We are reaching mid summer patterns on the Big Lake and both species of bass are in their summer haunts. The bite will be finicky at times and usually short in duration. If you have good electronics you will see that during feeding periods, the bass will suspend off the bottom. Now is the time to pull a drop shot rig out of the old tackle box.
Wherever its roots, the drop shot rig is more than the latest clear water/deep water fad. It’s a valuable tool that can help anglers in all waters — clear and dingy, deep and shallow, moving and still — catch more fish, more often.
There are a lot of drop shot rig variations, but they all have one thing in common — the soft plastic lure rides above the weight. It’s really not a light tackle thing or finesse thing. It’s a weight thing. Plenty to take it down, none to interfere with the action of the lure. In drop shot fishing, the weight is an anchor. It takes your bait into position and it keeps it there, but is functionally inert in the actual presentation of the lure. Whether it’s a little 4″ Gambler Stud or an 7″ Zoom trick worm, whether the weight you use to get it in place is 1/8 oz or 1 oz, whether the line is 6 pound test or 20, it’s all basically the same deal — the weight is sitting on bottom while you dance the worm around with the rod tip on a tight line.
So why dropshot?
A soft plastic lure fished with no added weight drifts with a very fluid motion that has natural appeal to a predator. But it’s tough to fish an unweighted soft plastic very deep, for obvious reasons. And this time of year on Champlain the fish are going deeper. Right now the best smallies are 18-20 feet deep and largemouth in Ti are 8 to 10 feet deep.
Enter the dropshot rig. The weight takes the bait into position, but once the lure is in the potential fish zone, the weight is resting on bottom, out of play, and the lure itself is fished pretty much in a weightless fashion. Not only does the weight not affect the way the lure moves in the water, there’s no weight between you and the hook to interfere with your sense of feel when a fish takes the lure.
No doubt some will opine that a Carolina rig accomplishes much the same thing, but nothing could be further from the truth. In Carolina rig fishing, you have to pull the weight to move the bait. It’s impossible to fish it in place. If you stop pulling for more than a few seconds, the bait is resting on bottom and there’s no way to get it off bottom again without moving it a considerable distance. The Carolina rig is superior for covering water, but the drop shot rig really shines for triggering fish.
Further, with the drop shot rig, the part of the line that is subject to abrasion from bottom debris is not between you and the lure — or between you and the fish, once you’ve hooked one. This allows you to work in cover or across abrasive bottom substrate (eg, zebra mussel beds) with confidence that you’re not likely to lose a fish to a badly nicked or frayed line.
In a word, twist. As in line twist. It comes with the technique. Using a fully swiveled weight can help, but much of the twist comes from the bait, not the weight, so you’ll never eliminate all of it that way.
I’ve tried putting a small swivel a couple feet above the hook. Caught fish rigged that way, too. But it makes tying the whole thing up into a project, and it really does interfere with my sense of feel. A swivel may not be much hardware between me and the hook, but it’s infinitely more than no hardware between me and the hook.
California drop shot guru Rich Tauber says that most of the twist occurs not while actually fishing the lure, but while reeling it back to the boat for your next cast. He recommends reeling the lure back to the boat very slowly and steadily following the working portion of the retrieve. Slow it up, and you cut that way down. Of course accepting that idea and developing the discipline to wind it in slowly when there are more casts to make and fish to tempt are two different things. I try, but in the end, I found the best approach for me is to take what measures I can to control the twist, but to live with what I get and then minimize it by clipping everything off and running the free line behind the boat as I idle in to the ramp every couple trips.