Deadliest Rig In Bass Fishing: How To Properly Fish The Drop Shot


Fishing ? Instructor!
The drop shot technique is either the most loved or most hated technique for most anglers, but the effectiveness cannot be denied. No matter how bad the fishing gets, you almost always can catch some fish doing it even on the hottest, windiest and coldest of days. Very few people however actually know how to fish the technique properly. The drop shot for me has become my personal favorite finesse fishing technique and has bailed out myself and thousands of other anglers on tough lakes and bad days of fishing countless times. Pro bass angler Aaron Martens calls it the deadliest rig in bass fishing, and for good reason!
Today, I'll go over everything you need to know to get started drop shotting. Later on, I may do a double or even triple upload on advanced drop shot tricks to put you ahead that most other anglers are not doing and then another round of fishing tips.

For this thread, first I'll discuss the origin of the drop shot technique, the proper tackle, the baits, how to fish the technique and then finally the situations you should reach for a drop shot and when you should opt for another technique. So, here we go! Bookmark the page, take some notes, or refer to the "Jeremiah Fishing University" sticky at the top of the freshwater fishing forum page for this and other lessons.


Over the last 10-15 years, drop shotting has exploded in popularity among bass fishermen and options for baits and gear for this technique have expanded rapidly. But where drop shotting for bass originated from, like many of the finesse techniques we use here actually has its roots in Japan. Drop shotting was huge in Japan in the 90's. It is still the most used technique in Japan and is as common as a Texas rig is here in America. When any new bait or technique comes along in fact, it's judged by how effective it is in comparison to the drop shot, especially in Japan - it's just that dang effective. It's hard to convince many other anglers that anything else can work so well. As with many of the baits and techniques we use here, Japanese anglers moved to or visited the United States, they brought drop shot fishing over with them.

West coast lakes, particularly those in California were among the first to benefit. Those lakes and deep, clear, rocky reservoirs full of finicky Largemouth, Smallmouth and Spotted bass that were getting tons of sophisticated fishing pressure just like those in their homeland of Japan, had reputations for being notoriously difficult to fish.

Fish in these waters were very leery and particular to lure size, type, action and especially the finer points of presentation. You either had to be really good or really lucky to get on some fish out there. Eventually, western bass pros like Aaron Martens learned of and then adopted the drop shot technique, and absolutely DOMINATED the competition in major bass fishing events, especially those on lake Oroville and Shasta, where you're normally fishing for both largemouth bass and spotted bass in deep water from 20-40ft.

The Press coverage at the Western Division events got the word out some, but bass fishermen all over the world really took notice when the drop shot technique spread across the country and moved east, proving to be deadly on the Potomac River, Toledo Bend down by Texas, and then finally at the 2000 Bass Master Classic in Chicago, fishing dirty and stained water where pro anglers with western finesse bass fishing backgrounds finished in the top 5 beating the pants off the rest of the field and producing fish after fish when most other techniques used by elite level anglers had all failed. Winning a bassmaster classic or major elite bass fishing event is one of the hallmark moments that explode a baits popularity and brings it to the mainstream. The squarebill crankbait, the chatterbait, and the rattle trap all got their fame in this fashion as well over the years. At this time however, it was a finesse technique that outshined everything else. The drop shot had arrived, and it was taking the bass fishing world by storm.


•The Basics...

Drop shot fishing, being a finesse technique, is primarily a spinning gear method. However, getting more specific to the right gear you'll need, it depends on where and how you'll be fishing it. The basic drop shot rig is simply a line, hook and sinker. Special drop shot hooks and sinkers have been made specifically for this technique.

The key thing about the presentation is that the bait lays perfectly horizontal in the water while you're fishing the bait vertically. There is a section of line hanging below the hook to the weight. When the line is pulled tight, the bait suspends perfectly just off the bottom. To achieve this presentation, you can buy special standout drop shot hooks that hold the bait out from the line perfectly horizontal, or you can use a short shank finesse hook and tie a palomar knot with a long tag end, running the extra line back through the eye of the hook to make it sit out from the mainline.

The key here is to make sure you run the tag through the eye of the hook on the point side. Running it through the bend side will ruin the presentation or flip the hook upside down.

•The Hook...
A lot of people miss fish on the drop shot or constantly lose them and so they hate the technique for getting bites, but not landing them. I'm willing to bet any amount of money those people are either A - using too stiff a rod for drop shotting, or B - using the wrong kind of hook for the job. A proper drop shot hook is probably the most important part of the rig, maybe only second to the rod. Too heavy a hook with too light a rod and you're missing fish or shaking them off. Too light a hook with too heavy a rod and you're breaking hooks, breaking fish off, bending out hooks and all manner of other problems. The key is to match the gear appropriately. I actually use two different rods for this technique depending on several factors. A proper drop shot hook on a light setup should be a light wire size 4 - size 1/0 finesse or finesse wide gap hook. Anything thicker than light wire and you're in trouble.

On the other hand, the proper hook for a medium drop shot setup is a size 2 - size 2/0 finesse hook or finesse wide gap hook. You should either use a standard medium wire hook or use light wire with a very light drag. Going heavier will only lead you backward.

