Drop shotting is special

Of all the different techniques and presentations that make up finesse fishing, I consider drop shotting special. It's effective in both shallow and deep water; in clear, stained or dirty water; and in open water or thick cover. The true key to drop shotting, however, lies in the fact the technique allows you to present a bait horizontally above the bottom at a depth you choose and to keep it there.

Do we use drop shotting in tournament competition? Absolutely, and far more than you'd probably realize, primarily because of this versatility. During last season's Bassmaster Elite event at Lake Guntersville, where most of us were crankbaiting the shellbeds and breaklines, Aaron Martens spent a lot of his tournament drop shotting — and he won. The 2008 Bassmaster Elite on Lake Erie? Kota Kiriyama won by drop shotting. I could name other tournaments, but you get the idea; drop shotting is a technique definitely worth your time to learn.

I first saw how effective drop shotting could be during the 2000 Bassmaster Classic in Chicago. Because of rough water conditions on Lake Michigan, several of us decided to fish the more protected Calumet River and Lake Calumet. I thought I was a pretty good finesse fisherman then, and started using a tube jig, one of my favorite finesse lures. We'd all found the same pack of fish, but I watched as they continued to catch bass drop shotting as the tournament continued each day, while I basically stopped catching them.They were using a technique I had thought was limited to ultra-clear, ultra-deep water and were catching bass in dirty water less than 10 feet deep. They were also soundly beating me. That's when I realized I had a lot to learn about drop shotting.When you're just getting started, or if you're fishing a new lake and don't know where the fish are, consider rigging with 6- to 10-pound fluorocarbon (I prefer 8 pound overall), a 6-foot, 8-inch to 7-foot spinning rod with a matching reel, a slender 6-inch straight tail worm and a ¼-ounce tungsten sinker. Use an improved clinch knot and tie your hook about 8 inches above the sinker.

This is only a starting point, and you can easily change different components to suit the conditions. I have used lures ranging from a 3-inch leech for smallmouth to a 10-inch Power Worm for big largemouths. I've used a leader nearly 3 feet long, for which I also use a longer 7-foot, 6-inch rod, and my sinker weights vary from 1/8-ounce in 5 feet of water to 3/8-ounce in 40 feet.Overall, my hook sizes range from No. 1 and No. 2 up to about 2/0. If I'm drop shotting water with little or no cover, I prefer an octopus-style hook and simply hook my bait through the nose. If I'm fishing cover, I use a light wire, straight shank hook and rig Texas style. Both offer high hookup ratios.

Most newcomers to drop shotting think this is purely a vertical presentation in which you drop the sinker to the bottom and then start shaking your rod tip to make your lure vibrate and dance. Believe me, there's much more to it.

First, don't shake your rod that much. You don't need to. The beauty of drop shotting is that it presents your bait naturally. Underwater currents, combined with your own normal hand movement, will impart plenty of action to your lure. Excessive rod shaking eliminates this natural appearance. Of course you can shake your rod to try to attract a bass, but if you do, do it sparingly and always shake on a semi-slack line. A semi-slack line keeps your weight in the same place on the bottom and helps maintain the natural appearance. I always fish a drop shot with a slight bow in my line, but I really keep the rod shaking to a minimum.

One of the more overlooked presentations with drop shots is "walking" it along the bottom. You can cast a drop shot to the bank and walk it back to the boat, along the edge of a pier or up to a brushpile. You can do it across the same flats where you'd use a Carolina rig, too, although I think walking is more effective in shallow water where bass might otherwise be spooked by the boat.

When I'm walking a drop shot, I prefer to drag my sinker slowly across the bottom with short pulls to make certain the bait stays above the bottom. You can also use a pull-and-drop presentation by raising your rod tip so the sinker also comes up off the bottom. If you need to cover a lot of water quickly, this may be better than the slow dragging, but the bass will tell you. Either way, use a lot of pauses so you can continue to take advantage of the bait's natural appearance above the bottom.

Another misconception about drop shotting is that it's not a presentation for fishing cover. Let me tell you that you absolutely can fish cover with this technique. In fact, we use drop shot rigs to fish the matted vegetation in Florida and other lakes. It's called "power shotting," and I'll describe it in detail in a future column. Just remember that a bass spends much of its life around cover, so that's where you need to be fishing.

Instead of the 8-pound fluorocarbon, rig with braided line, and tie it to a small barrel swivel that will still move through your rod guides. I like Berkley's FireLine because of its small diameter and remarkable strength, but you can use any 15- to 20-pound braid you like. Add a 20-inch fluorocarbon leader to the swivel, tie your hook about halfway down, and your sinker to the end.

Don't be afraid of deep water, either. In fact, drop shotting is probably the most effective way we have now to fish deep water. The deepest I've caught bass with a drop shot is between 60 and 70 feet, but other pros I know have caught fish nearly 100 feet deep.

I'll admit, I used to be really intimidated about fishing deep water — until one day while standing at the bow of my boat I looked back at the outboard and realized it was 21 feet away. I could pitch a bait that far without even thinking about it. When I started visualizing that distance vertically, fishing deeper immediately became easier and maybe it will for you, too.

Remember, also, that in many deep water situations, such as around bridge pilings, for instance, bass may suspend 15 or 20 feet above the bottom. You can use a drop shot without letting your sinker fall completely to the bottom — it takes careful depthfinder study, but under the right conditions you can see your bait fall to fish as you watch on your electronics. This is how Kota caught many of his bass in his Lake Erie win.

Overall, drop shotting can become one of your most valuable and productive fishing techniques. It's a subtle, non-evasive presentation that takes full advantage of a bait's natural appearance in the water. Drop shotting keeps the lure horizontal and in one spot above the bottom for as long as you want to leave it there. You can't do this with any other presentation, which is what makes it so special.

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