Getting Started with Drop Shot Fishing

Anglers searching for bass, carp, or any of a number of other similar fish are likely well-aware of drop shot fishing. One of the nice things about fishing a drop shot is that it’s very easy, but many overestimate how easy the process is and head out to the water without learning enough beforehand. For beginning anglers, it can be very defeating to hear that drop shot fishing is very easy and then have a losing day with few successful bites on the hook. When you first begin, much of the fishing world can be mystifying and the insider terms can be very alienating. Luckily, there are plenty of experienced fishermen willing to give some advice and tell tales of nearly unbelievable fishing trips with high catch rates. 

While drop shot fishing is easy compared to some other methods, there is a lot to think about in terms of tackle and bait. There are also many ways to customize drop shot fishing to meet the needs of specific weather conditions or the way you want or like to fish. In the simplest terms, drop shot fishing involves fixing a weight to the very end of your line and then tying the bait and/or lure above it and dropping it into the water. Normally, this is done with electronics or when you know exactly where the fish are. Sailing over a school or casting out to a known hiding spot for fish are often the reasons for using the drop shot method. 

There are some alternate ways to fish a drop shot that involve casting or changing the distance between the weight and the bait. Weather and water conditions can also affect the weight of the weight you need to use. The choice of lure is also important since the whole point of drop shot angling is to mimic the food sources of the target fish, right down to the way they move in the water and how near they are to the bottom of the water. 

Getting to know exactly how you can customize your drop shot rig or how to better fish with it takes time and a lot of practice. Anyone who has fished a few times or even read a little bit about it knows that just about every way you can fish takes time and effort, and fishing a drop shot is no different. While it may seem like common knowledge, there is actually a lot to learn about drop shot fishing, even for people who have done it for a long time. 

Some of the terminologies you need to know to understand drop shot fishing without having the tools in your hands directly can be a little confusing. Often their meaning can be guessed, but going out on a boat or bank without knowing exactly how you mean to catch a fish can be frustrating and cause a whole day of wasted time. Read on to find out everything you need to know to get started fishing a drop rig with a high bite ratio and catch rate. 

Choosing the Right Rod for Drop Shot Fishing

There are some manufacturers who have designed specific rods for drop shot fishing, but if you’re just getting started then the fairly minute differences will likely not be detectable to you. A general rod should serve the purpose just fine. You may be impressed by fishing rods boasting of their rigidity, but for drop shot fishing you’ll want to have a rod with fast action, which means a flexible rod that will allow you to feel when you have a bite on the line. 

The rod you choose for fishing a drop shot should be lightweight, say medium or medium light. Everything about the rig revolves around being super light, not only to feel the fish biting but also because fishing a drop shot lets anglers fish with suspended bait. Unlike frog fishing or fishing with blade baits, drop shot fishing allows anglers to leave the bait still or nearly still for long periods of time without having to reel in. For that reason, the rod doesn’t have to be robust enough to support a heavy baitcasting reel or a line with a large weight.

While the tip of the rod should have a fast action, there should be enough support in the mid-section to set the hook in the fish well. Unlike a frog lure or crankbait, drop shot fishing lures usually have more obvious hooks that have to be set firmly to catch a fish. The hooks used in drop shot fishing are very singularly built for the purpose since they must allow for the bait to hang horizontally in the water. Lure rods are weighted, with the optimal weight choice being somewhere south of about 15 grams, but for general rods look for quick action and a strong backbone. 

Choosing the Right line for Drop Shot Fishing

The right rod is important but fitting the wrong line could make even the best drop shot fishing rod ineffective. The line should be light. Monofilaments, made from a single line of plastic, might seem like the best option because of its transparency, but a braided variety will do even better. There’s high tensile strength in braided fishing line, which makes it great for setting the hook and also makes it very good for securing the knots needed to make drop shot fishing successful. The weight and the bait are both going to be secured with knots so making sure those knots can withstand an attack from a fish or getting caught in some grass underwater is really important. 

Try a high test 0.01 mm line for drop shot fishing. You can go as low as 0.06 mm if you really want sensitivity and know how to have a light hand on the rod to maneuver the more sensitive line.

Tying a Knot for Drop Shot Fishing

There are two important things you need to tie on your line when drop shot fishing. The weight at the very bottom of the line will allow for a stable base for the bait and also allows for fishing about obstacles like grass or trees where fish like bass love to hide. The hook is knotted some distance above the weight. To avoid losing lots of your main line, a leader can be attached. If you’re just getting started with fishing in general and don’t have the hand to jig the line away from common snags like rocks, it can save lots of time having a leader on your fishing line rather than having to cut the line and reattach hooks if there’s a line break. With drop shot hooking, you can quite possibly even save your hook and lure with a leader attached. 

The best line for drop shot fishing is 10-20 pound braided line and the go-to knot to use is the Palomar knot. There are a few others that anglers like to use, but for beginners this time-tested knot will certainly do the trick. Here’s how you tie a Palomar knot:

  1. Make a small loop at the end of the line. Pass it through the hook for about 5 inches from the open side; that is, the side with the end of the line, not the loop itself. 
  1. The loop should now be sticking out from one side of the hook hoop. Take the loop of the line and curve it back around to make a circle out of the line that is passing through the hook. 
  1. Tie an overhand knot with the line. If you don’t know what an overhand knot is, think of the first step in tying your shoes. The loop should be hanging from one end of the overhand knot. No need to pull the knot completely closed just yet. 
  1. Lastly, take the hoop that’s hanging from the side of the overhand knot and pass it around the hook before putting it through the circle created by the overhand knot. Pull it tight. The finished Palomar knot should be entirely in the eye of the hook and not lower down. 