Now, you CAN use a baitcaster, but that's for advanced stuff I'll go over in a later thread.

•The Line...

Several lines can be used for drop shotting, but the most common are braid to a leader or straight fluorocarbon. Reason being is that you're fishing deep water normally with this technique and both options give you great sensitivity and abrasion resistance at those depths. Seasoned drop shot fishermen prefer braid to a leader for both sensitivity and accessibility. Instead of having to re-spool with another line under tough conditions, they just change leaders.

Line sizes for braid can be anything from 10-20lb with 15 being the sweet spot. Leaders or straight Fluoro should be anything from 12lb test all the way down to 6. Some people even drop down to 4 or 5lb test. If you buy high end JDM tackle, a 7lb test leader is ideal for most situations, but in america, we only make lines in even numbers, so we use 8 and when it's tough we go down to 6. Leader length should be 20-15ft if you're using braid. The thing is the fish can see the line on a short leader so you want the business end of it to be very long and actually reel into the spool.

•The Rod...
Drop shot rods are ideally anywhere from 6'10 to 7'2 and can be a medium light or medium power rod with a fast tip. You want it to bend deep into the blank to absorb the shock of a big fish, but still stiff enough to give you enough backbone to wear that fish down and give you the sensitivity you need to detect bites. Too soft or too stiff a rod and you sacrifice sensitivity. You can spend anywhere from 50 bucks to several hundred dollars on a proper drop shot rod, but the rule I would advise you to go by is get one at least worth $100. That's The turning point for most rods were it's not too cheap feeling or made with lousy parts, but also doesn't cost you an arm and leg. The sweet spot for me is between $130-$180 for a drop shot rod. Options from Shimano, Okuma, G.Loomis, and Megabass generally have the best offerings. Beware that St. Croix rods tend to be heavier and stiffer than other offerings. Go Japanese if you can here, they do it right. In fact if you can do your entire setup JDM, you're golden.

•The Reel...
Less important than the rod and hook, but still a big piece of the puzzle, the reel is serving mainly as just something to hold all your line in drop shot fishing. Therefore, you can get away with a cheaper reel on a more expensive rod. However, if you can, you should at least get one with backreeling capabilities. Sometimes on light line, relying too much on your drag can be a detriment. You'll pop off a lot of fish doing this if your drag isn't properly set. I drop shot with a fairly loose drag anyway, but backreeling gives me the insurance that if the fish pulls away at the last second or I hook a very large fish, I can let out more line faster and manage it a little better during the fight. A size 3000-3500 reel is ideal. 2500 is the minimum. 4000 is way too big and heavy and you'll feel how unbalanced the setup is in your hand.

•The Weight....

Drop shot weights come in every shape and size under the sun, but the ideal is the cannon ball and cylinder shape. Opt for the ball on a clean bottom and the cylinder on rocky bottom, as it gets snagged less. Tear drop sinkers are also a top choice. The composition of the sinker is important also. Tungsten telegraphs bottom content better, and are better for extreme sensitivity. Lead is softer and feels more dull, but you can definitely fish it and it's a great second choice when tungsten isn't in the budget. Stay away from steel or brass drop shot sinkers. They lack casting distance, sensitivity, take longer to hit bottom and although cheap, there are better options.

A variety of soft plastic options are available to drop shot with, but the key, at least traditionally, is a small bait, normally a straight tail worm. Still, you aren't limited to a tiny worm and have several options. We'll go over them here briefly, and then get into colors.

Drop shot worms come in hundreds of shapes and sizes, the most common of which are 3-6 inch straight tail models. The quivering shake and shimmy of a straight tail worm on a drop shot is often the most productive, but also the most boring because it fishes the slowest. However, when the going gets tough, it's hard to beat a worm. Some ribbon tail and curly tail models can also be fished. The key is small though. Finesse worms are the name of the game and the most popular are those by Strike King, Roboworm, Zoom, and now some of the Googan Baits.

Swimbaits are an overlooked drop shot bait, but those from the 2.8 inch size up to the 4 inch size work well, provided they are slim in shape. Fat body versions hang down and drag in the water when at rest. Not as common as other baits, some savvy smallmouth bass fishermen discovered the effectiveness of a swimbait on a drop shot. The advantage is a true baitfish profile and the ability to actually swim your drop shot along the bottom and leave it at rest like a suspended baitfish.

Some creatures are used on drop shot rigs, but again they must be smaller versions. These normally work better in stained water when fish can't see as well and a larger overall profile may be beneficial to you. Or when you're looking for a bigger bite when a 4 inch finesse worm is catching too many little ones. The bulk you get from a creature bait also slows the sink rate of your rig and may get you some bites as it falls to the bottom.

Small grubs from 3-5 inches fish much like a swimbait on the drop shot rig. They also can be swam along the bottom and give an excellent baitfish imitation, however not as realistic. Some straight tail grubs are also available and are better sometimes over a worm because they are shorter and fatter and give the fish something they have rarely seen before if they have seen it at all.
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Fishing ? Instructor!

