoughts by saying something like: “I’m not interested in catching dinks”, “I’m a big bass fisherman", "I'm a power fishermen", or "I don't use sissy equipment." (meaning spinning equipment). I don’t disagree that one should fish a style compatible with their own personality. I completely understand the correlation of confidence and success. However, discarding any fishing technique minimizes one ability to consistently “catch” and most folks enjoy catching fish rather than just fishing. My goal is to effectively teach and coach fishing principles and techniques so one can adequately and properly analyze and apply knowledge to consistently catch.
In a nut shell...a drop-shot rig is nothing more than a weight at the bottom of your line with the hook located above the weight. You might be thinking, I fish for crappie, catfish, reds, drum or snapper (just pick a fish) using the same set up. That's right. The drop-shot rig is not new nor is it unique. It just gets refined for different species. The rigging and fishing techniques vary according to specie and fish habitat. Here’s a couple examples. Round ball weights do not pull through rock or brush well, while cylinder shapes do. Soft plastics secured on an Owner Mosquito hook (exposed point) get hung a lot in brush but changing the hook to an Owner Down-Shot Offset (unexposed Texas style) pulls through brush very well. What’s important is effectively fishing preferred habitat with honed skills capable of consistently coercing (tempting) bass into taking your bait (lure).
The drop-shot concept is used on each of us thousands of times every days and it works on us the same way it works on fish. It's real name is temptation and is manifested most often through advertising. Examples: Displayed banners while surfing the internet just begging us to click on them. Advertisements on the radio, TV, billboards, newspapers, magazines and even candy displays conveniently positioned near check-out points. The concept...tempt with something people want at the right place and time and some will take the bait. However, effectiveness depends on honing presentation of the who, how, what, when, where. Success depends on the individual’s conditioning, experiences and susceptibility at that specific time and place. Although the baits vary greatly, the fundamental foundation of honing, to perfection, the method of discreetly tempting in an harmless manner, is what catches the prey! Every expert marketer knows this and knows this temptation principle in advertising is a numbers game. Not everyone will be hooked every time but some will be hooked some of the time. Both God and the devil know this mindset. The bible (God’s divine word) best explains this principle along with how to avoid getting hooked into sinning. However, the devil continually says "It's ok! It's fun! It's not going to hurt you!”. That is deception and the devil is the master of deception.
Understanding this all important concept helps one focus on presentation instead of just fishing. When using the drop-shot rig, the bait is eye-level and dangling right in front of a fish's face. It’s one of the very few presentation which allows one to impart action to the bait without moving the bait forward. If correctly presented to a bass at the right time and for the right amount of time, a bass will bite. So, is the drop-shot rig the best method of fishing all the time? Absolutely not! It's no different than with advertising. If there is no audience or the audience is not receptive, the advertising is ineffectual. The next time you are out fishing, look at the number of rods, reels and lure combinations on the decks of boats. Anglers have them to vary temptations to the audience in hopes of hooking those that cannot resist. Now, let’s get down to drop-shot rigging so you can get back to tempting bass.
The following information is specific to largemouth and smallmouth bass fishing based on my experiences, as of today. I am sure some information will change as technology changes, just as it has in the past. Im my opinion, the two most critical items for the drop-shot technique are the rod and line. All finesse techniques are dependent on feel and sight. There are times when bass pick up the bait without your detection. But, if you have visible line, you can see it move. Before continuing…a word of caution about rods and lines…each company determines their own ratings and those rating vary greatly between companies. Listed are my personal preferred items, which I faithfully use and also use when instructing.
Rod: 6’8” (preferred) to 7’ medium to medium light power with an extra fast tip. St Croix’s Avid X and Legend Tournament series. These rod are very light, well balanced, great components, the right amount of flex (in the right place) to rocket your rig, enough backbone to easily set the hook and the extremely important sensitive tip to feel everything.
