The Bass Angler’s Guide to the Drop Shot Rig

Written By James Smith

Keen fisherman here to offer advice and help for reels, rods and more.

For fishing styles and techniques, there are a handful that are extremely versatile and get the job done time and time again. If you want to be a successful angler, you owe it to yourself to learn these techniques. The technique we’ll be focusing on here is the drop shot rig, with a focus on using it for bass fishing.

There are countless rigs used in fishing, a rig uniquely combining tackle that fulfills a specific purpose. The legendary drop shot rig is one of the simplest and most effective rigs in existence, so if you only lean a few rigs, a drop shot should be high on your priority list.

If you want to learn how to tie and use a drop shot rig properly, this guide will walk you through everything you need to know to use this proven technique. Even if you’ve used a drop shot many times before, if you stick around, you may learn a few new tricks you might not have thought of before.

What is a Drop Shot Rig?

A drop shot rig has a vertical configuration of a slight weight connected by fishing line that lies a few inches below a hook. I tie the knot used for a drop shot in a way so that we connect the weight to the tag line from the hook, which we’ll explain in more detail later. I can bait the hook with live bait, cut bait, or a soft plastic artificial lure, so it has a variety of uses.

The meaning of the phrase “drop shot” stems from how the rig is configured. Back in the day, they commonly called lead fishing weights as “shot”, because the weight sits or “drops” below the hook, it’s easy to see how it got its name.

What is the Drop Shot Rig Used For?

A drop shot rig is configured from just about any sized hook, line, weight, and type of bait, so in theory, it can target any species in freshwater or saltwater.

However, the most common use for the drop shot rig is for freshwater bass fishing using artificial lures. In this guide, we’ll focus mostly on the specifics of the drop shot as it relates to that style of fishing. The fundamentals for how to use a drop shot for bass also apply to other species, so even if you’re not a bass angler, this information will be valuable.

What are the Components of a Drop Shot Rig?

The drop shot rig comprises a single hook and a cylindrical or teardrop-shaped weight that is tied by simply using the main fishing line.

For bass fishing, the best kinds of hooks to use are a small 1/0 sized octopus style hook, and because of the popularity of the rig are typically labeled as drop shot hooks in tackle shops and online retailers.

As for weights, they’re also commonly labeled as drop shot weights, making them easy to find. The ideal sized weight, at least for bass fishing, is anywhere between 1/8th and 1/4th ounces.

Drop shot weights will either have a round eye or a clip-style connector. The clip-style weights are best because they make connecting your line to the weight much easier without the need for a knot. In addition, if your weight gets stuck on the bottom while fishing, it will easily come loose, so you won’t lose the rest of your rig.

When it comes to line, it’s not something you’ll have to put much thought into for this rig because you’ll use your main line to connect both the hook and weight. As long as your line is a translucent color made from monofilament or fluorocarbon, you’re good to go.

How to Tie a Drop Shot Rig

Tying a drop shot rig is truly very easy, and it will only take a couple of tries before you’ve mastered it. What makes the drop shot rig so easy to tie is that you only need to know one knot to make one.

Take your main line and tie it to your hook using a Palomar knot. Make sure you leave a long tag line of about 10-12 inches. You’ll also want to make sure the bend of your hook is facing upwards, and the shank is oriented horizontally. Think of it as a sideways letter “J” when tied properly.

Now that you have the hook tied on, take the tag line and clip or tie it to your weight, leaving about 6 to 8 inches of line between the weight and the hook. You can certainly have a longer drop length between the weight and the hook if you want. A longer drop line will make your bait look more inconspicuous to picky bass, and can also allow you to raise your bait above things like structure and submerged vegetation.

Lastly, if using an artificial lure, place the hook through the very top or “nose” of the bait. This allows the lure to move freely and give a more realistic presentation.

Equipment for the Drop Shot Rig

When using a drop shot rig for bass fishing, you’ll want to use lighter-weight gear than you would normally use. This is because the drop shot rig is a smaller and more lightweight rig that requires gear that is sensitive enough to pick up on more subtle bites common with this rig. Heavier equipment won’t allow you to use this rig as effectively and will make it harder to use.

The drop shot rig for bass fishing works best with a spinning setup. Start with a 6’6” to 7’ medium-light or medium power rod with a fast or extra-fast action. For your reel, use a spinning reel of any size between 1500 and 2500.

This combination paired with a light fluorocarbon or monofilament line somewhere between 6 to 10-pound test will be the perfect setup for using the drop shot rig in the most effective way possible. It’ll allow you to manipulate the rig and make long casts, and at the same time will be super sensitive, so you can feel even the smallest bites.

