Drop Shot Rig Fishing (Setup, Knots, Baits & Tips)

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You might have heard the term drop shot fishing being used around the banks of rivers and lakes, particularly by walleye, perch and bass fishermen. But what exactly is drop shot fishing? 

It’s a very effective method for catching fish in a very subtle manner and is proven to work extremely well when the fish are selective and annoying. 

Join me as we dive into drop shot fishing, from what it is to how to rig it and fish it well. 

What Is A Drop Shot Fishing Rig? 

A drop shot fishing rig comprises a 5 to 7-foot light 10 lb fluorocarbon leader with a drop shot weight on the bottom and a hook tied about a foot above the weight. You then add your chosen bait onto the hook, like a dead minnow or a soft plastic. 

This rigging style allows your bait to be suspended at your chosen depth off the bottom and is also a good finesse tactic as the gear used is so light. It also makes your bait look more natural to predators, and you can easily get your bait into the strike zone. 

It’s a very effective rig for catching all types of bass, walleye, pike, and other predators that feed near the bottom. 

A simple drop shot rig setup

The Drop Shot Technique 

Now that we know what this style of fishing is let’s look at why you should use it and why many other anglers find it to be such an effective method. 

Your Bait Looks More Natural

Drop shot fishing works so well because instead of your bait sitting on the bottom, it sits 1 to 3 feet or more (it’s up to you) above the bottom. This makes your bait look far more natural, as most baitfish tend to sit above the bottom, not right on it. 

It also improves your bait’s action when you move it since it’s suspended, giving it a natural action that spooky, shy, overfished fish can’t resist. 

You Feel Every Bite 

Unlike other rigs with a weight positioned above the hook, a drop shot rig has a large weight below the hook. This keeps direct tension between you and your hooked bait, meaning that any bite will be more obvious. 

By feeling every bite and noticing them much faster than with other rigs, you have more time to react, which should result in a better hook-up rate when compared to rigs with weights above the hook. 

It’s A Very Versatile Way Of Fishing 

While drop fishing should be your go-to in clear waters since it uses light gear that is pretty much invisible to fish, it also works in multiple situations.

The best line to use for drop shotting is a fluorocarbon leader.

The clear advantage of using a light fluorocarbon leader is that it is invisible, which means fish can not see anything but your bait. This makes it perfect for clear water and fishing areas with spooky or over-intelligent fish that won’t eat anything natural. 

But, it’s also great in murky water, as since your bait is suspended off the bottom, you keep it in the strike zone at all times, and being suspended makes it easier for fish to find than when it’s lying on the bottom. 

Adding to the rig’s versatility, you can also fish it around submerged structures, bouncing the weight on the structure while having your bait sitting above it. This is guaranteed to entice a strike from ambush predators like bass, pike, and walleye. 

How To Fish A Drop Shot Rig 

When using drop shot rigs, you only have two basic options, and they are both very effective: Vertical Jigging or Drop & Drag. 

Vertical Jigging  

Vertical jigging with a drop shot rig should only be used when you know there are fish under your boat and what depth they are sitting at. This means it’s best to utilize a fish finder to use the jig method with any success.

Here is how you do it: 

  • Find some fish on your fish finder 
  • Identify the depth the fish are sitting at 
  • Adjust your hook position on the leader to match the fishes depth 
  • Drop your drop shot rig to the bottom 
  • Leave it there and wait for a strike 
  • If you don’t get a strike, try lifting your rod up and drow to move the bait 

When you get vertical jigging with a drop shot rig correctly, you can be very successful and catch almost every fish you see on your fishfinder. 

Drop & Drag

When fishing a drop shot rig with the drop and drag technique, you are essentially dragging the weight along the bottom with your bait suspended above it. You can do this by either drifting with a boat or kayak or casting and winding in the rig from a boat or shore.