Main Line: Braid - Fins 40G - chartreuse color (highly visible), 5# mono diameter with 20# breaking strength. This line is perfectly round because of it’s center fiber plus 8 additional strands woven around it. The center fiber prevents the line from collapsing at the knot, which in turn, reduces line slippage and strengthens the knot. The 40G is very easy to cast, does not leave wax (used by some companies to give the line body) which wears off in the rod guides, does not set (coil) on the spinning reel, has wonderful knot strength and extremely sensitive. The Hi-Vis color helps detect those strikes you do not feel. In addition, the fibers are dyed individually before line construction, which prevents the color from wearing off.
Leader: Izorline 100% fluorocarbon leader material in 6 to 12#. Do not confuse fluorocarbon main line with fluorocarbon leader material. The construction and purpose are entirely different. Leader material is made by a multilayer process which is more durable, less stretchy, stiffer and more sensitive. Fluorocarbon has a refractive index similar to water so it’s less visible in water. Less visible, translated, means it does not spook the fish, as much. Izorline leader is difficult to find in Texas but very popular on the west coast. Remember to use a smaller line size in clearer water and determine leader length by the distance from the weight to the hook, at least doubled.
Main Line to Leader Knot: Dodd Knot: Yes, I developed this knot (out of necessity) about 8 or more years ago. It is the best and smallest main line to leader knot out there. It’s not that difficult to learn, does not slip, extremely tiny, and shaped like a bullet so it does not interfere with casting. There are several videos on YouTube which show how to tie. A note about the progression of this knot. The original knot was developed using old oval shaped line construction technology which required about 15 wraps to really prevent the knot from slipping. However, with newer truly round braid technology, (Fins 40G) it only requires 6 to 8 wraps.
Reel: Quantum Smoke S3 PT series in 2500 or 3000 size. The reel may not be as important but there are specific reasons I switched to this reel a couple years ago. The primary focus for most rod and reel companies over the past decade (or more) has been weight reduction. Most every company pushed the envelope of graphite technology to the expense of performance. Simply put, graphite reel bodies flex. Flexing affects sensitivity and stability. Quantum figured this out and opted for performance over weight reduction by developing their reel bodies with a new lightweight aluminum construction technology. The difference is like night and day. Yes, they are a slight bit heavier but solid as a rock. They also have a higher gear ratio and are coupled with an extremely smooth drag system, which is critical for fighting bass on light tackle.
Hooks: Owner Down-Shot Offset in 1/0 to 3/0 sizes. Most bass fishing in these parts is in and around cover (trees, bushes, etc) so Texas style is best. However, in open water, nose hooking on an Owner Mosquito is preferred. The nose hook method actually makes hook setting easier and more life like lure presentation. But, trying to pull an open hook trough cover is a mistake. The hook is tied to the leader with a Palomar knot followed by passing the tag end back through the hook’s eye from the point towards the shaft. This makes the hook point up, which greatly increased hook-ups in the roof of the mouth and less misses. Hook size depends on bait and/or line size. Generally, my go to is with Owner Down-Shot hooks 1/0 with 6#, 2/0 with 8# and 3/0 with 10 and 12# line. Hard hook sets will bend 1/0 and 2//0 sizes so remember to pull and wind rather than a hard jerk with the smaller sizes. Distance is determined by positioning of fish off the bottom and observing water depth. Starting point is 6” between weight and hook in water under 10’ and 12” in deeper water.
