New Strategies for Shallow Water

YOU HAVEN'T TRIED drop shotting because...

1. You don't own a spinning reel.

2. You don't like finesse fishing.

3. You fish mostly shallow and/or weedy lakes.

A few years back, all of those would have been valid, if not entirely logical, reasons to avoid this effective technique developed in the West. It originated as a method of catching finicky bass from clear, deep water and required the use of light tackle. The angler tied a small soft plastic above a weight and dropped it vertically. He then gently twitched the bait or allowed current to move it.

But drop shotting is not just for finesse fishing anymore. It has evolved from a specialized application to a multi-dimensional method that allows for use of all kinds of rods, reels and soft plastics in a wide variety of waters, weed filled and otherwise.

Guide Steve Chaconas first noticed the evolution when he rode along with Rick Clunn as an observer in a Potomac River tournament. He had read about drop shotting but hadn't tried it because he and his clients typically fish shallow water with limited visibility.

After Clunn broke off a Texas rigged worm, Chaconas watched him pull another rig out of storage. It was a casting rod with a 4-foot leader on a drop shot.

"He made a cast, leaving the weight on the up-current side of the log and letting the worm drift over the downcurrent side," the guide remembers. "A few lifts of the rod, and he was setting the hook. Rick Clunn was drop shotting!

"Not the way that they were doing it out West, but it was drop shotting. This was a shallow water version. I had never read about it or even heard about it. Clunn never discussed it either."

Chaconas since has taken the technique and made it his own for helping clients, especially inexperienced ones, catch bass with soft plastics.

Others, too, are broadening the appeal of drop shotting. Former Elite Series pro James Charlesworth utilizes it to catch bass chased under thick vegetation by cold fronts. Tackle maker Larry Glavinich has added a "bounce" that makes the technique even more tantalizing in a variety of situations. These are their stories.


"Other guys are drop shotting in 30 to 40 feet of water, staring at their graphs, and trying to drop the bait on the fish's head," says Florida pro Charlesworth. "The 'hog shot' is an application that people are overlooking."

Typically, Southern anglers flip Texas rigged baits with heavy weights when trying to catch bass driven into grass by a brutal north wind. While the method will produce, it's not as effective as it might be, the Classic qualifier says, because cold-front bass often suspend under the mat, instead of resting on the bottom. That means the bait is in the strike zone for only a split second, as it drops toward the bottom.

"The regular Texas rig presentation is unnatural," Charlesworth explains. "But with the hog shot, the weight breaks through first and then you have the craw (or other soft plastic) right there under the mat, in the strike zone. And you can keep it in the strike zone."

The method also works well for heavily pressured bass, he says, because "cold fronts and boat traffic do the same thing to fish."

"This works in hyacinths, hydrilla, Kissimmee grass and milfoil," he adds. "And while it's a fantastic way to catch bass after a cold front, it's good all the time, especially in Florida, where 90 percent of the tournaments are won by flipping."

Charlesworth's rig includes a 1- to 2-ounce tungsten bullet weight that he ties on point down so that it will better penetrate the grass. He uses the same size hooks and types of baits as he would with traditional flipping, along with 65-pound braided line.

He ties the hook onto the braid with a double Palomar knot before attaching the weight to the tag end. "The length of the leader depends on the depth of water under the mat," he says. "Fish might be in 1 foot or 4 or 5. You want the bait to move right under the surface. You drop the weight to the bottom and then lift it slowly.

"A weightless craw under a mat, in the strike zone, is a technique that fish just aren't used to seeing."


With the new Wiggle Rig (see sidebar) from Mojo Lure Company, anglers have yet another way of using the drop shot to catch bass through vegetation, says Glavinich, general manager of the company. That's because the rig includes a 3/8-ounce weight with wire extensions.

"Bend the wire out and throw the weight up on a mat near a pocket," says Glavinich. "The wire will keep the weight on the mat, but the bait will fall into the hole."