How to Fish a Drop Shot Rig

Fishing a drop shot rig for bass is super beginner-friendly and after a little experience will come as second nature. However, there are a few things you’ll need to keep in mind to improve your odds of success with this technique.

Because the drop shot rig is a bottom fishing technique, what you’ll be doing is “hopping” the weight along the bottom. This results in giving the lure some movement and making it look like a baitfish in distress, triggering a bass’s predatory instincts.

To achieve this, you can either cast it out in front of you or drop it straight down if you’re fishing from a boat. Once your rig is in the water, make a quick twitch with your rod to bounce it along the bottom.

After you twitch your rod, slowly reel down the slack line and pause for a few moments. It’s extremely important to make pauses when fishing a drop shot because that’s when bass will most often strike the lure. Repeat this process until you need to make your next cast or get a bite.

When you feel a bite or any tension on the end of your line, make a smooth upward motion with your rod while reeling down any slack line at the same time. This will set the hook in the fish’s mouth, so it’s less likely to get away before you land it.

Time of Year for the Drop Shot Rig

The great thing about the drop shot rig is it can be effective throughout the year. We can use it in any depth, so the only change you’ll need to make is to throw it in the depth of water suited for the time of year.

The drop shot rig especially shines in the peak of summer when temperatures are hot, and bass will seek deeper water to stay cool. A drop shot rig makes it easier to reach fish in deeper water, so if you’re wondering what the best time of year for this rig is, it’s definitely in the summer.

Where to Use a Drop Shot Rig

As with many bass fishing techniques, you’ll need to seek structure to be effective because bass heavily relate to things like submerged vegetation, rocky areas, and sunken brush or logs. Structure is where their prey hides, which as a result is where bass will go to hide and ambush them when the opportunity presents itself.

The two best places to use a drop shot are rocky areas and areas with submerged vegetation. Avoid using a drop shot around brush piles and wood because it will often result in tangles and snags, causing you to break off and lose your tackle.

Rocky areas are great because crayfish tend to hide underneath rocks and in crevices, so bass frequent these areas to hunt their favorite prey. A drop shot can resemble a swimming crayfish to a hungry bass, which makes these areas quite productive. This is especially true when targeting smallmouth bass.

Submerged vegetation is productive for the drop shot because if rigged properly, you can suspend your bait just above the vegetation and bass will come out of hiding to ambush your lure.

What is the Drop Shot Rig Best For?

The drop shot rig is considered by many bass anglers to be what’s known as a “finesse” technique. Finesse fishing utilizes smaller and more subtle lures in an attempt to catch fish when the bite is slow or in areas where bass are less aggressive, such as lakes with ample fishing pressure.

Finesse fishing is also effective for species such as smallmouth bass because they tend to shy away from large lures. As the name implies, smallmouth bass have a smaller mouth, so they will only go after prey they can easily swallow.

As with other finesse bass fishing techniques, the drop shot is best suited for those situations when the bite is tough. One of the most noteworthy attributes of the drop shot rig is if you’ve tried everything else, a drop shot may be the only thing that will catch anything.

Another situation where this rig works best is in clear water. The drop shot rig relies more on sight and less on sound and vibration. In addition to being small and realistic looking, this makes it a great choice for clear water conditions. You won’t have much success with a drop shot in murky water because bass will have a hard time locating your lure in the first place.

Is the Drop Shot Rig Only Good for Small Bass?

A common misconception about the drop shot rig is it only catches small bass. This is simply not true, as you can expect to catch bass of all sizes, ranging from less than a pound to close to 10 pounds in some cases. In fact, most of the state-record smallmouth bass across the U.S. were caught with a drop shot rig.

Yes, you can expect to catch smaller bass more often with a drop shot rig compared to more aggressive techniques such as Texas rigs, but that isn’t always a bad thing. On days when bites are few and far between, catching a smaller bass is better than catching nothing at all.

What are the Best Baits for a Drop Shot Rig?

In theory, you can use just about any soft plastic lure you can find and use it on a drop shot rig. Regardless, there are a few examples that work exceptionally well and make the most of this rig in its truest form.

A few examples of the best drop shot plastic worms are the Strike King Dream Shot and the YUM and Zoom finesse worms. These baits have a slender profile that creates a lot of action, a realistic look, and come in a variety of colors.

Speaking of colors, being that the drop shot works best in clear water, it’s best to stick with natural colors for the best results. Colors such as watermelon, green pumpkin, and colors of greys and silvers will catch the most fish.

Wrapping Up

Sometimes downsizing your presentation and simplifying your approach can lead to catching more fish and having more fun on the water. The drop shot rig excels at just that, so every bass angler should know how to tie and use this extremely effective rig.

Now that you know everything there is to know about the drop shot, now it’s time to get out there and catch some fish!

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