Weights: Cylinder drop-shot in 3/16 to 3/8 oz are used the most. These weights have a small “v” shaped swivel on one end. I prefer to tie a small overhand knot at the end of the line to help hold the weight, but no knot is required to tie the line to the weight. Just slip the weight through the weight’s eye and pull the line into the “v” to secure. This makes changing weight sizes very easy. In addition, the “v” will often cut the line when the weight gets hung, which makes it easy to just add another weight. The weight is the only item where I deviate from personal use to client use. I use both tungsten and lead weights personally but only use lead with clients. The different in cost and degree of skill necessary to actually compare does not justify spending several time more on tungsten. Tungsten is smaller and more sensitive but cost several times more than lead. Remember to use as small a weight as possible to maintain good feel and bottom contact
Bait: Soft plastic. Without sounding like a smart aleck, brand, scent, shape, size and color depend on what tempts the fish to bite. Which brings us back to our original purpose for using the drop-shot rig…correctly presented, it’s very temping to bass. Things to consider: shorter softer more supple plastics work better in colder water, but they tear much easier. Smaller profile (thinner) baits have a tendency to produce better in clearer and colder water. Thicker profiles displace a larger volume of water which is often needed to produce in darker water, because visibility is reduced. Translucent natural colors seem to produce better in clear water, while darker opaque colors have a higher contrast in darker waters. Starting point…about 4” long, lighter colors with clear skies and darker colors with darker skies.
You would agree there’s more to learn than just a lesson about fishing? Please give thanks to God for the blessing we enjoy as Americans and have a wonderful Thanksgiving with family.
I’m a freshwater bass and crappie fishing guide in Central Texas and have launched boats by myself for lots of years. I tried all kinds of launching methods, which all worked, but none were without issues. So, I decided to try something different and add steps to my trailer at the bow. I began researching boat trailer step manufacturing companies and found several, but only one stood out…, which is located in Iowa. What impressed me most was they custom make each set of steps and they looked very sturdy. So, once taking delivery of my new , I ordered their steps.
Unlike other companies which offer model choices, takes a very personal approach. They actually talk to you directly. They request photographs of YOUR boat and trailer and instruct, very precisely, how to measure the exact step placement. Then custom make each set of steps to YOUR specific boat/trailer specifications and needs. It takes about a month to get the custom made product delivered, but well worth the wait.
EZEE Step affords me the safety of leaving my boat securely positioned on the trailer when launching. I simply climb the rock solid steps to board on the boat’s bow, start the motor and back off the trailer. It could not be any safer or easier.
Launching a boat by yourself does not have to be difficult and frustrating. Let EZEE Step custom make a set of boat trailer steps for your boat. You will not regret the investment! Research for yourself at ezeestep.com and then call 1-815-252-6771
Barry Dodd - Teach ‘Em to Fish is a very satisfied customer.
Boat/trade shows continue their effectiveness in connecting buyers and sellers, even though dramatic technological advances have tried to circumvent the process. Why? Because people buy from people and these events are efficient places for buyers to look, ask questions and learn while sellers listen, answer your questions and help you purchase the boat of your dreams.
The boat show season starts soon so begin assessing and listing your family’s wants, needs and questions. It will make you more prepared and keep you focused on the important issues and not be swayed by great sales professionals. You and the dealer will be more satisfied when both buyer and seller accomplish their goals.
The Dallas International Boat Show is February 2–4 & 8–11, 2018. When you’re there, be sure and stop by and discuss your desires with . Lord willing, I will be there, as well, so be sure to stop and visit, I will introduce you to Ben and Chris.
sells and services boats.
Anyone care for baked crappie nibbles?
Berkley PowerBait Chroma-Glow Crappie Nibbles are excellent attractants and I use them a lot. Stick one on the hook of your favorite jig or the hook with a minnow and you will get more bites. You will discover that they are soft, straight from the jar, and can be picked off easily. That’s where baking will make them tougher and longer lasting. The instructions are simple. But a word of caution, it might be best to bake them wile your wife is gone. My wife is good with it, but some wives get upset with the slight odor, as reported back by a few.
Turn the oven on and set to 250 degrees. Pour and spread one or more jars into a cooking dish; I use a 9” pyrex pie pan. Once the oven reaches 250 degrees, place in the oven and leave for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, turn the oven off and leave in the oven for another 30 minutes. Now, remove from the oven and place on the counter until cool. When cool, distribute back into the jar(s). Suggestion: thoroughly wash the pan and place back where it belongs.