The most spectacular feature of this new rig, however, is the "SpecTastic" elastic that connects the tag end of the fishing line to the weight. The slightest movement imparts a frenzied lifelike action to the bait.

"For bedding fish, it's phenomenal," says the Mojo man. "You throw past the fish, then hold it there and keep the bait quivering. If you want, you can move it to the right or left with your rod. Until this, anglers have never been able to keep a bait moving and still keep it in one spot (for bedding bass)."

Not surprisingly, then, the rig lends itself to casting, as well as vertical presentations, especially in shallow water. "Hold the rod higher and bring the bait to the surface," Glavinich says. "Then slap it on the surface like a wounded baitfish, let it sink, and bring it up again."


"At first, my clients thought I was crazy, going against the traditional grain of using light line, small baits, and then committing the biggest taboo of all: fishing shallow," says Chaconas.

"I began to pitch this beefed up shallow water drop shot to grass clumps and grass edges and along dock pilings and sea walls," he continues. "I began tossing up near the bank, into 6 inches of water. This shallow water drop shot was effective everywhere."

And while it will work around all kinds of cover, it's also a smart choice for all kinds of anglers, the guide says.

"Kids and first-timers love it because a cast lasts a long time, and there aren't too many ways to fish it wrong.

"Yet, at the same time, more advanced fishermen can pitch these offerings under docks and into heavier cover," Chaconas says.

"In either case, the shallow water drop shot will produce bigger fish in the spring and is also a great search bait to let you know whether fish are in the area. If they won't eat this, they probably won't eat anything else."


Guide Steve Chaconas typically uses a 7-foot medium-fast casting rod paired with a fast-retrieve reel, such as the Abu Garcia Revo or Quantum Burner. "Fish will pick up the baits and move," he says. "You need the speed to catch up to them. Spinning reels aren't nearly fast enough."

For casting, he will go with Berkley XT 15-pound line, while 17-pound is preferred for pitching. Weights are 3/16- or 1/4-ounce Water Gremlin Bullshots. He ties an overhand knot at the end of the line to help keep the bullet-shaped split shots secure.

Mann's Hardnose baits are rigged Texas-style on Mustad Mega-Lite Ultra Point hooks.

"The lighter hook gives the bait more action," he says. "It also has a thinner wire that penetrates easier. This is key because I have learned that the hook set is not a snap set. It is a pull-and-reel set."

Another option is a worm rigged wacky style with a weedguard.

To assemble the drop shot, Chaconas pushes double line through the eye of the hook from the side without the point. After tying a loose overhand knot, he passes the hook through the loop and pulls the knot tight. To ensure that the hook stands out, he then pushes the tag end back through the eye of the hook from the side with the point.

Leader length varies from 8 to 30 inches. "For flipping and pitching, I like the shorter length," he says. "For casting, I like longer."


Two years of field testing has Larry Glavinich bursting with superlatives regarding his new SpecTastic Wiggle Rig

"It's amazing. It's phenomenal. There are so many applications," he says. "Every little movement of the weight causes the bait to go crazy. There's nothing you can't do with it. We did a demo (video) with Hank Parker and he was blown away."

The Wiggle Rig kit comes with elastics, line stoppers, hooks and weights. "It's easier to tie than a Carolina rig," says Glavinich.

To avoid line twist, especially with a spinning outfit, he advises starting with a barrel swivel. Then tie on the leader and attach the hook 8 to 10 inches down, leaving a tag end. "With this, it doesn't matter how your hook stands," the general manager says. "When you're working it, the bait will move in all directions."

The elastic then is connected to the tag end with a line stopper, and the weight is attached to the end of that.

Wires on the weight can be used as an anchor to keep it on top of weed mats or as a bridge to keep the rig from wedging in a rocky bottom.

Glavinich advises use of a medium-weight rod. "It should be able to load up and give action to the bait," he says. "When you pull back, you want to feel the weight as you vibrate the bait."