The basic technique is to already know where your fish are before making a cast. Drop shotting due to its small size and slowness of use is not really considered a search bait. Most bass fishermen who fish from boats wait until they pinpoint fish on their sonar units and then drop down and fish vertically for them, using the trolling motor, features like "spot lock" and other advanced technologies to stay directly on top of the fish.

Dubbed "video game fishing" for the way you can actually see your bait and the fish under the boat at the same time, this method has proven deadly over the years. Normally drop shotting is considered a boat fishing method because of the vertical presentation and it's common usage in deep water. I fish from the bank almost exclusively though and drop shot is no exception and still no less effective. When using this technique from the bank, pick your targets carefully and pick them apart slowly and carefully, feeling the bottom. Slowly dragging it on bottom with frequent pauses and subtle shakes. A strike can be anything from a small tap, to a hard thump. Oftentimes on finicky and skittish fish, the line will just start moving away or there just will be a slight twitch in the line and you won't feel the strike. Either way, DO NOT SET THE HOOK!

I know that sounds crazy because everyone is told to try to blister the fish on the hookset and try to rip it's head off all the time, but that's why another reason so many people hate the drop shot. They're swinging extra hard and breaking lines, hooks, losing fish and having a bad time.
You're using 6-10lb test, probably just as a leader with braid. Braid has absolutely ZERO stretch and fluorocarbon doesn't have much give either. Then they'll reel down to the fish with no slack and rip a hard hookset into it. It doesn't take much to break 8lb test, so yes if you do that, I can guarantee you, you'll break off. Especially if you're using a rod any heavier than a medium light because there's no give in the rod either.

The proper hook setting technique is like a "trout set" in fly fishing - just get the slack out of the line and lift. Reel untill you feel the weight of the fish, lift the rod tip up into a bend, and actually reel into it. You're actually setting the hook with the reel, not the rod. The fish does the rest. Remember, you're finesse fishing, not using a frog or a flipping stick with 50lb braid where you need to jack the fish extra hard.

The drop shot shines in clear water situations, pressured fisheries, anytime you're after spotted or smallmouth bass especially, and in times when there is no wind. Even the most finicky of bass will still eat a drop shot on the toughest of days. The key is presentation needs to match the mood of the fish. Most bass anglers are power fishermen and can't stand to sit still long enough to fish really any finesse techniques properly. The slower the fishing is, the slower your presentation needs to be. Soaking a bait for several minutes can be necessary in freezing cold conditions or on those days when they just won't bite.


Effective as it is, there are times when you would do better to choose another technique. Specifically in dirty water, or when there is too much cover to fish the drop shot. Weeds, wood and other cover getting in the way can make it harder to fish the rig. Because it relies mostly on sight feeding fish, it's hard to catch them on it in dirty water.

That's about everything you need to know about the drop shot rig! Hopefully you've learned some things and are able to get started catching fish on this great finesse presentation. Fish it until you've mastered it, and I promise it will catch fish on the toughest, hardest days. Tight Lines and good luck! - JG
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Fishing ? Instructor!
If that ain't the longest, most in-depth post on the entire forum, I don't know what is. I could probably go on for over an hour about pretty much every bass fishing technique.

Welp, final edits will be done sometime today and then I'll call this one a wrap!


Senior Member
Great job man. The drop shot has saved me many times. Tournament day your in the last hour and need one more keeper. I always have that ready to go on the deck of my boat. I use a 7' med Lt SLX spin rod with a Stradic spin reel and use 6lb Seaguar Fluoro. Favorite bait is Roboworm in Aarons Morning Dawn. Catch ya later.


Senior Member
Wow. Thanks for the post! Historically I've been in camp "hate" but that's mostly because I keep getting beat by guys throwing a dropshot and can't seem to dial it in for myself.


I just picked up a setup for this. Perfect timing! Thanks for the notes, these are always great for those of us trying to expand our repertoire.

Had a question about the reel, do you want that larger size for line pickup more than anything? I slapped on a compact 2500, which is actually a 2000 sized reel with a 2500 sized spool and increased line pickup over the 2000. Normally I wouldn’t second guess but you seemed very specific about the reel size.
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Fishing ? Instructor!
I just picked up a setup for this. Perfect timing! Thanks for the notes, these are always great for those of us trying to expand our repertoire.

Had a question about the reel, do you want that larger size for line pickup more than anything? I slapped on a compact 2500, which is actually a 2000 sized reel with a 2500 sized spool and increased line pickup over the 2000. Normally I wouldn’t second guess but you seemed very specific about the reel size.
Actually, I recommend that size reel because it balances the overall setup better and because of things like drag and line capacity. If the setup is unbalanced, you lose sensitivity and if the reel is too small you're outgunned when you hook a big fish or accidental bycatch. You can still work with it, but you'll have to get good at backreeling or use a fairly smooth and light drag


You can still work with it, but you'll have to get good at backreeling or use a fairly smooth and light drag

It balances ok, if slightly tip heavy. Good thing it’s not a Shimano in this instance, I’ve been meaning to learn to back reel anyway. Saw that Randy Blaukat video talking about why it’s better and I’ve been meaning to try it ever since.