Berkley PowerBait Chroma-Glow Crappie Nibbles come in four colors: white, pink, yellow and chartreuse. I buy all four colors and mix them together for baking and leave the colors mixed in each jar. That way, I don’t have several jars out at one time. I have never found one color to work better than another but I have noticed that contrasting colors on jigs seems to get more bites.
Sometimes you just have to fish down in the mud! This phenomenon occurs often in winter when the water temperature drops into the low 50’s and below. It’s been my belief that crappie will “hug” a muddy bottom for warmth, very similar to the way they hold near warm rocks in cold water. But, crappie settled down in the mud at 66 degree water temperature was a phenomenon completely foreign to me. That changed last week (November 2017) on Lake LBJ, while fishing with a client, and found the feeding crappie holding down in mud. Just a couple of weeks prior, the coldest front of the season had dropped the water temperature from 82 degrees to 62 degrees almost overnight. During the following weeks a couple more modest fronts hit our area causing the water temperature and wind to remain unstable. Mornings were very cloudy and cool but water temperatures did warm a few degrees by late afternoon before the chilly nights pulled the water temperature lower, again.
Durning that time, fishing was slower that usual, which put me in a searching mode. Everyday proved to be another struggle finding active crappie. I varied approaches by fishing shallow water to deep water, breaks to flats, natural cover to artificial brush piles, little cover to lots of cover, live bait to all sorts of artificial baits without finding a consistence pattern.
The only slight pattern noticed was that lingering clouds buffered activity and only when the sun would peek from behind the clouds did activity increase a little. But, just as soon as the sun tucked back behind the clouds, activity subsided, again. After learning other guides and fishermen were experiencing the same, I justified the slowness to the sudden major water temperature change.
However, my natural inclination towards persistence finally paid off with the blessing of discovering feeding crappie just a few yards away from cover and down into the mud. It was then that I fully believed all those crappie displaying in and over cover on my electronics were mostly inactive and the ones off cover and in the mud were the feeders. Surprise! Surprise!
I had a single client on that November afternoon who had just moved to the lake and wanted to learn how to fish it. The day was no different than the past several…struggling to get a limit. Then, after moving to an inside main river bend which had a major break close to the bank and dock, we spot-locked over a small brush pile. We caught the usual four before the bite stopped. One under a slip bobber, two a few feet off the bottom and one, mid depth, on a jig. On a whim, I tossed a pink marabou feather jig, tipped with a Berkley PowerBait Chroma-Glow Crappie Nibble, about 20 feet away from the brush pile and towards a dock post near the break. The jig was allowed to free-fall to the bottom. Once on the bottom (about 22 feet deep), it was very deliberately pulled in a super slow motion by pulling the rod tip up. Causing it to just crawl over the barren muddy bottom. There was no tap or thump but; rather, just a feeling of extra weight. With a snap of the wrist, bingo, a good size crappie was on. I did the same again and again. What do you know…a pattern. After explaining the technique to my client and lipping a minnow on his jig, he was hooked up, as well. For the rest of our allotted time, we pulled in one nice big crappie after another. In fact, we decided to release them all so we could fish just a little longer and cherish that special moment where persistence coupled with experimentation resulted in an new unexpected but successful technique.
Over the years, I have told hundreds of people that I learn far more when the bite is extremely tough than when it’s hot. It forces me to think outside the box and experiment with unfamiliar techniques. Learning to fish for crappie in the mud was one of those blessing.
PS: Crappie may get into the mud for warmth, but I now believe that they are feeding on nymphs, small worms and an occasional minnow.
Most crappie jigs have varying amounts of lead (the head) poured onto a 90 degree bent hook. The most popular head shapes are minnow looking, banana shaped, round and long cylinder. All jigs heads can be used unpainted or painted in any color. There are a number of other options that will be discussed later.
These are minnow shaped heads. The head shape causes these jigs to have somewhat of an erratic action on free fall. The erratic action can cause the jigs to hang a little more in heavy cover. These jigs can be customs tied with feathers, man made materials or tipped with soft plastic bodies.
