My Dropshot Techniques - Ed Gerdemann

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Edward Gerdemann

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Looking ahead of the boat I saw the light tan water that marked a reef. I pitched a Senko on a Dropshot rig parallel to where the tan water changed to dark green. When the line quit moving, I took out the slack and instantly felt a bit of extra weight on the end. I started reeling quickly, gently sweeping my rod back to fighting position. That's when I felt the throb of a good fish. Soon, a nice smallmouth shattered Lake Powell's placid surface with an early morning tail walking display that only a smallmouth can do. After a spirited battle I was soon lipping a nice 15-incher. After taking down the vitals and getting a couple photos, I gently released it hoping to find it again someday, with a couple more inches in both length and girth of course.

If you're not Dropshotting for Lake Powell smallmouth, you should be. Dropshotting is one of the easiest ways to fish water 20 feet deep and deeper, which is where Lake Powell smallmouth spend most of their time during the warm weather months. Since 2001 when I first tried Dropshotting, I've taken more Bronzebacks using this rig than all the other methods combined.

Dropshotting offers a number of advantages. First, unlike other methods, the lure is in front of the weight. I believe this makes it easier to detect light bites. Second, it's easy to control the distance the lure stays above the bottom. Third, lures and weights can be changed quickly without having to completely re-rig. Finally, dropshot rigs don't hang up much, and when they do the most lost is usually just the sinker.

Dropshot rigging is simple. I tie a #3 Yamamoto split shot hook on my line leaving a tag end of between 12 and 20 inches for the sinker (see Bassdozer's Guide to Modern Rigging- BELOW). Although the palomar knot is easier to tie in this situation, I normally use a Trilene knot as it delivers better strength with the fluorocarbon lines I use. I also use the special drop shot weights. They come with a wire loop that is crimped at the top. I run the line through the big part of the loop and cinch it up into the crimped area. No knot is needed to keep the weight attached. A low-stretch line like fluorocarbon or a superline like Fireline or Spiderwire with a fluorocarbon leader is desirable for sensitivity and better hooksets.

No special rods or reels are needed for dropshotting. Any decent graphite rod capable of fishing light to medium jigs is perfectly suitable for this method. Although most anglers use spinning tackle, there's no law against using baitcasting gear if that's what you prefer. I'm currently using a six-foot medium action Bass Pro Bionic Blade spinning rod with a fast retrieve Quantum Catalyst reel. There are many other rod and reel combinations that will work equally as well.

In weight sizes I've found ¼-ounce to be the best all-around size for Powell. With it I can easily fish down over 40 feet in calm weather. If I want a slower fall I might go with a 1/8-ounce size, or if I need to fish below 45 feet or it's windy I will change to 3/8-ounces.

As for lures, dropshotting will work with nearly any soft plastic bait. I've been using the Yamamoto Senko in various sizes for most of my fishing, however I've also used grubs, Ikas and small plastic worms. I've even seen tubes used effectively as dropshot baits. I would think this would be a great setup for live crawlers, and I'm surprised I haven't heard of more walleye fishermen doing this. This setup is also great for striper fishing with anchovies.

My dropshot fishing techniques are pretty simple. Although dropshotting is finesse fishing, it's not necessarily slow fishing. Usually I'll drop the rig straight down below the boat or make a little underhand pitch cast parallel to whatever structure I'm fishing. When the sinker hits the bottom I take up the slack. If I don't feel a fish immediately, I might shake the lure for a few seconds before reeling up. I've found that Powell smallmouth hit on the initial drop about 90 percent of the time, so I normally don't leave the lure down there too long. This allows me to cover more water and get my lure in front of more fish. It's true that I might miss a few fish by working so quickly, however I believe getting my lure in front of more fish makes up for what I might miss several times over. I will slow things down and work the lure a lot longer on post cold front days or on days where the fishing is just painfully slow. I might also slow down if I'm targeting largemouths who seem to prefer slower-moving baits. However, for most days when chasing Powell smallmouth I feel it pays to work quickly.

When a fish strikes I don't use a jerk hookset. I just start reeling and gently sweep the rod back. A fast retrieve reel will help in getting better hooksets. I can't emphasize the importance of using the sharpest hooks possible. That's why I like the Yamamoto split shot hooks, as they are sharp and will hold their edge fish after fish.

While dropshotting is generally thought of as a deep-water vertical technique, it can also be used horizontally in shallower water much like a split shot or Carolina rig. A number of my back seat anglers have had great success by dragging dropshot rigs behind the boat. On windy days I'll often motor to the upwind side of a point or reef and simply let the wind push the boat over the structure while my partner and I drag our rigs behind. This technique took nearly 30 smallmouths for a friend and me one windy October day a couple years ago. I'm sure that over the next few years I'll find even more ways to utilize this versatile rig.