Weights for Drop Shot Fishing

Weights for drop shot fishing come in two shapes. One is a sphere and the other is longer, almost like a tube. The spherical weights allow the angler to feel the bite more easily, but the longer weights are more helpful if you’re fishing in areas with lots of obstacles on the bottom such as grass or weeds. It’s always best to use the lightest weight possible to make sure you can feel what’s happening on the line. For a good rule of thumb, use about 1 gram per foot of water if you’re on a still lake. For places with a higher current, like rivers or creeks, use about 2-3 grams per foot. 

Bait for Drop Shot Fishing

It’s important to choose the right bait for drop shot fishing and in order to do that, you have to understand how drop shot fishing makes bait appear to the fish. The idea behind drop shot fishing is to drop the weight, which will anchor the line, into the water either beneath you or after a cast. The weight will sit on the bottom or near to it and the line between the weight and bait allows the bait to sit comfortably above the bottom or in the middle of the water. It should be suspended in the water, making it ideal to catch fish that are also suspended at some level in the water. To find those fish, you need to be able to guess or have electronics on board that can show you where they are. 

As we mentioned before, the hooks used for drop shot fishing are designed so that the bait will hang horizontally. This is because most of the bait is designed to look like baitfish that bass and carp love to eat. The bait will hang suspended and with a little jiggling from the angler mimic the movement of the baitfish. There are tons of colors and designs for drop shot fishing bait, so it’s best to know what the conditions of your chosen fishing spot are. For cloudier water, brighter colors are better. For clear water, go with something more subdued and earthy. 

There are also many designs for lures and bait used in drop shot fishing. It really depends on the day which will work best, so it’s a smart idea to bring a wide variety with you and change your lure if you find that one particular kind isn’t getting much attention from the fish. 

Ideal Reel for Drop Shot Fishing

The baitcaster versus spinning reel debate continues to rage on, with spinning reels getting more and more attention from anglers who in decades past wouldn’t have been caught dead fishing with one in a tournament situation. Drop shot fishing is part of the enduring popularity of the spinning reel for anglers of every experience level. Keep in mind that in drop shot fishing, you don’t need to cast out every few minutes and make the lure dance like you would if you were frogging or using crankbait. Since you can leave the line out and make the lure dance a little without reeling in, that fishing rod is going to be in your hand for a good while. Make sure to get a lightweight reel that isn’t too bulky. 

A wider spinning reel will reduce line twists but most beginners stick with a smaller one, about 2500-size. When you select a reel, look at things like retrieve rate, which describes how fast it can be reeled in in case of a bite, and balance. The reel should balance the rod slightly so that the tip is a bit elevated. Make sure you can back-reel fast enough and if you can find a reel with an anti-reverse switch, that would be ideal.

How to Use the Drop Shot

After all this discussion of the rig you need to fish a drop shot, we can finally get to the easy part, which is actually dropping it into the water. There are two ways to fish a drop shot. One involves putting in the water directly beneath a boat or off a dock or bank and the other involves casting out. They are both very similar but there are a few considerations you should make before casting. 

Dropping in is for when you have radar or some other means of telling exactly where the fish are and get right above them. Once you are positioned where you want your bait to be and you have your lightweight rod and reel and braided line all set up with the right weight and bait, you can just put it over the water and reel it out, allowing the weight to drop to the bottom or at whichever level you want. Some folks jiggle the rod a little while some keep it still. Either one is bound to be successful if there are plenty of fish in the water. 

When casting out, you cast the line like normal and let the weight sink to the bottom. Keep in mind that if you’re casting, you should put more distance between the weight and the bait because it’s going to be sitting at an angle on the bottom and you don’t want the bait to be sitting in the mud or rocks. You can leave the line cast out with the bait sitting there for a long time. For those of you wondering how drop shot fishing compares to a Carolina rig, that’s how. A Carolina rig is great but it leaves the bait on the bottom unless it’s shaken by the angler. With drop shot fishing, the line can remain more still for longer periods. 

Final Verdict:

There are many small tweaks that anglers give to their drop shot fishing techniques. They can range from the rig they use to the way they fish, but every one depends on experience, preference, and location. Some cast and some drop, while others have doctored their drop shot rigs to look more or less like the Carolina rig. It depends on the time of year, the species of fish, and the way you enjoy spending your time on a fishing trip. 

One of the best things about fishing a drop shot is that it requires so little equipment that you can leave the rod, reel, and bait in the back of a car and whip it out anytime you find a spare hour near a fishing spot. There’s no need to over-complicate the process, although part of the fun is changing your gear up to triangulate the most successful combination. Everything is this guide should be enough to get you started drop shot fishing. We wish you luck and hope it helps you reach the level where you have a specific rig and process all your own to fish this simple and greatly successful fishing style. 

Bonus tip: Check out this video for a few different ways to fish a drop shot!

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