Drop-Shot Rigs For Fall Fish

By Bob Jensen - October 1, 2014
For some reason, autumn is the time of year when I feel the need to share the productivity of drop-shot rigs. It's probably because the first time I ever tried drop-shotting was in the fall at least twenty years ago. My friend Barry Day had just returned from a trip to the West Coast where he had been introduced to drop-shotting. Barry fished the Iowa Great Lakes a lot and had found drop-shotting to be very productive on these heavily fished waters. "If drop-shotting works on West Lake Okoboji, it'll work anywhere", Barry told me. Barry and I spent an afternoon on the water shortly after that and caught lots of bass, walleyes, and panfish when other anglers weren't getting bit. Since then, I've drop-shotted all across the Midwest with great success. Here's how you can get in on drop-shotting action wherever you live.

Drop-shotting is such a productive technique that manufacturers make hooks, sinkers, and even plastic baits specifically for drop-shotting. Cabela's even features a drop-shot rod in their Tournament ZX Series.

Drop-shotting is a finesse presentation. Line that's eight pound test or lighter is usually preferred: Many anglers prefer six pound line. There are several ways to create a drop-shot rig. The basic version is simple: Tie a short-shank hook to your line with a palomar knot. Tie it so the hook rides pointing up. Leave a long tag end. You'll attach a sinker to the long tag end. When completed, your hook will be above the sinker. There are also hooks designed just for drop-shotting. These work very well also and are very easy to rig. Different anglers have different ideas on hook size, but something in the #2, #4, or #6 size will usually do the job. Use the #2 size when larger baits are employed and the #6 size for smaller baits.

While there are plastics designed specifically for drop-shotting, the reality is that many plastic baits will do the job. When the water is clear or the fish are unusually finicky, smaller baits will often be preferred. Something like an Impulse three inch Smelt Minnow will be good as will an Impulse Jiggin' Leech. Smaller baits and natural colors usually out-perform in these conditions.

When the bite is on, larger baits will produce the largest fish. Last year we got on a good smallmouth bass bite. They were hitting the three inch baits good, so we went up to the four inch size. When they continued to eat these, we tied on larger hooks and went up to an Impulse five inch Jerk Minnow. The Jerk Minnow is a bulky bait and certainly wasn't designed with drop-shotting in mind, but the smallmouth didn't care about that. They readily ate it, and our biggest fish of the day came on the Jerk Minnow. When the fish are eating in the fall, big, bulky baits will catch the true trophies.

Now about presenting the bait. In my initial introduction to drop-shotting those many years ago, the thought was we needed to keep the bait directly below the boat: We fished it straight up and down in water usually deeper than fifteen feet, and we caught fish.

But in the past few years we've been casting the drop-shot rig, especially when the fish are shallow. When fish are shallow, a boat directly overhead will spook them, so we need to cast to these fish. When casting, work the drop-shot rig about like you would work a jig or live-bait rig that you're casting. The sinker should be ticking the bottom, the hook should be up off the bottom a bit.

I am on my way out the door with a rod armed with a drop-shot rig in my hand. I'm going to be chasing bass, and I'm confident that we'll catch some bass along with some incidental walleyes and perch and crappies on this rig. The drop-shot rig is an outstanding way to catch fish and a technique that you should add to your fishing arsenal.

Author Bob Jensen
Bob Jensen
Bob Jensen is the host of the Fishing the Midwest television series, a series of television fishing shows that highlight fishing locations and techniques throughout the Midwest. He also writes a syndicated fishing column and does fishing seminars throughout the Midwest. He is a former fishing guide and tournament angler. Visit Bob's web site at www.fishingthemidwest.com.