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Temptation of Drop-Shot
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.
Nov 28, 2019 at 8:11 PM