Here is how you do it: 

  • Cast out your drop shot rig 
  • Let it sink to the bottom 
  • Either let the boat drift as your weight bounces on the bottom 
  • Or slowly wind in your bait, so it bounces along the bottom 
  • If your weight doesn’t stay on the bottom, add a heavier one 
  • Recast or keep drifting until you get a bite 

The great thing about this technique is that you can quickly cover a lot of water and hopefully find where the fish are holding. 

Note that you might need to adjust the leader length and the hook position so that the bait is suspended properly, as it will be dragged at an angle. 

What Bait Is Best For Drop Shot Fishing? 

Walleye caught Ice Fishing on a drop-shot rig with a
green plastic worm

The great thing about drop-shot fishing is that you can use a huge range of different baits on your hook. 

The number one choice for most anglers is a 3 or 4-inch long soft plastic that either replicates a shad or a minnow, but it can also be very effective with a soft plastic worm. But you don’t have to limit yourself to just soft plastics; you can use any lure you want and think might work. 

Another great bait to add to your hook are dead or live shad and minnows, which look about as natural as bait can get. 

How To Tie A Drop Shot Rig 

A simple drop shot setup with a shad plastic lure

When drop shot fishing, you want to use a 7-foot light to medium power rod with fast action and then coupled it with a spinning reel with either 10 to 15 lb braid or mono. If the fish you target are under 5 lbs, reduce your braid or mono to less than 10 lbs.

This is the perfect setup as it’s light; you can feel everything from the bites to how the rig is fishing, now onto building the rig.

What You’ll Need   

Here is what you will need to build a drop shot rig: 

  • Your rod and reel setup with line pulled out through all the rod rings 
  • 6 – 10 lbs fluorocarbon leader 
  • A size 2 drop shot hook 
  • A drop shot weight of 1/4 – 1 ounce 
  • A bait to add to your hook 
  • To learn the Palomar knot & the double uni knot 

Once you have everything ready and have practiced the knots, you are ready to start fishing. 

Step 1 – Connect The Fluorocarbon Leader To Your Mainline Braid/Mono

Use a double uni knot to tie your fluoro leader to the braid or mono from your reel. The double uni knot essentially creates two siding knots that meet in the middle, making it very secure. 

It’s also a very small knot, so you can add a leader as long as you wish and wind it onto your spinning reel without causing casting out issues. 

Step 2 – Add The Drop Shot Hook 

Start by deciding how high up you want your bait to suspend, usually 1 – 5 feet, but it depends on where and how you are fishing. Choose 1 – 5 feet from the end of the leader and tie on your hook using the Palomar knot. 

The best hooks for drop shot fishing are the Gamakatsu Drop Shot/Split Shot Hook, which always should start with a size 2 hook. You can move to a size 4 if the fish are smaller and you struggle to get bites. The great benefit of using this hook is that you can use it for a split shot rig as well,

Step 3 – Add The Drop Shot Weight 

Now take your drop shot weight, thread the leader’s end through the eye, and pull it through. You should not need to tie a knot as it should secure itself, but you can use an improved clinch knot here if necessary. 

Step 4 – Add Your Bait 

Now it’s time to add your bait. No matter what bait you use, whether live or dead minnows or soft plastics, hook the bait through the nose from under the chin and up. This will ensure the whole body is free to swim and have a natural-looking action. 

Step 5 – Start Fishing 

Either use the vertical jigging method or the drop and drag method to try and entice some fish. It shouldn’t take very long to hook up. 

Best Knots For A Drop Shot Rig

The double uni knot, improved clinch knot, and the Palomar knot are the best knots for drop shot fishing. Make sure you tie these perfectly, as the knots will be your weak link in your rig and cause you to lose fish and your drop shot rig.

Dropping Out 

Thanks very much for reading my article. I hope you found it useful and know everything about drop shot fishing so you can try it out for yourself the next time you’re on the water. It truly is a very effective way to catch a lot of fish. 

Please check out our other articles on split shot rigs and our in-depth article on why lead fishing weights and sinkers are often banned!

Steve Fitzjohn