Drop Shot Fishing: Essential Guide To Rig Setup, Baits & Tactics

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You might have heard the term drop shot fishing, particularly if you target predatory fish such as walleye, pike, perch, and bass.

Drop shotting is growing in popularity and is a favorite fishing method because it’s easy to set up and requires only a basic tackle set. Unlike many other forms of angling, all you need is a small, light rod and reel, a pocket full of terminal gear, and an assortment of various lures. It’s also great in winter when you only get a limited time fishing at short notice.

Using light tackle is one of the most enjoyable aspects of fishing. So, join me as we dive into drop shot fishing, from what it is, how to rig it, and how to start this exciting method of fishing.

Key Takeaways

  • Learn the tactics of drop shot fishing and how you can successfully use them.
  • What fish can you catch, and where best to find them?
  • Understand the gear, rig, and baits that are best to use.

What Is Drop Shot Fishing? 

Drop shot fishing is a finesse technique used in both freshwater and saltwater. The setup, known as a drop shot rig, involves tying a hook to the line with a trailing leader attached to a weight. This rigging method allows the bait to suspend in the water column while the weight rests on the bottom, presenting the bait at the desired depth and mimicking the natural movements of prey.

This technique is effective in various conditions, particularly when fish are less active or feed near the bottom. It allows for precise bait placement and is prolific around different types of cover, such as rocks, fallen trees, and weed beds, without getting snagged.

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. Finally, 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 it 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. 

Drop shot rig
A basic drop shot rig setup using a soft plastic as bait

What Fish Can Be Caught Drop Shot Fishing?

Drop shot fishing is an effective technique anglers employ to target various fish species. Predominantly used in freshwater environments, this method is highly versatile and suitable for catching:

  • Bass: Both largemouth and smallmouth bass are favored targets for drop shotting.
  • Panfish: Species such as crappie and bluegill are often enticed by the finesse presentation of a drop shot rig.
  • Perch: Perch respond well due to their bottom-feeding habits.
  • Walleye: Known for their preference for deeper water, the setup can effectively reach the depths where walleye reside.
  • Trout: This method can also be adapted for trout, especially in still waters or slow-moving streams.

What Are The Best Places To Fish When Drop Shot Fishing?

Anglers can practice drop shot fishing in multiple locations, each offering distinct advantages. Freshwater bodies with clear water tend to be ideal, as the subtleness of the technique works well where fish are more discerning.

  • Lakes and Ponds: Quiet, still waters often house bass around structures like docks, weed beds, and rocky outcrops. These are prime spots for drop-shot rigs.
  • Rivers: Look for slack areas behind natural breaks like boulders or fallen trees in flowing waters. Here, the water current is slower, allowing the rig to stay in place.
  • Reservoirs: Offering deep and often clear water, reservoirs are filled with spots perfect for drop shot techniques, particularly near man-made structures.

Consider the lake or river bed of your chosen spot:

  • Gravel or Rock: Hard areas are good for holding baitfish, where predators prefer to hunt.
  • Weedy Areas: Be cautious; a cylindrical weight may be more suitable to avoid snagging.

It’s essential to note that while drop shot fishing is versatile, its effectiveness is heightened in areas where fish feed off the bottom or are reluctant to bite. Try to find areas with cover where predatory fish such as bass are more likely to inhabit and hunt in these areas. Fishing from a pier is a perfect opportunity to catch fish due to the abundance of rocks and weed patches.

Drop Shot Technique & Benefits

Now that we know what this style of fishing is, let’s look at three reasons why you should use it and why many other anglers find it 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 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 fish it around submerged structures, bouncing the weight on the structure while your bait sits above it. This motion will entice a strike from ambush predators like bass, pike, and walleye. 

How To Fish A Drop Shot Rig 

You only have two basic options when using drop shot rigs: vertical jigging or drop and drag. Both are very effective:  

Vertical Jigging Fishing  

Vertical jigging with a drop shot rig should only be used when you know the fish under your boat and what depth they are sitting at. The best way to accurately find fish at various depths is using a sonar fish finder with wifi capabilities to fish the jig method successfully.

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 down 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 Fishing

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

Drop shot rig caught bass
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 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 soft plastics; you can use any lure you want and think might work. 

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

How To Tie A Drop Shot Rig 

Drop shot rig with lure
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 couple it with a spinning reel with either a 10 to 15 lb braid or mono. If your target fish is under 5 lbs, reduce your braid or mono to less than 10 lbs.

This is the perfect setup as it’s light, allowing you to feel the bites and have positive control of the rig.

How To Build A Drop Shot Rig   

Here is what you will need to set up 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 to 1 ounce 
  • A bait to add to your hook 
  • Learn how to tie the Palomar knot & the double uni knot 

Once you have everything prepared, you can start connecting it all together. 

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 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 affecting the distance you cast. 

Step 2 – Add The Drop Shot Hook 

Start by deciding how high up you want your bait to suspend, usually between 1 to 5 feet, but it depends on where and how you are fishing. Select the desired distance from the end of the leader and tie on your hook using the Palomar knot. Remember, you can adjust the depth if you don’t find fish at the selected distance.

The best hooks for drop shot fishing are the Gamakatsu Drop Shot, 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 this hook is that you can also use it for a split shot rig.

Step 3 – Add The Drop Shot Weight 

Next, 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 Palomar knot are the best for drop shot fishing. Ensure you tie these perfectly, as the knots will be your weak link in your rig and cause you to lose fish and your 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 my other related article on split shot rigs and our in-depth read about why lead fishing weights and sinkers are often banned!

Steve Fitzjohn