This is a banana shaped head and most of these have a spinner, like the one shown. These heads are just as effective being cast or vertically jigged. The bottom spinner give an appealing flash. Like most jigs, they can be custom tied or used with soft plastic bodies.
These are round shaped heads. Since the head is round, these jigs free fall very straight down and are the type most often used fishing heavy cover. These jigs are customs tied with feathers, man made materials or tipped with soft plastic bodies.
These are cylinder shaped head and are used with soft plastic tube bodies. The jig head is pushed inside the tube body and then the hook eye is push up through the plastic.
Crappie fishing is a wonderfully fun action packed angling sport and the firm white very mild meat is a superior tasting table fare. Whether you are looking for a bag full of filets or just get excited catching and releasing, jigging for crappie is a skill well worth learning.
Jigging is nothing more than tying a small 1/32 to 1/8 oz jig onto your line and dropping it in the water over a school of crappie, teasing them a bit and jerking when they thump the jig. Honestly, if the crappie below you and actively feeding, the jig is at the correct depth and you jerk at the correct time, you can catch ‘em.
Since crappie fishing is relatively inexpensive and this is the beginning of the good catching season, this series will cover very helpful information and instruction on jig fishing for crappie.
Check back often as I delve into this fun angling art style.
Most all quality fishing rods are designed with a hook keeper above the handle. However, using the hook keepers on drop-shot rods leaves the weight dangling, which is a nuisance. I have tried all kinds of add-on gadgets, including rubber bands to hold the weight, but none last and many are just downright awkward. After some frustration, I decided to design an effective, permanent and easy to use weight keeper. This is how it’s done.
Begin with hard stainless-steel leader wire about 0.029” diameter and bend the wire to look like the shapes at the right. Next take a hammer (chasing hammer works best) and an anvil to flatten the two wire ends that will be wrapped. Then take a file and taper those ends so the wrapping thread will smoothly ride up and lay over the ends. Next wrap the keeper ends to the butt end of your rod and finish with rod wrap epoxy.
The final product should look like the photo below. The line just slides under the weight keeper and holds it in place until ready to pull out and use. Being that it’s easy, effective and permanent, I have found it a great asset and no longer have weights dangling around. Let me know how you like it.
Barry Dodd –Teach ‘Em to Fish Guide Service
Why can’t I feel the fish bite? Probably because there is slack in you fishing line, which is a challenge when teaching folks to fish. “Tight line” is what telegraphs feel to the angler and “slack line” is what kills sensitivity. Look at these photos. You are looking at a chartreuse worm on a hook at the end of an orange line. The chartreuse worm is lying at the bottom of the water. The left photo shows “slack line” and the right photo shows “tight line”.
All professional anglers understand the importance of feeling everything happening at the end of their line. They also know that every undetected bite could cost them money. They spend hundreds of dollars for each rod and reel setup, yet, all that money spent on quality equipment is wasted if the fish bite is not detected.In most cases, “slack line” is due to inexperience, inattentiveness and/or conditions. Line management may be the last thing an inexperienced angler is concerned about. Learning how to cast, how to work the lure and what a bite feels like dominates their thoughts. Once those skills become less consuming, constant attentiveness and focus on line management is required on every cast. If that were not enough to think about, wind, waves, trees, docks, weeds and other obstacles must be considered. Getting fish to bite is one thing and catching fish is a totally different skill. I estimate that 40% to 60% of bites are never detected for one reason or another.
Line management differs with different fishing techniques but the principle holds true; having enough contact with the lure to transmit as much feel as possible to the angler. The more contact there is with the lure, the better you feel subtleties of the bottom, branches, weeds, and bites. Line management should be your priority after every cast and during the retrieve. “Slack line” is challenging even to the most highly skilled and is only managed by experience and attentiveness.
All my clients expect to catch fish but the exchange of stress for relaxation, fun and memories, being on the water, enjoying nature and learning how to fish pays the biggest dividends.
Barry Dodd - Teach ‘Em to Fish Guide Service
Jan 1, 2013 at 11:58 AM