These are my basic dropshotting techniques. There's nothing fancy or complicated about any of this. Locating the fish is still the name of the game. These techniques just provide an effective means get lures in front of the fish. Give dropshotting a try. I guarantee it will help you catch more fish.

New data from 2014 -

I wrote the above article on drop shotting about 11 years ago. Since then I started using a 6-6 Yamamoto drop shot spinning rod (medium light action), however I just bought a medium light 6-6 Bass Pro Carbonlite which I think will work just as well. There is a reason for choosing a lighter action rod when drop shotting on which I will elaborate later. You want a fairly fast retrieve reel (6:1 or faster) as it is often necessary to take in a lot of line quickly to keep up with a fish running at the boat.

My current main line is 14-lb.-test Fireline Crystal onto which I attach an 8-lb.-test fluorocarbon leader. I like Fireline Crystal not because it is translucent as claimed (it's really not) but because it is easy to see. In drop shotting it is essential that you can see your main line at all times because so many hits come on the initial drop. If the line twitches, stops or starts peeling out faster than normal it usually means a strike. I use about 15 to 20 feet of leader - not that I need that much but because it saves me from having to tie on a new one all the time. I fuse the Fireline to the fluorocarbon with a double uni knot. To tie it I use a fly fisherman's nail knot tool and tie two nail knots back-to-back. That is essentially a double uni knot.

Since it's not necessary to rig weedless on Lake Powell, I use circle hooks for my drop shotting. My favorite hook is a #3 Yamamoto split shot hook which is comparable in size to most companies' 1/0 size. This size is ideal for Slim Senkos, Shad Shaped Worms and other skinny finesse type baits. If you want to use a thicker bait you should go up in hook size. When using circle hooks, especially Yamamoto's split shot hook, it is important that when you get a strike that you DO NOT SET THE HOOK. If you set the hook hard like you would when using a standard jig or Texas rig, you will pull it out of the fish's mouth. When you get a strike just start reeling and gently sweep you rod back into fighting position. Most of the time the split shot hook will lodge in the corner or roof of the mouth. You won't have many gut hooked fish.

When fishing with circle hooks, especially if you are using low stretch braided and fluorocarbon lines, it is important that your tackle have a lot of give. That means using lighter action rods with plenty of tip (about a 70-30 action is ideal) and backing off that drag. If your rod is too stiff and your drag set too tight, circle hooks will pop out as the fish pulls against your tackle. When the fish pulls against less resistance that circle hook will just dig in deeper, and you'll land more fish.

Here's another tip if you seem to be losing a lot of fish. If you're convinced your drag is not set too tight and the hook is not dull, try wacky rigging (hooking the bait through the middle) instead of nose hooking. It could be the fish are just grabbing the tail (that happens sometimes with Lake Powell smallmouth). By hooking the bait through the middle instead of the nose, a short striking bass might get the hook well into its mouth where it might not on a nose-hooked bait. This is a good thing to try if you're getting a lot of short strikes.

As for weights, I do 90% of my drop shotting with a 1/4 oz. weight. I find that in calm water I can fish effectively with 1/4 oz. from just a few feet to as deep as 40 feet. If the fish are up shallow and spooky it might be a good idea to drop down to a 1/8 or even a 1/6 oz. weight. For fishing really deep, especially in a wind, you might wish to move up to 5/16 or even 3/8 oz. I use the standard drop shot weights that are equipped with a line clip. All that's needed to attach the weight is to slip the line through the clip and cinch it up tight. I've found the cylinder shaped weights hang up less in the rocks and light brush than the round or bell shaped weights. I buy most of my weights at Bass Pro.

I believe the biggest mistakes beginning drop shotters make are they overwork the bait and they fish too quickly. Drop shotting is like live bait fishing with artificials. A few years ago my friend Cap'n Chuck Duggins told me I was fishing too fast. I took his advice to heart, slowed down and started catching many more fish. If slow, tedious fishing sounds boring, it is not if you are catching 30-40 bass per day when no one else is catching anything.

Although drop shotting is thought of as a deep water vertical presentation, it also works well as a horizontal shallow water technique. In fact, I think it's better in shallow water than a split shot rig. What I like about the technique is I can fish the entire water column without changing rigs.

I'd really encourage you to give drop shotting a try. There's nothing wrong with fishing grubs or tubes on a jig head or Texas rigging plastic worms. Those were my primary presentations for a number of years, and I still use them at times. They always have and always will catch fish on Powell. At given times they may actually be more effective that drop shotting. However, day in and day out drop shotting is highly effective and sometimes seems to be the only presentation that will catch fish consistently. Give it a try. I think you'll be impressed.
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