The dropshot rig is widely recognized as a fantastically effective finesse approach for presenting both live and artificial baits. Originally developed as a technique for targeting highly pressured bass in deep water, the contemporary dropshot rig crosses all species boundaries and dominates in both fresh and saltwater environments. Indeed, whether you chase bass or bluegills, walleyes or red snapper, you will catch more of your favorite fish by learning to fish the dropshot rig.
Tie a dominating dropshot rig
The essence of the dropshot rig is that the hook is positioned above the weight, at a distance that can range anywhere from 6” to as much as 2-feet or more, depending on water clarity and the location of your target fish relative to the bottom. Begin to tie the rig by attaching a length of monofilament or high-quality fluorocarbon leader to your main line. While some dropshot anglers choose to make this connection with a blood knot, I rely on a small, high-quality swivel to join my braided main line to my leader, which I tie with Seaguar InvizX fluorocarbon.
This line has exceptionally low memory for a pure fluorocarbon, which makes for very natural finesse presentations. The swivel cuts down on the amount of line twist that can can occur when fishing the dropshot rig, particularly with a larger profile soft plastic or live bait.
Next, affix your dropshot hook to the leader using a Palomar knot. The new dropshot/live bait/finesse hook from Trapper Tackle is an excellent choice. These innovative hooks feature the patent-protected “Trapper Box” at the base of the shank, which helps to ensure that hooked fish remain hooked as they fight their way to the boat, and that rigged baits stay rigged correctly as they are fished through heavy cover. Available in sizes from #4 to 2/0, these ICAST Best-in-Show award winning hooks from Trapper Tackle are appropriate for any artificial or live offering presented on a dropshot rig. Leave plenty of length in your tag line as you tie your Palomar knot, and then pass that tag end down through the eye of the hook.
Complete your dropshot rig by connecting the weight to the tag line beneath the hook at the distance you want to suspend the bait above the bottom. I select my weight and connection style based on the structure and cover at hand. When casting to rocks or particularly snaggy areas, like deep water rock piles or a wingdam on the Mississippi River, I simply tie an overhand knot in the tag line and pinch on several split shot just above the knot. With the rig is tied this way, the weight will simply pull off the tag line in the event of a snag, leaving me with an intact dropshot rig that requires only a new split shot before being returned to duty. In less hazardous areas, I will tie on a compact tungsten weight to anchor my dropshot rig. Tungsten is harder and denser than lead, and as such, the weight provides me with critical information about composition and hardness as it moves across the bottom, allowing me to target productive transitions between hard and soft-bottomed areas.
Dress for success
The extreme versatility of the dropshot rig is paralleled by the wide variety of artificial and live offerings that can be used to dress the dropshot hook.
Hook these baits once through the nose, and let them ride freely within the Trapper Box of the Trapper dropshot hook. Feeling wacky when you dress your dropshot rig? Grab a Yamamoto Senko and pin it once right through the middle. On a great fluke bite? Tie in a larger size Trapper dropshot hook and rig up a 5” or 6” fluke, hooked through the nose. Other soft plastic styles can be equally effective on dropshot rigs if you pay attention to rigging details. For example, a crawfish-shaped soft bait, hooked through the tail, can be very effective when fished with a short dropper line to the dropshot weight.
Do you have more confidence in live baits?
Worms, leeches and minnows alike can be fished very effectively on dropshot rigs. A personal favorite is a very small (1’’) chunk of nightcrawler pitched on a dropshot rig to the upstream face of a Mississippi River wingdam for magnum summer bluegills. Anglers in large southern reservoirs will dropshot a whole nightcrawler in 30-40 feet of water for fat fall walleyes. Heading out to fish offshore oil rigs? Tie in the biggest dropshot hook in your arsenal and dress it with a chunk of cutbait for snapper, grouper, and other denizens of the deep blue sea…and then hold on!
Work it, baby!
While dropshot rigs can certainly be fished vertically, directly beneath the boat, they are perhaps more effective when used as a search tool, cast away from the boat and worked methodically back through fishy habitat. After the cast, most dropshot presentations rely on using the rod tip to impact action to the bait, while leaving the weight largely in place.
Trapper Tackle pro Vince Hurtado offers some excellent tips for working dropshot rigs: “I like to make short casts, often targeting structure or sometimes even shaded areas under docks, in 12-25 feet of water. I keep a tight line on the fall, and let the bait pendulum back towards me. Pay close attention, as a large percentage of strikes happen on that initial fall.”
Once the weight reaches the bottom, shake the rod tip on a tight line with enough action to activate the bait’s motion, but without moving the weight. Then, reel in some line to draw the rig closer to you, and repeat the process on a tight line. Once you’ve reached the boat, retrieve the rig and repeat the process, fan-casting your target zone until you make contact.
The dropshot rig is an incredibly versatile presentation tool that belongs in your bag of tricks. Learn to tie it and fish it for your favorite species and join the tidal wave of successful anglers who dominate with the dropshot.
Written by – Dr. Jason Halfen